Tina Lam and Michael Cheng consider themselves “lucky” in the purchase they were able to recently make: one of the most exclusive streets in San Francisco, surrounded by multimillion dollar homes.
They were able to buy the street, Presidio Terrace, with all its sidewalks, parking spaces, and greenery, for just over $90,000 in 2015 when it was put up for auction.
Apparently, the homeowner’s association had not been paying the $14 per year county property tax. The tax went unpaid for 30 years before, finally, the street was put up for auction to pay for the $994 in unpaid back-taxes, fines and interest.
Lam and Cheng didn’t even look at the listing before they put in their bid, knowing an opportunity when they saw one.
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“We were looking to get title insurance so it could be marketable,” Cheng told the San Francisco Chronicle, adding that they thought they could charge a “reasonable rent” on the 120 parking spaces on the street.
Residents were completely unaware of the purchase until May, when the couple sent out a letter asking the residents if they were interested in buying their street back. They claimed that the reason the taxes hadn’t been paid was that the accountant’s address that the taxes were being sent to had not been used since the 1980s. The residents and homeowners association are now trying to fight the sale in court.
“Ninety-nine percent of property owners in San Francisco know what they need to do, and they pay their taxes on time — and they keep their mailing address up to date,” Amanda Fried, spokesperson for Treasurer-Tax Collector Jose Cisneros’ office, said. “There is nothing that our office can do.”
The irony of the sale is that the Asian couple now owns a street that was specifically created to keep out “Orientals,” as evidenced by an ad for Presidio Terrace in 1906: “There is only one spot in San Francisco where only Caucasians are permitted to buy or lease real estate or where they may reside. That place is Presidio Terrace.”