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SF sues developer for alleged permitting scam

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City attorney says owner—who received permits for very minor jobs—built anything he desired

Photo by Franco Lucato/Shutterstock

On Wednesday, the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office sued local developer Ashok Gujral, claiming that Gujral abuses the city building permit process to make extensive illegal alterations to homes and then flip them for big profits.

According to a press release from City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Gujral, who owns at least seven properties in the city, obtains small-potatoes permits and then builds far beyond their scope:

Gujral followed a similar approach with each. First, he would seek permits for what he claimed would be simple construction, like interior remodeling or removing plumbing and electrical fixtures.

The permits were issued quickly without additional review by other City departments. Gujral would then do major renovations at each property that went well beyond what was represented in the permit applications, [...] apparently to flip them for a higher profit.

Examples in the suit include a Church Street home for which Gujral received a permit for an interior remodel, but then built both horizontal and vertical additions. Note that the city actually does have a permit from June 2017 on file for additions to the building; however, work began on the site months prior.

In another case, Herrera accuses Gujral of removing the facade of a landmark Minnesota Street house without any permits. Once again the city did eventually issue a permit for “limited removal,” but the suit alleges that Gujral jumped the gun and only applied for permits after the fact.

County records show that Gujral, through his SF Realty Partners LLC, bought the seven cited properties for a total of more than $7 million.

If convicted, he could face “penalties of up to $2,500 for each act of unfair and unlawful business competition; daily penalties of up to $500 for each violation of the San Francisco Building Code; and daily penalties of at least $200 for each violation of the San Francisco Planning Code committed at each of the properties.”

Attempts to reach Gujral for comment were not immediately successful.