Holding land and building owners accountable for blight and nuisance in San Francisco. The real and legal and historical definition of nuisance and forcing property owners to be responsible for their own property

This has never been mentioned before in San Francisco, but it has in many other cities since 1989. This is probably because many of the people writing about blight are themselves landlords, and don’t want people to know about this, and instead try to divert attention to vacant buildings

The problems associated with Mid Market and the Tenderloin are not caused by vacant buildings themselves. Vacant buildings are merely a symptom of a deeper underlying problem caused by problem residents.

California and San Francisco have nuisance abatement laws which have recently been used by the city attorney to go after a liquor store in the Tenderloin. But this is just one single store and even the Bay Guardian is questioning the effectiveness of that. Look at the comments which mirror comments made for many years in publications

You are not going to ‘raze the tenderloin’ and start over. You are not going to bulldoze SRO’s because those are protected by law, but you can make the landlords do something about the nuisance that often originates from their own buildings

Background

In 1989 a woman named Molly Wetzel and some neighbors went after a landlord on Francisco street in Berkeley because the place was a crack house, It’s very simple, except that it turned out to be one of the largest civil cases and awards in California history (unprecedented judgement against a landlord in California)

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Molly Wetzel then went on to form the organization Safe Streets Now!, which has since expanded to many cities across the country in various forms, but especially in California because California has a few extra nuisance abatement laws on the books

from > The City of Pasedena

Safe Streets Now!

Violence. Noise. Garbage. Vandalism. Prostitution. Speeding Cars. If you’ve ever lived near a public nuisance, you know how distressing and disruptive its presence can be.

Many communities are traumatized by public nuisances, such as drug trafficking, and the crime and violence associated with these activities. Open drug markets flourish as neighborhood residents witness and endure the encroaching blight. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough police and city resources to pursue every public nuisance in every neighborhood. However you and your neighbors can shut down the whole operation on your own by getting the property declared a “public nuisance” and, if necessary, taking the owner of the property to Small Claims Court.

What is a Public Nuisance?
A public nuisance, according to state law, is anything that is:

Injurious to health
Indecent to the senses
Unlawfully impeding free use of the streets
Obstructing free use of property so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property

Why do we need Safe Streets Now!?
With Safe Streets Now! the residents come together to de­fine the standards of conduct for their neighborhood and enforce those standards at the neighborhood level. Some people view this as a community policing tool while others see it as a neighborhood and resident empowerment tool.

Is Safe Streets Now! Going to Make a Difference?
We believe Safe Streets Now! will be a valuable addition to the ongoing work of the City’s Police Department, Prosecutor’s Office, Councilmembers and Field Representatives, the Neighborhood Outreach Team, and the Human Services and Recreation Department. In over 800 cases where the Safe Streets Now! program was used, 80% of the cases successfully closed down targeted properties without going to court. Additionally, all cases taken to court have also been settled in favor of the neighborhoods and the Safe Streets Now! program.

How does Safe Streets Now! Work?
Safe Streets Now! is a step-by-step process that residents can use to address public nuisances in their neighborhoods. In Pasadena, Safe Streets Now! will include a part­nership between neighbors, police, city staff, and community-based organization representatives. Safe Streets Now! began in Oakland, California in 1989 and is a nationally recognized program.

Safe Streets Now! uses a State of California nuisance abatement law. This law is at the heart of the program. It affirms that residents have a right to fully enjoy the use of their homes in peace. The process for Safe Streets Now! is straightforward and includes the following steps:

Identify property creating the public nuisance.
Take notes on nuisance.
Phone each incidence to the police.
Write ‘demand letter’ to the property owner and threaten to take the owner to Small Claims Court if he or she does not correct the nuisance. (The majority of cases never make it to court, most landlords voluntarily remove the problem tenants from their properties after receiving the demand letter.)
Take the landlord to Small Claims Court. The plaintiffs (neighborhood residents) file a joint suit. It costs $75 (which can be waived) per plaintiff to file and each plaintiff can sue for up to $7,500. No attorneys may be used by either party in a small claims trial. Court dates are set within 30 days of the filing and judgments are issued within 30 days of the trial. Small Claims Court is swift and inexpensive.

What About Retaliation? Will I Be Safe?
Safe Streets Now! is a non-violent, non-confrontational way to rid communities of public nuisances such as drug and gang houses. Residents are safe because they will never confront or contact the gang members or drug dealers directly when documenting the problems. They contact other neighbors and the police by telephone. The demand letter includes a Pasadena Safe Streets Now! address, the name of the facilitator as the contact person, and will is sent directly to the landlord along with the residents’ documentation.

Molly Wetzel’s program Safe Streets Now has been so successful, that it prompted an in depth study funded by the US Department of Justice

Doj.safe.Streets

There are even instructional videos on Youtube on how to organize and make landlords responsible

SRO (single room occupancy hotels) in San Francisco are NOT exempt from these nuisance laws, and neither are the non profits that run many of them. The same laws have actually been used in San Francisco before, at one SRO, except it was never identified by name until now

In 1995, Antoinetta Stadlman, who is now an employee of the same Randy Shaw used this same resource to gather several neighbors and go after the landlord and won several thousand dollars in court. This is mentioned in this article in the SF Weekly

What has never been mentioned before, is that Stadlman had originally talked to the same Molly Wetzel to help start the organization process after reading about her Safe Streets Now in the paper back in 1995. More than 15 years later, the same Antoinetta Stadlman, has recently identified and made public identical issues in Randy Shaws own buildings

Antoinetta Stadlman has lived in the Baldwin House hotel since 1991. By 1995, she was fed up with its condition. Clued in by a newspaper article to a law that allows neighbors to lodge nuisance claims against property owners who allow illegal or disturbing activities to continue unabated, Stadlman and 14 other tenants took Baldwin House owner Nick Patel to small-claims court and won $5,000 each, the maximum allowable under the law.

Patel appealed the decision to Superior Court. In Superior Court, unlike small-claims court, lawyers are more or less required. Stadlman called around. A private lawyer said he’d take the case — for $25,000, or 30 percent of the overall settlement. Stadlman thought that was too expensive, so she asked the Tenderloin Housing Clinic for help.

“Randy said he’d do it,” Stadlman says. But not for free.
Specifically, Stadlman says, Shaw offered her a contingency-fee arrangement: We handle the suit for you, and we get 25 percent of the settlement, up to $20,000. And Stadlman is grateful for that — “They gave me a $5,000 break,” she says, comparing the THC’s contingency rate to the private lawyer’s. But still, she decided to continue looking for a lawyer who would take the case for free.

Shaw says the fees were necessary because of the amount of work the case demanded. Generally, when a lawyer takes a case on a contingency basis, he must win the case (or win a settlement) in order to be paid. If the lawyer loses, then neither the lawyer nor the law firm gets any money.

In the 17 years since 1995, Randy Shaw has become a landlord himself of sixteen different SRO’s in the Tenderloin, Mid market, and Mission neighborhoods, so he would certainly know about this, since he was involved with it 17 years ago, but he has never mentioned this publicly in his beyondchron.org. The reason is obvious. Because Tenderloin Housing Clinic is the largest contractor in the city of San Francisco to house so called ‘hard core homeless’, many of them still on dope, and therefore a huge liability in a case like this. This is also why the City of San Francisco refuses to run these housing facilities themselves, because of the huge liability due to the nuisance…and instead contracts all of it out to private non profits

No competent attorney (Randy Shaw) in his right mind who runs such a large organization of high liability clients would ever admit this publicly, which is why you will never see this posted at beyondchron.org.

And now you know the real meaning of a massive ‘containment zone’ in the heart of San Francisco, funded by you..

(even worse is state privacy laws regarding welfare that applies to such non profits (State of California welfare and institutions code – reference > http://law.justia.com/codes/california/2010/wic/15633-15637.html) – as caretakers, which in itself is a highly questionable practice – simply dumping mental patients in SRO’s)

This is just one part of the many buildings in San Francisco that could be a source of nuisance. It doesn’t have to be in the Tenderloin, Soma, Mid Market or Mission problem areas, it could be anywhere in the city

The website to identify who the owners are of any property in San Francisco is the assessors office

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Another early article from 1989

Yep, it was San Francisco airport that started it all back in the 1980′s. Ironic that it has almost never been mentioned in San Francisco itself. But since San Francisco leaders have spent over two decades moving ‘the worst of the worst’ out of outlying neighborhoods and into the Mid market and Tenderloin and Mission neighborhoods, it’s not likely you’ll ever hear more than crickets about this in the press

However, problems at the SRO’s have been reported as with the undercover video scandal

According to SFPD’s Department of Emergency Management, police have been called to the Henry Hotel 143 times since early November, an average of just more than one call per day. Of seven residential hotels in the area The San Francisco Examiner inquired about, only one other, the Seneca Hotel, was the source of more calls: 287.

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/crime/2011/03/henry-hotel-san-francisco-can-t-escape-controversy-or-police#ixzz1opprhYkh

The Seneca being one of Randy Shaws managed buildings. There are also crime statistics available, some of which are available by bulding adress