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SF residents get a shock: Someone bought their street (sfchronicle.com)
291 points by mudil on Aug 7, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 224 comments



This is incredible because this is exactly the same pattern of private-infrastructure rent-seeking whose costs are normally borne principally by the working poor: A highway becomes privatized and now you have to spend more money commuting to your minimum-wage job. Your city's parking meters become privatized and now you net less from your gig-economy housekeeping work.

Only this time, it's a middle-class couple doing the same to one-percenters in one of the most elite neighborhoods in the country. Clearly, their predatory scheme must be stopped!


> Only this time, it's a middle-class couple doing the same to one-percenters in one of the most elite neighborhoods in the country. Clearly, their predatory scheme must be stopped!

Well, it should, right? If you don't support the practice when it targets the poor, presumably you shouldn't with the rich either. I too find the irony entertaining, but that doesn't mean I'm not hoping for a sane outcome. I would also like to see the Cheng's make some money, since they did put work into this project, just not an extraordinary amount that gouges the homeowners.

Given SF property prices and that it was bought at an auction, selling for $300k-$400k would net them a nice profit, and is well within the means of 35 wealthy residents pooling their means.


> Well, it should, right? If you don't support the practice when it targets the poor, presumably you shouldn't with the rich either.

Wasn't there some quote along the lines that "you can judge a society by how it treats the lowest"? I suppose it depends on your definition of "lowest", but I'm also a fan of Rawls' theory of justice which is roughly: a just policy is one which you would accept without knowing which side of it you'd be on.


> If you don't support the practice when it targets the poor, presumably you shouldn't with the rich either.

"In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread." -- Anatole France (https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Anatole_France)

I can't say I see a huge issue with treating the rich worse than the poor in this instance.

'Fair' is just an ideal; at any given moment there's tons of unfairness around, big and small. If SF had a bug tracker, issues of the poor being preyed upon would be P1 bugs. This issue should be a P3 (which means nobody will ever get around to it).


In this case, the bag results in issues that are both high priority (the poor being taken advantage of) and P3 (the rich being taken advantage of). That you see oneparticular symptom and assume it's P3 is a failure to see the root problem and correctly extrapolate how it may play out with different factors at play.

It's sort of like being alerted to a bug that shows random account personal information, and the instance reported happened to be all test accounts. You don't assume the problem is not large just because in this instance the accounts affected were test accounts, you need to determine whether it affects real accounts.

There's nothing stopping someone from buying up a poor street and charging more for parking than the residents can bear. That's a much worse scenario, but results from the exact same factors as this scenario.


Pretty sure you can't buy poor streets because they haven't co-opted public spaces for their own advantage.

If they weren't rich, they wouldn't have been in this predicament in the first place. Make your bed and lie in it.


What's P1, that you charge me more for parking on some street? Man, I'll just park on the next street over when I go to mow somebody's lawn (because most of the time I just use public transport). I commute in from 3 hours away, I promise you I won't even notice this little unfairness amidst all the larger arbitrariness that influences my life.

[Disclaimer: first person just as a rhetorical device. Author is privileged.]

This sort of arbitrage is fundamentally something you can only do to the middle class or rich, people who are sheltered enough to know convenience. In addition, the richer the people you target, the more likely your scheme is to pay off. This is not the sort of thing to hope for volume with.


> What's P1

That property held in common between a group of people be sold to a third party without their knowledge or consent, possibly because of a tax bill they were not aware of.

> This sort of arbitrage is fundamentally something you can only do to the middle class or rich, people who are sheltered enough to know convenience. In addition, the richer the people you target, the more likely your scheme is to pay off. This is not the sort of thing to hope for volume with.

I disagree. Poor people sometimes own land that has high market value, but they value their neighborhood more. See gentrification. My neighborhood has a park that our HOA fees go towards. If I was to learn at some point that our HOA mismanaged funds so badly that the park was sold to a private party and someone decided to develop some portion of it into residential or commercial real estate, I would be pissed, and I think I would have reason. It would be a real loss to me, as my family uses the park regularly. What's more, it's a public park, so even though my neighborhood pays for the upkeep, anyone can use it.

My neighborhood is new, and isn't poor, but I could easily see something similar playing our in an older neighborhood here (which is not SF), where some interesting property ownership was done during development.


It's predatory when the state seizes property using eminent domain and then gives a sweetheart deal to a private company to run the tolls on the road they build there.

It's not predatory when private property gets seized to pay for thirty years of back taxes and then sold to the highest.

These are two quite different practices.


> It's not predatory when private property gets seized to pay for thirty years of back taxes and then sold to the highest.

As I said in a different reply, I think it's highly dependent on situation, and facts that may not have been presented. Was the money for the taxes paid in good faith by the residents but not delivered to the city for some reason? Was fraud involved based on some management company? Was the city informed by the accountancy at some point that they were no longer a valid recipient of tax requests and did not follow up (and is it required to act in good faith in situations like that)? Given the low cost of the taxes and the relative wealth of the residents, it's not impossible that they paid a large lump sum to some management company to just deal with it for the next 50 or 100 years and something went wrong.

Details like those are what would swing my opinion in this case. The residents seem wealthy enough that there's little reason for them to let it slide this long, but if they had reason to believe it was being taken care of and that there tax responsibilities were paid, I think that puts the situation in a different light. We just don't have that information, one way or the other.


I don't know that those details really change the specific question of property ownership here. I would think that if it was the fault of a management company, then the management company would be on the hook to make things right, for example by paying to buy back the street. But I don't see how a management company screwing things up makes a real estate purchase by a third party predatory.


I'm not specifically talking about whether it's predatory or not, but whether the correct procedures were followed and if they weren't, whether that would have allowed the residents a chance to rectify the situation if alerted.

I wasn't really taking the predatory part of the original statement all that seriously so wasn't addressing it specifically, and wasn't paying close enough attention to your initial reply to note that you were specifically addressing that aspect, so that's my mistake.


It sounds like the city and the buyers followed the correct procedures. The failure was with the HOA or with whatever entity the HOA delegated this responsibility to.

If a management company screwed up, the HOA may be able to get compensation from them. If it was the HOA itself then the residents probably have little recourse, since ultimately they are the HOA.


A loan, to pay for the toll road, to be paid back over an expected course of N years.

Ooops toll road use isn't what was expected... that N years is now literally forever.

I don't remember the article mentioning that example. But here's another one with bait-and-switch of the promises of toll roads...

-> http://abc13.com/archive/8671067/


I was pleasantly surprised when the government of BC actually did remove a toll for the Coquihalla Highway after 22 years. Apparently it cost $848 million to build, and it took that long to collect $845 million in tolls.


If you don't support the practice when it targets the poor, presumably you shouldn't with the rich either.

Why? I support other protection systems that only apply to the poor. Right to a free lawyer, or to food stamps or to certain scholarships. What makes this different?


This is a really good question, and I've hesitated to reply because I haven't really solidified my thoughts around an answer. None of my initial ideas about why it's different actually seem all that functionally different in reality, so I think I'm going to reexamine both my assumptions about this issue as well as my assumptions about the examples presented and try to come up with either a consistent way to explain my stance, or a changed stance on either this issue or the examples you presented.

Other people might have a good idea of how to answer this already, and power too them, but I didn't so I think this is a noteworthy comment, and just wanted to call that out.


> Well, it should, right? If you don't support the practice when it targets the poor, presumably you shouldn't with the rich either.

Interesting rhetorical, but no? This presumes that:

1. The manner of seizure is the same; were the poor in the OPs examples given the chance to "own" their situation? I'm sure it happens, but in all the cases and situations I've seen, the poor are simply subject to the choices of those with better means (wealth, status) to sway decisions.

2. Those you are asking believe in equality across the board instead of some variation of progressive social balance. Not saying that I believe this one way or the other, but I can see why someone would make the argument that what's "fair" is relative in situations like this.

I just think that saying this to start the discussion is an unfair way of painting everyone who opposes your point of view negatively.


> 1. The manner of seizure is the same; were the poor in the OPs examples given the chance to "own" their situation? I'm sure it happens, but in all the cases and situations I've seen, the poor are simply subject to the choices of those with better means (wealth, status) to sway decisions.

Poorer people often own property, as it's one of the few ways of amassing any wealth that are more protected in our society. Sometimes it's inherited. I don't find it unreasonable to think there are neighborhoods of poorer residents that have some property held in common, such as a garden, park or green strip.

> 2. Those you are asking believe in equality across the board instead of some variation of progressive social balance. Not saying that I believe this one way or the other, but I can see why someone would make the argument that what's "fair" is relative in situations like this.

I believe the recourse available should be the same regardless of means. I believe the penalty or cost can in some circumstances take into account means. I think that translates into wanting all people to have an equal chance to resolve the situation in their favor in similar circumstances, regardless of wealth, even if the cost to do so may scale somewhat with wealth.

> I just think that saying this to start the discussion is an unfair way of painting everyone who opposes your point of view negatively.

I don't think so. "Presumably" plays a very important role in that statement. It leaves it open for people to explain a separate point of view, which many have done. I try to choose my words with care, and not be overly assertive about opinion.


Is there a more general ethical stance equivalent to "Progressive taxation"? I.e., the more money you have, the more society expects you to take responsibility for internalizing society's externalities?


I would support a law that specifically tried to take this into account, as presumably it would also make it easier for the poor to deal with this situation. I'm less for the poor and the rich must have the exact same penalty as much as I am against the outcome and penalty being based on market prices, which means it's dependent on your income level. I want all groups to have the same ability to solve the problem, even if the cost to do so may scale in some way.


If you don't support the practice when it targets the poor, presumably you shouldn't with the rich either

With apologies to Anatole France, "the law, in its majestic equality, allows the rich as well as the poor to have their parking spaces used for profit."


> Given SF property prices and that it was bought at an auction, selling for $300k-$400k would net them a nice profit, and is well within the means of 35 wealthy residents pooling their means.

Indeed, a righteous outcome would be for this couple to triple or quadruple their investment and make several hundred thousands of dollars, for the effort of going to an auction and then hiring lawyers. Hard work!


They tied up $90k for a couple years by owning this property when they could have use it otherwise. They hired a title company to look into the property. They've put at least some time and effort into the property as an investment. They bought at auction, which means the price paid doesn't necessarily reflect market price, just what those present were able to determine from the information at hand and were capably of paying.

All those combine to something. I'm not sure what it is, but I don't think it's nothing.


This rings of the classic 'that billion dollar startup's idea is so easy I could have done it' with the classic response of 'fuck you, you didn't'


It may ring of it but it's not the same. The "easy" billon $ startup is adding value. This couple isn't. They just exploited the clerical (mailing-address) and accounting errors of the homeowners.


They didn't exploit anything. The couple was not privy to the circumstances.

The fault arguable lies with the accountant who failed to transfer this to the successor accountant. Either way there have been homeowners who have lost home in the same manner - who couldn't afford to correct the problem.

Each and everyone of the residents of this private street: * could have notice the auction. * could come up with money to buy out the couple

Also notice that the couple is now responsible for the maintenance on the street. Charging for parking seems reasonable way to make the street self supporting.

Why do the homeowners have a private street in the first place? Oh... because they wanted a gated community. Tears that no one paid the property taxes on their little enclave.


Think of the rich! Barbarians!


In FiDi/SoMA single parking spots can sell for $150k. I would be expecting $50-100k per resident.


The question isn't about market value, it's about whether the homeowners should have been contacted about the problem and given a chance to remedy it (e.g. First right of sale)

The answer to that may differ from person to person, and may depend heavily on facts not presented here, such as whether the money was paid be the homeowners but didn't make it to the city, whether the city should have or did know the accountant's address was no longer good for decades, etc.

Because I support sane outcomes when this happens to poor communities, I support the same when it happens to rich ones.


Presumably they were contacted but the home owners association failed to keep an up-to-date mailing address with the tax authority. It's not the city's responsibility to determine if mailing addresses are accurate, especially for a three decade tax bill of less than $1000.


> It's not the city's responsibility to determine if mailing addresses are accurate, especially for a three decade tax bill of less than $1000.

I'm not so sure. If a property that is held in common is going to be sold, perhaps a good faith effort to contact the property owners requires a bit more effort, regardless of whether the amount due is small. The sale price was $90k.


Pretty much this. This story is a bit click-baity with the details summarized as a comedy of errors. I love Matier and Ross as much as anyone else, but they really should have dove into this more. It's absurdly silly if SF had no contact with any of the residents of 30 years and just out of the blue decided to auction the rights to the street.

As for the winner, kudos to him. Now he'll either settle for a significant amount of court, or mired in years of civil trial.


120 spots at 150k each is $18m.


> Only this time, it's a middle-class couple doing the same to one-percenters in one of the most elite neighborhoods in the country.

I can guarantee that a couple having the capacity and sophistication to spend 90k to acquire a private road knowing that their title will certainly be challenged by several far richer families and would require further investment in defending said challenge, are themselves part of the 1%


they paid 90k. this was not a middle class family haha.


Any middle class family can get raise 90k. Most owe more than that on their house. If they are financially careful and have lived in their house for a few years they probably can do a cash-our refinance and get 90k to spend on this. Also as a business venture it isn't high risk so there is a good chance their banker was happy to give them the loan on their person credit for 20k down - their yearly bonus might be that much. Again, this requires financial responsibility to pull off, many middle class are not responsible enough, but some are and that is enough.

Of course we don't know (or at least I don't - I didn't read the article) the background of the owners. They might well be rich.


> Any middle class family can get raise 90k

No.

"The median Bay Area income rose 1.8 percent from 2011, tied for fourth-largest annual gains in the nation. The region’s ranking was unchanged from last year’s survey. The Bay Area’s 2012 median income was 22 percent higher than California’s median income of $58,328."

[https://blog.pacificunion.com/bay-area-median-income-second-...]

The idea that raising 2 years of income is easy is a joke.


I didn't say it was easy. I said it is possible. You save your money carefully well in advance of this opportunity. You might take 2 years to raise 10k. Your extended family and some of your friends are doing the same. When this opportunity comes up they borrow the money to you (while wishing they had seen it first).

Most families do not operate this way: few save that much, and not many have extended family saving that much. Even of those who do, many do not get along with their family well enough to risk borrowing large sums of money.


>Any middle class family can get raise 90k.

This was not a group of middle class people coming together. This was a single couple, spending their own money.

I agree with you that some middle class people could raise 90k if they needed to. Maybe to pay health care expenses for a loved-one. They would not be spending it buying private roads.


> They would not be spending it buying private roads.

Why not? They are able to raise far more than that on business ventures as long as they have a business plan that's approved by the bank. Additionally, people buy houses to flip them on credit all the time as well. If you have private investors backing you, this would be an easy sell. That's much easier than you might think as a middle class person, there's an entire section of the real estate industry devoted to private money loans for slightly riskier investments than banks will fund, but at different interest rates. Contractors and investors use them all the time for short term investments (such as building our a lot for 2-4 homes, or some property flips that a bank isn't willing to fund, but a private investor that has worked with the person on multiple loans over a decade has no problem with).


I didn't see where in the article it says they raised or borrowed $90K for the purchase. Since it was an auction, I would assume they paid in cash. Middle class people typically don't have $90K in cash sitting around burning a hole in their pocket.


Middle class people who go to those auctions already have a bank approval. They don't have the cash, but the bank has agreed to fund the loan.

Farmers buy land on auction all the time. It is very common for the auctioneer to have a local banker at the auction site so that someone who wants to bid can get approved for a loan right before bidding. The banker knows how much he will give a loan for (based on an appraisal he has done on the land), and the minimum down payment. This amount is different for different farmers (a farmer who does best practices can get much more profit for acre and thus is worth giving a larger loan to - bankers know who these farmers are)


Lots of people that never earn more than $50,000 a year have hundreds of thousands of dollars of investable assets.

That's arguably the bottom of the middle class...


They're petite bourgeoisie, sure, but that doesn't translate to lower-middle in America; America's middle-class is defined more by its culture of striving than its success. People in the US who have any investible assets are almost always considered "upper class"—at least by people who don't, which includes most of the people attempting to project the image of being middle-class.


Sure, people that call themselves middle class aren't necessarily using some degree of financial security as a measure.

That doesn't mean that there is no argument to be made about financial security being a defining aspect of middle classiness.


Buried lede: All those very valuable privately-owned parking spaces weren't even being assessed for anything close to their fair share of property tax.

If you owned just one parking space on this street, how much do you think you could rent it out for on Craigslist?

This land has 120 parking spaces. And it was being assessed at $14 a year in property tax -- not just the parking spaces, but all of the common property.


Presumably, this is also why they want to reverse the sale rather than buy it back from the new owners for — realistically — next to nothing.

Change in ownership means reassessment for the purpose of property taxes. Even though the homes in this neighborhood have undoubtedly been bought and sold repeatedly, they formed a legal entity that's held the common area in perpetuity with the side benefit of never having to have this land's value reassessed and property taxes increased.

Makes me wonder if you could perform legal gymnastics to have a home in SF owned by a trust or other legal entity, then sell ownership of that legal entity to avoid property taxes being increased during a future sale.


Yep:

"Nevertheless, buyers of commercial property have found a way to avoid this reassessment. Instead of buying the property, they buy the legal entity that owns the property. Under rules set by the Board of Equalization, a change in ownership of such an entity doesn't trigger a new assessment of its properties unless more than 50% of the entity is acquired by a single person or business."

"[Michael] Dell agreed to buy the entity that owns the Fairmont Miramar for $200 million in 2006. But after the deal was struck, Dell rewrote the contract, bringing in his wife and two investment advisors as partners. Because none of them held more than a 49% interest in the entity that owned the hotel, the hotel kept its assessment from 1999"

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-michael-dell...


Likely due to state law, ie Prop 13


Good podcast about Prop 13 from Malcolm Gladwell:

http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/11-a-good-walk-spoile...


Indeed.


Unsurprisingly neither side in this story seems deserving of much sympathy. Old-money NIMBYs vs. new-money opportunists. "I just love SF so I wanted to buy a part of it." The potential extortion of wealthy homeowners via legal technicality just happened to be a bonus of this great piece of real estate!


You see extortion, I see charging a fair market rent for use of their land.

Note that the new owners are not threatening to cut off access to the houses. I'm pretty sure that would be illegal. They are merely threatening to charge for parking. Parking space is valuable and something people should pay for.

Edit: I also want to say that having your property auctioned off after you fail to pay property taxes for thirty years is hardly a "technicality."


See also: http://usa.streetsblog.org/2017/07/26/if-americans-paid-for-...

The expectation that parking should be cheap or free is bizarre when you take a step back and think about it. I don't expect the government to provide massively subsidized self-storage spaces, yet I do expect massively subsidized places to store my private vehicle.


Exactly. I'm a surburban car user, but I still think the expectation of free parking is harmful to all of us. Why do we get to park for free on government land?


> Why do we get to park for free on government land?

Because presumably, your tax money is already paying for it.


Right, except it's not my tax money specifically, but all of our tax money, even tax money from people who don't use street parking.

Free use of government property is a great thing when it's a public good, but parking is not one of those situations.


Exactly. The article I linked makes a pretty good case for why free parking is not a net public good: "Transportation is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation. Pricing parking, on its own, could make a significant dent in the nation’s carbon pollution, not to mention the terrible loss of life on the roads."

I don't expect private cars to ever disappear, but starting to line up the economic incentives to to disincentivize private car use makes a lot of sense if we're really serious about addressing global warming.


Just because you don't use it doesn't mean it's not a public good.

If tax money built the parking spot and tax money maintains the parking spot, then why should the government get extra income from the parking spot? Is my tax burden alleviated when I pay to use this parking spot?


The whole point of charging for the parking spot would be so that they wouldn't have to use tax money to maintain it.

It's not a matter of alleviating your tax burden, it's a matter of alleviating everyone else's tax burden so they're not subsidizing your car. You should pay for what you use unless there's a compelling reason for it to be subsidized, not the other way around. Roads are essential for freedom of movement and in any case are too difficult to toll on a massive scale, so it makes sense to subsidize them. Parking spaces are inessential and easy to charge for, so we should charge for them.


Nobody is subsidizing your car: as a car owner, you already paid 1) sales tax; 2) yearly registration; 3) yearly property tax; 4) taxes included in gas. Why car owners should be double-triple taxed?


Those costs are minor and not close to covering the cost of car ownership. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/10/driving...


Those don't come close to covering it all. Especially since I don't pay any (4).

Paying to store your car is not a "tax" so it cannot result in being double-taxed. It's a standard payment in exchange for use of property.


I don't see free parking as any less of a public good than a park.

Besides, last time I was in SF I didn't see any free parking. It was all meters and expensive garages.


Anyone can use a park. You can't use free parking unless you own a car. Cars are expensive, so free parking just subsidizes people with money.

Free parking is rare in SF, which makes it all the more unusual that the people on this street had it for thirty years because they didn't pay their taxes for it.


> Free use of government property is a great thing when it's a public good, but parking is not one of those situations.

Gonna need to provide some sources if you want to claim that public parking doesn't benefit society.


Public parking benefits car owners, and does nothing for non-owners. Do you dispute this?


Yes. You're working from an overly reductive perspective. Transportation, government subsidy, and population density are way too complex to cover with a simple "I don't use it, so why should I pay for it" argument.


I understand that with transportation in general. For example, roads are difficult to charge for and it's hard to draw a direct line between use and costs, so it often makes sense to subsidize those. Public transportation is worth subsidizing to free up space on the (subsidized) roads, help poor people get around, and other such things.

But parking at home? There's a straight line connection between the car owner who uses the space and the cost of the space. I shouldn't expect the government to pay for my parking any more than I should expect the government to pay for my house. In fact, paying for people's houses would be a lot more reasonable, since people need housing, but don't need parking.


Well, car owners can use the same argument: public transportation benefits only people without cars, why car owners should pay maintenance of train stations, buses, trolleys, repair shops for those etc?


Public transportation benefits drivers by taking traffic off the roads, and benefits everybody by reducing pollution. It also helps poor people get around, and they could use some help.

I can't come up with any such counterarguments for public parking. It doesn't benefit non-drivers in any way, and the people it does benefit mostly don't need public assistance.


Is public transportation more efficient per mile/person? Yes. Does it solves all the transportation problems? No: it's not covering even half of our needs. Just for reference: only 30% of NY population is using mass transit for commutes. SF is just 15% [1]. And in most areas in the country you can't go and buy some food if you have no car: there is not even a sidewalk, not to mention public transportation. So what you are proposing is to additional burden for the majory of the population for "storing their property" without providing any alternative.

Edit: who pays majority of taxes for road use? It's car owners. You have cheap buses only because car owners paid majority of the bills for road network maintenance and development.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_transit_in_the_United_Sta... [2] https://taxfoundation.org/state-gasoline-tax-rates-2017/


I am providing an alternative: pay for what you use. That's how most things work. Why should cars get special treatment?

Gas taxes don't cover all road expenses. I looked at Virginia's data (since that's where I live) and nearly as much road construction/maintenance money comes from normal sales taxes as comes from gas taxes. Another substantial chunk comes from the Federal government, and the Feds pay out substantially more than they receive from the Federal gas tax.


I agree with that, but that article says the _average_ American parking space costs six hundred dollars PER YEAR. How does that make any sense whatsoever? Maybe in downtown areas in a few big cities. But that's the average for the entire country. There's no possible way that can be true.


Why can't it be true? Land is expensive, road construction is expensive, road maintenance is expensive.

$600/year to maintain ~200ft^2 of road seems relatively reasonable to me.


...estimates that the annualized cost of land, construction, maintenance, and operations per parking space in the U.S. comes out to $600 [PDF].

I've heard it said, although I can't find a cite right now, that the construction of an underground parking complex may cost $40,000 per space. You can see how that sort of thing would push the average up a lot.

You can also adjust "annualized costs" a lot by changing assumptions about useful lifetime. In practice, many American suburban parking lots are maintained very poorly and probably come out very cheap per space.

The PDF linked from the article does show more detail than the $600/year figure. While some categories cost a little less than $600/year, several categories cost a lot more, so the average gets up there even though the expensive kinds are rarer.


Double that cost on underground parking more like $80K-$90K... my source is personal conversation with apartment developers in MV. You can believe me or not.


Are you saying that is expensive? The parking in my building in a big city is over $200 per month. The extremely expensive places are going to pull up the average quite a bit.


In downtown areas in some US cities, a parking space might go for hundreds per month.

http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_cost_of_a_parking_...


Whether it's technically legal or not is immaterial, it's still unsavory opportunism in my book. They have added no value, they're not looking to add value.


> They have added no value, they're not looking to add value.

Which is basically property ownership/landlordship in a nutshell. Not that I'm disagreeing with you, just pointing out it's something we accept all the time already.


Yes but not all landlords are the same. Some put time and effort into maintaining the property and making improvements. I would consider that adding value.

Like everything else, there's a spectrum, and I find the couple described in the article to be on the extreme "slumlord" end, except even more obnoxious because they are masquerading as nice gentle good samaritans.


Why do you assume they won't be putting time and effort into maintaining the property and making improvements?

In fact, they already did, by paying the debts of the property.


Owning land never adds value. Owning a building can add value if you maintain and improve it.


You are barking up the wrong tree here. The home owners aren't being screwed by some technicality.

All of this was triggered by some super-mega-rich people not paying taxes for ~30 years, which after all this time amounted to a grand total of $900. After ample warning, the street was put up for auction and was bought by someone.

This whole situation could've been headed off at the pass several times: by paying the owed taxes at any point or by outbidding everyone at the auction as a last resort. But they took the "do nothing" route - maybe because they thought they could get away with it? - and got punished for it.

No sympathy from me. We all have obligations, and I get no shred of sympathy from my government when I fail to meet them (they slapped a €20 administrative fee on top of an unpaid €0,20 fine when they mailed the notification to me, just so you can get an idea... that 100x the cost of the fine in "administrative fees").

Why should they get anything more or less than what the average citizen gets?


It sounds like it wasn't intentional. The property was so badly managed that they failed to pay their taxes by accident. They missed the notices because they didn't keep their address up to date with the city.

Still, I don't have much sympathy. You'd think someone at some point in the 30 years they weren't paying taxes would have said, hey, you know, we haven't paid property taxes for the street in quite a while, maybe we should see what's going on with that.

If I had some problem stemming from failing to pay taxes for three decades, I doubt I'd be treated nicely either.


Sounds like a massive failure of the HOA to me.


I blame the accountants. When the one handed over to the other it should have been handled by the "professionals" instead of being left to chance.


Yes, they added value. The rich residents ignored their tax obligation for decades even though it was under-assessed. These people highlighted that fact, which will soon be corrected.


Charging market rent for parking will result in more efficient use of the space.


Charging market river toll will result in more efficient use of the Rhine. /s


I mean, yes, if the Rhine suffers from insufficient capacity, charging money to use it will help ensure that the existing capacity is used as efficiently as possible. For modern examples along those lines, consider the Suez or Panama Canals.


If they sell the spaces to people outside the block, they're adding value.


Aren't they now responsible for road and sidewalk maintenance?


Yes.


You could say the same about most forms of rent-seeking behavior.


If someone owns something and rents it out, could you explain how that not provide value?


I am using the term value in a more personal/human sense than a purely economic one. Most of the comments replying to mine seem to be defending this behavior based on these more technical economic arguments (understandable on HN). I'm talking about the value that is created by a person creating and doing things, rather than simply finding opportunities to arbitrage for a quick buck. It's subjective so we can agree to disagree if you find the type of behavior described in the article to be valuable.


now you're talking. follow this to its logical conclusion about all rentiers!


The price they end up charging may be a “fair market rent”; it may not be. But it doesn’t have to be, because the couple effectively has a monopoly - on convenient parking for the houses that the residents already live in.

You might argue that the street was always privately owned. But if the parking fees had existed when the residents were searching for a home, they could have factored them into the price, and if the result was too high, they could have easily picked another offer. Thus the parking fees would have effectively been part of a competitive market for housing. However, now that they already live there, moving out would have a significant financial and psychic cost. The limit on the price the couple can get away with charging is set by that (along with, of course, the perceived cost of alternate parking arrangements, again both financial and psychic) - not by anything related to the market value of the land they own.


That stretches the definition of "monopoly" awfully thin. They can always park on the street a couple of blocks away and walk home, like lots of city-dwellers do.

Yeah, it sucks that they've lost something they assumed they'd have forever when they purchased their property. But that's why you need to make sure that the HOA is in good shape when you buy a house that has one. Apparently nobody noticed, for thirty years, that the HOA wasn't paying taxes on its property, or that the wrong address was listed for it. Did they never have an internal audit?


Depending on the easement they might not be able to charge. I know in California some easements do allow for transitory parking.

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:hQNIidI...

While I'd like to assume the new owners researched the deed before purchasing, I get this feeling they didn't since it was an auction and simply saw an opportunity to take advantage of wealthy people. My question is, why didn't the city just convert it into a public road?


There have been private streets and alleys up for sale like this before in San Francisco.

  https://sf.curbed.com/2015/10/14/9911570/unicorn-alert-san-francisco-driveway-for-sale-asks-50k
Monetizing these things can be very difficult because the adjacent property owners often have very strong arguments for an easement.

The laws of easements and adverse possession are highly fact based so it's not worth opining on this case without more facts. But the takeaway is that you _always_ want to have an explicit agreement with people who are using your land, and ideally you want them to pay an annual rent that you enforce, even if it's a token sum of $1.[1] Once you allow people to use your property without an explicit agreement, you open the door to either outright losing your property or losing the ability to control your property.

This is a good thing because, on balance, if somebody willingly sits on their rights for a long period of time it's better that he lose out rather than permit him to, out of the blue, disrupt the settled expectations of everybody else. But it does mean that as a property owner you have to remain at least minimally vigilant.

That's why these streets sell for such little money. If the ability to monetize ownership of these private streets were clear cut, you can bet that they would sell for much more at auction. I doubt this couple were the only speculators who saw this opportunity.

[1] Don't think of paying a token sum as a pointless ritual. In the eyes the law, the regular exchange is objective evidence of the existence of the contract and its continuation.


Totally arm-chairing this here....

Adverse possession seems to require an element of you know, possession. No one possessed this property except the HOA until the nice couple bought it, and then their ownership has been the opposite of notorious because they didn't want to come into the light until they had their legal ducks in a row. If the couple had been paying the taxes for the last 30 years it might come under adverse possession. If this goes in favor of the couple without limit to whatever they want to do, it would be because the auction is unreservedly upheld. I basically agree that there is some chance that at least an easement will be found to exist in favor of the HOA. The tax collector did sit on their rights to the detriment of all, including a bit of degradation of the already weak reputation of tax collectors.


  My question is, why didn't the city just convert it into a
  public road?
Because then they'd have to pay to maintain it. The city would be exchanging revenue for a huge liability. Plus, that'd probably be the worst outcome for the homeowners because then the road would have to be kept open to the public.


I have seen dwellings in my local area (Chicago) that you have to pay for parking on the street. I think that the event is just unusual instead of extortion.


While I'm glad you pointed out that that this is a shitty thing to do, I still think its a slimy thing to do regardless of whether it's done to the rich or poor.

A couple things to note:

(1) if the couple does win, then it only bolsters someone else's case to do something similar elsewhere. When it happens in a poor neighborhood and people are up in arms, guess which case will get cited.

(2) there's no way in hell this is going to stand. there are probably mistakes that were made in not notifying all the homeowners of the sale. the homeowners are too rich and too powerful to not find some kind of loop hole.

(3) that couple is in for a world of legal hurt. if they choose to fight they're going to rack up a shit load of legal bills. it's them vs 40 rich people. yes, $90k for the street and $5M in future legal bills. even if they win, they'll be buried in legal bills. And then when they do try to collect parking fees, the homeowners are going to hassle them for every dime. if the couple thinks the homeowners are just going to roll over and merrily pay them any amount of money for parking, they are sorely mistaken.


I suspect that poor people get screwed over all the time by failing to pay property taxes and having their property sold at auction. And nobody else cares, because it's just part of life.

This isn't "be careful what you wish for, it might happen to poor people too." This is, "some rich people finally get the tiniest taste of what life is like when the entire system isn't rigged in your favor."


My bet is that the couple is hoping that rich homeowners will pay a pretty penny to buy the land back from them


That's 100% their plan, but a stupid idea. Don't pick fights you can't win.

There are 40 homeowners who would rather drag that couple through legal hell out of spite than pay a $1 parking fee. And they have the wherewithal in spades to do it.

Even if the couple gets passed all that, the homeowners are going to complain about every little thing. Crack in street? Fix it. Curb crooked? Fix it. Someone illegally parked? Deal with it now. Trash on street? Clean it. Leaves on street? Sweep it now. Grass too long? Mow it immediately. Don't answers these calls immediately? Get accused of negligent landlord.

If the couple thought they could just kick their feet back and collect checks... I just don't know what to say...


They could drag it out, but they may all agree to give up 10k each (==400k) for a nice profit.

Why pay lawyers here? Spite?


Pretty much. I doubt the couple has even $100k to spend fighting this. So why pay the couple $400k when you can pay $400k to a lawyer and have the satisfaction of "winning."


They had $90K to buy it but not $100K to defend in court?


IMO this kind of investment seems like the thing that someone with more than $190k would not be messing around with. But maybe they do, but would you spend $100k defending a $90k investment? Or to put it another way, if the HOA rallies up all 40 property owners to spend $20,000 each fighting this, is it worth it to outspend a $800,000 legal war chest to protect a $90,000 investment?


> But maybe they do, but would you spend $100k defending a $90k investment?

If I thought I could successfully "flip" it for, say $500K, which is pocket change for the affected people in that neighborhood, then sure, $190K would be a bargain. And if the 40 property owners could kick in $20K each to sue the investor, surely they'd rather kick in $10K each to buy the street back instead.


>"I just love SF so I wanted to buy a part of it." The potential extortion of wealthy homeowners via legal technicality just happened to be a bonus of this great piece of real estate!

I agree, but it's hard to feel bad for the residents of that neighborhood. They're just getting taste of the type of crap that the lower and middle classes deal with every day.


Oh man, every part of this story is great. The Asian couple buying a street that was only salable to whites for most of SF's history, the fact that the fancy gated community didn't pay $900 in taxes, and the $90k price.

I read that Feinstein owned a home there. They should set up a website taking donations: every dollar donated would increase Feinstein's annual parking costs by a dollar.

In case people don't know who Feinstein is: she co-sponsored PIPA, is a continuing supporter of the PATRIOT Act and SOPA, FISA, warrantless searches, and sponsored a bill that would have criminalized all forms of strong encryption.

[edit] I have a lot of friends with strong political views, from hardcore Hillary supporters to Communist/Socialists to the far right, and literally all of them strongly dislike Feinstein for various reasons. Meanwhile, she keeps getting elected easily and set a record for the largest amount of votes for a Senator. In the last election, she ran against a woman who doesn't even have a Wikipedia page, who got 37% of the vote.


> I read that Feinstein owned a home there. They should set up a website taking donations: every dollar donated would increase Feinstein's annual parking costs by a dollar.

I'd donate to that, as long as the money went to the ACLU and/or the EFF. She's also a notorious gun-grabber despite having been one of the few people in the city of San Francisco to have a concealed carry permit (I don't remember if she still has it or not)


I always figured her position on guns had something to do with her closeness to the Harvey Milk / Moscone assassination. Probably very personally distressing.


She no longer has it, and if I read right she hasn’t since 1995: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/273989-fein...

I’m also not sure the sourcing of her armed bodyguards mentioned elsewhere. In DC, all senators are under protection of the Capitol Police, who are armed, but I can’t find details about what protection she has outside DC.


"I don't remember if she still has it or not"

I wouldn't be surprised if she still does. I also wouldn't be surprised if she still employs armed bodyguards.


She does, but most those homes are empty 80% of the time. They have security guards that go around to the homes just to look for people who break into those homes to squat, which is an actual problem. I knew a guy living in one of the homes on that block for free just so that somebody would be around.


You're thinking of security guards, not bodyguards. yellowapple was pointing out that she has armed bodyguards near her when she's out and about, yet she advocates for disarming the regular folk like us--"one law for me, another for thee"


I can't help but laugh at having to hire people to keep a home from serving its purpose: to house people.


They should turn it into a homeless shelter or Methadone Clinic -- like what the SF Rich do to the poor areas.


Just let the homeless camp in the community spaces that were purchased. Let it be known as a safe-haven.


>IPA, is a continuing supporter of the PATRIOT Act and SOPA, FISA, warrantless searches,

Except this describes at least 80% of Congress and 95% of the GOP congress. Not sure what you're expecting here, she isn't exceptionally liberal if that's your criticism. Replacing her with a GOP politician will only make the things you complain about worse and it'll add ending Net Neutrality, questionable anti-Immigration policies, gutting the EPA, Muslim bans, and Climate Denial to the mix.

Also the warrant-less search criticism is a little unfair, perhaps not terribly so, but she's one of the few that has called out the CIA for this:

http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/dianne-feinstein-...

That said, she's too old to run for re-election and this is her last term. Hopefully, you'll get the unicorn politician you want, but I think we're destined for a Californian Republican that'll just make matters worse.


83% of Congress voted for the PATRIOT act renewal. Less than half of Congress continually supports the various "IP protection" bills, which is why SOPA/PIPA/Protect IP died. Many members of Congress have criticized FISA. Sure, perhaps half of Congress at any time will reliably vote for stupid things. But at the same time, she's not just showing up and voting and going home. She's cosponsoring these bills, pushing them through, doing whatever she can to make stuff like the PATRIOT act/SOPA/PIPA/Protect IP/etc law. If you were to rank members of the Senate on their IP-friendliness, she'd certainly be the worst in my opinion.

Look, I'm politically active. I go out and have worked for two Presidential campaigns. I'm not going to vote for someone that wants to gut the EPA, stop immigration, or ban Muslims. (I'm also not a CA resident.) But not _all_ Republicans are bad, and one that would win California of all places probably wouldn't be very hard-right.


Like Devin Nunes? Darrel Issa? Dana Rohrabacher? All California Reps and all with odious voting records and near total Trump support.

California is huge and the "California liberal" mythos only applies to certain areas. You can absolutely have a pretty conservative person win the state. Feinstein is arguably the lessor of two evils. She leans right enough to pick up moderates and conservatives but is still socially liberal and liberal-moderate on most issues. Her seat absolutely is at risk of being picked up by someone who will align himself with Trump.

The same way Hillary was a moderate liberal who lost out to people who wouldn't vote for a non-unicorn (Bernie or Bust) candidate while the other side marched lockstep to the voting booth for Trump and won.


Unfortunately she is listed as a past owner.


Sure, maybe its true rich people usually do this to poor people. But it's different rich people. Being happy because some random rich people are getting screwed over because other rich people are assholes is incredibly stupid.


I am marxist and I think Feinstein is horrible on every axis.


[flagged]


>a buy-out like this could theoretically happen to any race of people of any income level

It already does, and it mostly happens to poor people.


we should oppose this happening regardless of the race of the people it is happening to.

it's 2017 and people still cannot get past skin color.

Sure, maybe its true rich people usually do this to poor people. But it's different rich people. We know nothing about the people that live on this street. Being happy because some random rich people are getting screwed over because other rich people are assholes is incredibly stupid.


>it's 2017 and people still cannot get past skin color.

It's 2017 and you're still trying to silence the real impact of skin color on life experience in America.


hardly. i'm not condoning hatred based solely on the color of someone's skin.


I don't see hatred here. Maybe a little cynicism. It's helpful to learn how to differentiate the two.


Inform me.


Pay me.


No part of the original post implied this.


>this story is great. The Asian couple buying [context: rent-seeking] a street that was only salable to whites for most of SF's history


Nope, you're reading what's not there. That statement never addresses the race of the current homeowners.


That's a good point, but otherwise the sentiment would make no sense. If only asian people lived on the street, then how would an asian couple buying the street and rent-seeking other asians be making up for past racism by whites?

If it were asians rent-seeking other asians, or blacks rent-seeking other blacks, I'm am rightfully skeptical that OP would not think the story was as "great" as asians rent-seeking whites. The race of the homeowners is implied.


I don't know about OP, but as long as they're rich, I still find it great.


Let's hope you never become rich. Otherwise you'd hate yourself.


Don't worry, I won't.


It's not hate! its called schadenfreude which only happens when laughing at the follies of those above you.

If it happened to a poor person it tragically common.


This is hilarious but there's no way in hell they'll be able to extract rent. They'll get their 90K back and a note from the mayor or something and the Presidio Hieghts owners will have to pay up in donations to Ed Lees campaign or the local district supervisor.


... this is very basic and fundamental property law. They now own title to the common areas. No mayor is going to be able to overturn property laws which have developed over hundreds / thousands of years.


Rich and powerful people have a way...

There'll be an apology for "accidentally" doing the paperwork wrong, which a judge will say nullifies the sale.

Alternatively, the couple will just be sued for lots of random things, and will run out of cash defending themselves, forcing them to declare bankruptcy and sell the property.


A handful of "rich and powerful" people lost out here. Orders of magnitude greater numbers of "rich and powerful" people rely upon unassailable precedents of property law to "take advantage" of less sophisticated people every day. Nobody is going to risk overturning or weakening those precedents so that the first handful can save a couple million dollars. Just like most ballot initiatives in California, these battles are rarely "rich versus poor" but rather "rich versus rich".


The thing is, those people stay rich and powerful precisely because of the sanctity of property titles.

And the city's own incentive is to be as harsh as possible toward unpaid property taxes. The quotes in the story from Jose Cisneros are consistent with this.

So even though the residents are wealthy, they are up against powerful institutional forces.

And while it's absolutely true that the legal system favors the wealthy, there are diminishing returns to being still wealthier. Beyond some point you can afford to have a competent lawyer on retainer and it's much harder to simply bury you in trivial stuff. It's not obvious that these real estate investors will be easy to push around.

I predict that unless an obvious loophole appears very soon, it will be cheaper for the homeowners to just buy the investors off.


San Francisco & California's property laws are certainly not thousands of years old.


California didn't invent a new property system. It was developed over centuries in the common law which goes back to England.


Both are term-limited out.


This street is immediately to the west, as you come out of the Presidio (Masonic Gate). It looks exactly like an ordinary public street - there's no gate or anything (although there is a sign posted). I once tried to walk in there, to gawk at the houses. Right at the entrance, where the private street meets the public street, I was stopped by a guard who told me this was a private street, and I wasn't permitted to enter.

So I kind of hope the new street owners let people go for a walk in there...


Maybe allow tour buses for a fee.. :-)


This sounds familiar. In the UK we have a feudal ownership system for some flats/houses called ‘leasehold’, where someone other than the owner of the flat owns the ground.

I once owned a flat where the leasehold was sold off (without my knowledge) for just £500. Unfortunately the new owner of the ground started charging me for ridiculous fees, each one hundreds of pounds for nonsense things. (This is entirely legal). I was very lucky that in the crazy go-go London housing bubble of the 2000s I was able to sell the flat to a less discerning buyer (or someone prepared to ignore his solicitor). But not owning the land under or around your home can be terrible.


By UK do you perhaps mean "England"? Scotland's separate legal system abolished feudal tenure some time ago, I can't speak for the other nations within the UK.


Leasehold, freehold, and feudal tenure are all separate things. You can have leaseholds in Scotland, but it is not that common. Leaseholds are much more common in England.

Leasehold is something that has been in the news lately. Leasehold is a legal apparatus that makes some types of property management work, somewhat akin to stratifying a property in American and Canadian terms.

Freeholders owns the underlying land, with the leaseholder owning a right of access of sorts. Freeholders generally charge the leaseholders service charges, but like anything, this can and has been abused. Like the current controversy with Leaseholds being sold to unsuspecting home buyers.


> In the UK we have a feudal ownership system for some flats/houses called ‘leasehold’, where someone other than the owner of the flat owns the ground.

What makes such a system "feudal"? It sounds like the normal organization of a condo building, for instance.


Depends where you are at I suppose. In Ontario, Canada, owning a condo usually explicitly means you have partial owner of the land it is on. Yes, you have a "condo corporation", which hires a management company, to do admin work, assessment, maintenance, etc, but it too is a "not-for-profit" (in practical, if not in legal sense) organization owned by and responsible to the condo owners.

May be different for townhouses, but in my area, someone other than owner of condo owning the land would be unusual.


A condominium is completely different from a leasehold. Perhaps most importantly, a leasehold is for a fixed term of years. That means that whoever improved the property understood that the resale value on their improvements would be less; increasingly so as the end of the lease approached. It's basically not much different than any other kind of lease, such as a lease of an apartment. In both cases there are rules that control, for example, how a landlord must compensate you for improvements to the property (i.e. building a house on the land, or modernizing the wiring of an old apartment) that he would benefit from after the termination of the lease.

Residential leaseholds are less common in the United States than in Common Wealth countries because of the different political, legal, and housing development histories. But they certainly exist in the U.S.

By contrast, each condominium in a building is usually held in fee simple--perpetual, absolute ownership--except that there are always a common set easements and servitudes related to the obvious fact that each condominium is intrinsically and substantially reliant on the other condominiums--access to supporting structures, plumbing and electrical risers, etc. Shared spaces are held in common by all the condominiums, and title in those shared spaces can't (for obvious reasons) be severed from the title in your condominium. In other words, you can't sell your condominium but keep your title to the swimming pool, even though both titles are fundamentally distinct. Furthermore, on top of all of this are contracts that mediate how the interdependent obligations are to be carried out. Basically, a condominium is a pre-packaged set of titles and contracts that both legislation and courts recognize as a holistic, interdependent set of property rights when mediating disputes. Leaseholds, by contrast, are far simpler.

Sometimes you can have a situation where a condominium is constructed on leased land. There's a huge residential condominium in San Francisco's Chinatown like this. These condominiums sell for substantially less than market prices because, once the lease is up, there's no telling how much the land rent will increase or if there might be a forced sale of the condominium to the land owner. I imagine there are lots of condominiums like this across the country. It seems like a good way for a developer to continue to extract rent while maximizing an upfront return on investment.

OTOH, buyers are especially wary of purchasing homes utilizing unfamiliar legal instruments; cities are likewise wary of permitting such developments; and banks often won't finance the purchase of such units. So these kinds of properties sell at more of a discount than you would theoretically expect, especially in the United States.

There's another kind of shared ownership of residential buildings called tenancy in common (TIC). Usually you only see this happen when a deceased landlord's estate is passed to multiple heirs. Because San Francisco restricts the number of condominium conversions that can occur each year while simultaneously restricting new developments, developers began doing TIC conversions as an end-run around city planners. As these became more common and more marketable, some local banks began to finance the purchase of these units. AFAIK, San Francisco is the only housing market in the country where you can get a mortgage from a bank to purchase a TIC unit without any other form of security. They're a good option for home ownership in the city. There's some additional legal risk, but my guess is that compared to the typical hassles you see with small condominiums, worth it given the discount.


We have this concept in New York, too. It's amazing what obscure real estate quirks you learn about by sorting real estate listings from lowest price to highest price.


We call those ground leases in the US. It's usually a longer term lease for decades, where the lessee builds some property and uses it over that time.


That's awful. Has much changed? Or does London's legal system still allow this?


I never want to own a leasehold again, but the system has certainly not been fixed. In fact it's been in the news because of a particularly egregious scandal which will appeal to mathematicians: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/jul/25/leasehold-hous...


So a bunch of really wealthy people are grinding because someone might charge them for something they add for free for years ?

I'm sure the majority of them earned their money by giving away free stuff too. Yeah, right...


I think the issue is that someone can by the street you live on with no notice from the government


They didn't pay property taxes for 30 years.

People have had land sold out from under them with much less notice. In Colorado, there is a recent get-rich-quick scheme of buying deeds to trailers when the owners fail to pay their taxes. The tax bill is often less than $1000, accrued over 5 years or so. The trailers' owners have the same excuses: they didn't get the tax bill. Many people come out to defend this system because "the law is the law."

Before we spend too much energy being outraged about this street serving the upper crust, I think we should fix this problem for people at the margins of society.


Why not fix this issue for everyone? And stop being over-the-moon because this happened to rich people?

If your taxes are not being paid correctly, you should be notified. Your home street shouldn't just be put up for sale and sold to the highest bidder without your knowledge.


I agree. Lets fix it for everybody. I wish more people with your point of view would comment when it happens to marginalized people, though.


I don't see anyone commenting in zealous joy when it happens to poor people. So at least there's that.

Either its okay for everyone, or okay for no one. It's hypocritical otherwise, and gives us little moral footing to stand on.

Sure, maybe its true rich people usually do this to poor people. But it's different rich people. Being happy because some rich people are getting screwed over because other rich people are assholes is incredibly stupid.


Because it won't be ... it will be fixed for rich folks, never middle class people.


How much effort should go into the notification? The city repeatedly sent bills to their registered address.


When there is filming on a street in LA, every home on that street gets a notice in the mail. I imagine a similar system here would make sense.


I assume those are public streets, though. For a private street, notifying the owner ought to suffice.


No, private streets too. Every address that is affected by it gets notified. It makes sense. mailing people is not very hard, and they likely want to know.


For anyone to own the street on which they live does not get my sympathy. Welcome to being in the public sphere now.


I wonder if any of the people objecting to the sale or the possibility of paying the new owners for parking spaces describe themselves as "libertarians."


They could object on the grounds that the sale would never have happened if those taxes didn't exist. "Taxation is theft" is an actual slogan in part of the Libertarian community.


huh? I would not imagine any libertarians would want to overturn the sale as it would completely defy the idea of property rights.

It seems like the residents of this neighborhood are old money NIMBYs and either [ex-]Democrat politicians or donate quite a bit to Democratic politicians.


> I would not imagine any libertarians would want to overturn the sale as it would completely defy the idea of property rights.

There are certainly libertarian arguments to be made for honoring the sale.

But I think it's going a little far to claim that overturning a process in which the government assesses a tax on the ownership of your property, doesn't inform you that you owe it, and later sells that property on your behalf without notifying you, "would completely defy the idea of property rights". You're talking about a contract transferring ownership of property, to which the owner of the property is not a party.

You could make a much stronger libertarian argument that the existence of a property tax in the first place "completely defies the idea of property rights".


I do think most libertarians would agree that the city agents, who have sold the street's rights to someone else due to an arbitrary breech of contract, have acted completely in bad faith and have thus nullified their contract with the new buyer

What the city should have done is physically approached the landowners and done a large public outreach to raise the very small public tax due... before seizing it and selling it to anyone. And now the person who has purchased it wants to seek rent, as if their action is somehow beneficial to anyone but themselves. And the city's argument is that arbitrarily selling community property despite poor serving of papers is how business should continue? Yikes.


I'm suggesting that people often don't act in line with their proclaimed political beliefs when those beliefs don't benefit them in the immediate.


Not all libertarians are into the idea of privatizing roads.

When the road owner is the same as the person that lives on the road, e.g. a driveway, yes. But that is about the only circumstance I would endorse. Alternatively, if roads were owned by the people that live on them, I could endorse that too. Privatization of residential roads otherwise makes no sense.


They could allow the homeless trailers to park on the street. That way the homeowners could understand the true impact of the high cost of bay area living.


Here's the auction record (it lists the parcel number and other information)

https://secure.bid4assets.com/mvc/auction/647729

It'd be interesting to see if there are any restrictions or covenants attached to the deed.


If London and Amsterdam can have houseboats, surely San Francisco can have tiny houses on trailers listed on AirBnB.


Actually this is a pipe dream of mine - is to buy a barge and built a tiny house with years and garden on it. Allow for other barges to link up like a tiled map with standard interconnects.

Leverage solar and teals pattents... I want to take a single tesla drive motor, attach a propeller to it and have a tesla battery pack as the primary source of power for the residence.


My god man.... you want to create The Raft from Snowcrash?


no no. I'm down for driving a zode through it hunting pirates, though!

Patri Friedman is the guy who wants to make the Raft.


You should read New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, this comment fits in perfectly in many ways!


In this case, the street is quite steep.


I think you mean "quaint, with the opportunity for an authentic SF experience".


Not really.. I ride my bike through there sometimes.. It's off of the steepest part of Arguello, but the little loop itself is very mild.


Still quite steep compared to anything you would want to use to park an RV and get a night's sleep in, though. Yes, one could build little leveling ramps, but they'd be unusually large.


I recall seeing such a street right in the heart of SF (I don't think it was that exact street, though) on Zillow when I was scoping out the feasibility of actually living in the Bay Area. No building rights (because it's a street), yet it was somehow for sale independent of the other properties on that street.

I chuckled at the thought of buying that street and charging for access rights (maybe even setting up a little guard shack and a gate), but then moved on to more productive ventures. Fun to know that I wasn't the only one thinking along those lines.


Heh, saw this too, my whole office got a kick out of it:

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/2094740884_zpid/?fullpage...


Haha, yep, that's the one.

I love the suggestion of ripping out the concrete and selling bits of it as souvenirs to fund the pouring of fresh concrete. I'd personally extend it into a monthly farming operation.


> “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,” said spokeswoman Amanda Fried.

See there is the problem ... we are talking about the other 1%


The amount of glee in this comment thread because this is happening to rich people is interesting. I had no idea there was so much classism on hacker news

Sure, maybe its true its usually rich people that do this to poor people. But it's different rich people. Being happy because some random rich people are getting screwed over because other rich people are assholes is incredibly stupid.


120 parking spaces, rent for each at $100/month (which is still too cheap for the space they cover), sounds like a good deal.


more like $400/mo. Going price for a parking spot in SF (generally, across the city) is about $200/mo.


Donald Shoup would be proud. Free parking is generally a menace to cities.


I'm not sure that holds true for all streets, especially a private street in a residential area. Suppose there were no problems with parking before - what do you get by introducing a charge suddenly?


Parking spaces go closer to $200+ so that would yield $24,000 a month. Not a bad ROI from this real estate investment! Time for me to go check out this city auction business.


Maybe they should put housing on it. Keep the streets as they are (free for residents) but sell the air rights to a developer.

That should make the other residents happy.

But maybe that would take a zoning change.


Housing is very unlikely to fly, the adjacent property owners almost certainly have access rights through the common areas, and the shape of the common areas isn't likely to accommodate any new residential structures with proper setbacks and what not. Zoning changes to allow for new structures would be adversarial to say the least.


> Keep the streets as they are (free for residents) but sell the air rights to a developer.

I think OP is basically suggesting turning the street into a tunnel by building units _above_ the street.


Exactly.

Although I think this is useful form of property, I also think there needs to be a way to value, recognize or sell the view or open space that people think they are getting when they buy a property. A beautiful view is worth something and somebody shouldn't be able to take it away arbitrarily. But you should also be able to sell your right to it so someone can build. And the same should apply to the expectation that a 100 story building will not be constructed next to your one story house.

It's inevitable that a city will get denser as time goes on. If I had to choose between developers convincing city officials to let them build or their having to buy the rights to do so from property owners, I'd go with the latter.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/realestate/the-great-race-...


> Until a 1948 U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning the enforcement of racial covenants, homes in Presidio Terrace could be purchased only by whites.

Wow.


It's a private street that's blocked by a security guard, right? Sell tours.


Another buried lead: >> It’s something that the owners of all 181 private streets in San Francisco are obliged to do. >>

181?


I love how most comments here are debating the merits of public vs. private parking. Only in California. In other parts of the world, people with $35M mansion park in their fucking garages!


They have garages, for sure. The street parking are extra spaces. Still they can be rented out to non-residents.


Google Street View: https://www.google.com/maps/@37.7887836,-122.4607777,3a,75y,...

Note: it seems just Street View displays just a section of the street.


News from the United States lead to immediate head-shaking === Probability 30%


Residents' reaction as eye-rolling as it is predictable.


[flagged]


We've asked you before not to break the guidelines by posting uncivilly. Please stop.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I have such a schadenfreude grin right now! If the gate is on their property, charge rent for that at least! Or by the car passing through it.


I really don't understand this sentiment.

Sure, maybe its true rich people usually do this to poor people. But it's different rich people. We know nothing about the people that live on this street. Being happy because some random rich people are getting screwed over because other rich people are assholes is incredibly stupid.


> incredibly stupid

I am sick and tired of those in power wanting "fairness" that always balances in their favor.

They will in slightly inconvenienced at most. They will be pissed because they are getting screwed in way that reminds them of being on the receiving end of power. I can guarantee you that everyone of those rich people have disproportionally screwed someone. Directly or indirectly. If they want their street back, buy it back! Their power comes from their money, wield it.




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