Neighbors and activists sue market owners for allowing drug dealing to happen in and out of their stores.
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Tenderloin markets sued over crack sales
Neighbors seek damages, claiming owners let dealers use their stores
In an effort to fight drug dealing and loitering in their community, landlords and tenants in the Tenderloin are suing the owners of two neighborhood grocery stores, claiming they allow crack dealers and their clients to conduct business on their property and intimidate passers-by.
Adopt-A-Block, a coalition of 47 tenants, landlords and business owners, filed a similar suit last year against one merchant. This week, however, they upped the stakes by expanding the lawsuit to cover a second property owner and moving it out of small claims court and into San Francisco Superior Court, where plaintiffs could collect millions of dollars in damages if the suit is successful.
The suit, which alleges the store owners fail to maintain the property and attract “a large crack cocaine and heroin related clientele,” names Gus and Yvonne Vlazakis, owners of the Maryland Market at Turk and Leavenworth, and La Cuong and Zhuang Chu Xia, who own the nearby A.B.C. Bi-Da Food Store.
The Maryland Market was named in the original suit, filed in small claims court in August 1995. Sixty-two landlords, tenants and businesses were named as plaintiffs.
“People like to use the excuse, ‘It’s not my problem, it’s a problem of the Tenderloin,’” Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderand into San Francisco Superior loin Housing Clinic, said at a news Court, where plaintiffs could col. conference Wednesday. “But with this suit – with all these people joining together — it looks like we are finally making the neighborhood better for everyone.”
Shaw said the coalition’s goal is to “take back our neighborhood, block-by-block” and to hold business owners in the Tenderloin accountable for problems that occur on their property.
Neveo Mosser, a founder of Adopt-A-Block and the owner of Central Towers, a 362-unit apartment building at 350 Turk St.,said the nonprofit neighborhood coalition was started in 1994 when Tenderloin residents had problems with an apartment building that had been taken over by crack users.
The residents sued, winning an $82,000 judgment against the property owner.
“With that suit,and our suit against the store owners, we are trying to get people in the community to work together to abate some of the nuisances,” Mosser said.
Chris Arras, the attorney for the owners of Maryland Market, said his clients had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment. The owners of the A.B.C. Bi-Da Food Store said they did not know they were being used.
Outside the Maryland Market, teenager Michelle Lowery said she was angry the store owners are being sued.
“Not everyone out here is selling drugs,” she said. “We’re hanging out here because we don’t have anywhere else to go. If they want us to go somewhere, they have to give is somewhere to go — like a park.”