San Francisco cracks down on health and safety code violations and some of The City’s most troubled residential hotels.
One or more scans of original printed documents are included here. To read the text of these documents, please activate the Read the Text tab.
City’s SRO crackdown
Lawsuits point out filthy, unsafe living conditions
San Francisco is cracking down on health and safety code violations and some of The City’s most troubled residential hotels.
The City Attorney’s Office is suing four hotels — The Boyd, the Pierre and the Warfield in the Tenderloin and the Franciscan Motel in Bayview — for repeatedly blocking fire entrances, ignoring holes in walls and windows, and generally letting the places fall apart.
Inspectors have recommended that The City sue four others, the Alder and the Auburn in SoMa, the Crown in the Mission and an unnamed hotel at 1134 Grant Ave. in Chinatown.
“I’m not going to tolerate a brazen disregard for the health and safety of the public.” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said. Herrera was elected earlier this year.
In 2001, the City Attorney’s Office collected more than $400,000 in judgments after suing five hotels. Earlier this year, it collected $125,000 after suing the Page and Union Hotels.
The hotels being sued are all repeat offenders, according to city inspection reports.
The 400 or so residential hotels spread across San Francisco provide the most basic housing available — usually a room, with a sink if you’re lucky, and a bathroom down the hall. A room with a nath generally costs $500 to $700 per month.
But basic shouldn’t mean slumlike, activists say.
Nearly all the hotels’ estimate 20,000 residents are low-income and too many teeter on the verge of homelessness.
“You’ve heard of predatory lending — well, this is predatory housing,” said Paul Hogarth of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. “They prey on people who can’t afford anything better.”
The eight hotels under legal threat have only 341 rooms, but have collectively racked up 570 citations. Violations range from flaking paint to missing smoke detectors and improperly wired electrical systems.
Every hotel has its own story, but the Boyd has earned a particularly poor reputation among tenant groups and city officials. In 2001, the Tenderloin Housing Clinic won a $268,000 settlement against the Boyd for its malfunctioning elevator.
For several dozen disabled tenants, their home temporarily became a prison when the elevator broke down early this fall, once again turning the Boyd into a seven-story walkup.
“It’s very painful,” said Marvin Ransom, 62, who has lived on the fifth floor for five years and walks with a cane. “I’ve got gout in my feet, back pain and a hernia. It takes me a long time to climb the stairs.”
The City sued the Boyd last year, and returned to court this year because it was still consistently flunking inspections.
Manager Chuck Dahud is adamant that he has not been neglectful, saying tenants caused some problems. He said the elevator broke most recently because a mentally ill resident bent the door.
Hogarth lays some of the blame on the Boyd’s owner, who has had financial interests in at least a half dozen other hotels in San Francisco: Chhotubhai B. “Charlie” Patel.
“He doesn’t put enough money into his buildings,” Hogarth said. “He lets them all go to hell.”
Patel’s attorney, Gordon D. McAuley, has advised his client not to comment on the case.
It’s not just the elevator that’s causing problems. On a recent visit, one resident said his roommate caught 72 mice with traps this year. Trash bags filled a hall, which reeked of excrement. The bathroom floor was littered with feces-encrusted toilet paper. One toilet was stuffed, and the other leaked onto the floor from its base.
Dahud said that if he had responsible residents, he would not be in such deep trouble with city inspectors.
Some tenants are less forgiving.
“You tell them about the bathroom, and they say, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll take care of it,’ “Ransom said. “We’re up here with all these people with HIV. For them, the bathrooms need to be clean, which they ain’t.”
Local residents are putting pressure on the owner of the Franciscan Motel in Bayview to sell the 43-room property or lease it to The City. The motel is being sued for having mildew in 31 rooms, uncharged fire extinguishers and exposed electrical wires in hallways.
“It’s one of the places where people went for a long time to sell their wares — drugs and prostitution — out in the light of day,” said Joyce Weaver, 40, who said she dealt crack at the Franciscan before she went to jail and emerged to participate in a job training program.
“They’re not going to do anything until the people do something.” Weaver said.
Manager chides perfectionist inspectors
The Boyd Hotel has cost Chuck Dahud about $300,000 and he doesn’t even own the building.
He is the manager, although under the 15-year contract he signed in 1998, he is more like a temporary owner. He must keep up the building to the exacting specifications of the city inspectors, or lose all he has invested.
Such as $90,000 he spent to fix the elevator. And $59,000 spent on a lawsuit over housing conditions. Already, Dahud said, he has taken out loans on his house and his children’s cars.
“ I’ll need at least six or seven years to catch up,” said Dahud, a 59-year-old immigrant who ran a local liquor store for decades. “I can’t retire. I’ll have to cut down on my food to save. That’s why I want to give up.”
Dahud said it was bad enough before unreasonable city inspectors increased their scrutiny of the Boyd.
Dahud said one inspector has cited him 90 times for things such as a leaky faucets, dim hallway lighting, malfunctioning toilets and the lack of deadbolts on doors.
But it is the story about wet paint that really riles Dahud.
He replaced a window as suggested by the day of the follow-up that it would look nicer painted. The wet paint prompted the inspector to say the work wasn’t complete.
Dahud lost his temper with the inspector, which prompted a more comprehensive inspection and turned up many more violations — such as missing or inoperative smoke detectors and electrical work done without permits.
Dahud asked for another inspector, but was turned down. The City’s chief housing inspector, Rosemary Bosque, said everyone is treated fairly.
“The notices speak for themselves,” she said.
For now, Dahud said he just hopes inspectors will not find more violations and that the city attorney will go easy on the fines.
“I’m going to lose my house, my car, my family, for what — a few chips of paint and some ripped sash cords?
– Michael Stoll