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Mirkarimi: National landlord may have pulled wool over Planning Commission eyes

By Pat Murphy

February 25, 2006

A national landlord firm may have acted in "bad faith" through a misleading permit application harmful to tenants granted by the San Francisco Planning Commission, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi concluded today.

District 5 tenants of the 13-unit Victorian apartment building approved for major structural change complain the permit was a ploy to increase number of units and drive current residents out.

On Thursday several residents spoke before the Planning Commission, which no long has jurisdiction, to keep commissioners abreast of their appeal to the San Francisco Board of Appeals.

Mirkarimi visited the site located at 800 Lyons Street Thursday at the request of tenant Marianne Beck.

"Based on your letter, it appears the Prana 8 Properties is acting in bad faith, however, since this is just coming to my attention, I need to know more," today Mirkarimi responded to Beck.

"I have requested planning and property management records pertaining to this location and any actions seeking city permits."

The District 5 supervisor is arranging a meeting with tenants as they await March 1 hearing before the Board of Appeals.

Beck cited tenant evictions and approved plans for fire escape restructuring she claims is life-threatening.

"Since Prana 8 Properties took over the building they have systematically evicted many of the old tenants from our building," Beck wrote to Mirkarimi.

"There are about half of the original tenants remaining and they have managed to sneak through a permit that will ultimately remove the rest of us from the building.

"This permit has several significant problems but I will address the concerns particular to our situation.

"On this permit Prana 8 Properties has misrepresented the work that they intend to do and the impact that it will have on the tenants. For example, they describe the work intended for our apartment, where we
have lived for thirteen years, in the following way. 'Provide new kitchen and bathroom for existing 4th floor apartment's numbers 11 and 12.'

"They are implying here that there are two apartments and that they are simply remodeling the 'existing' kitchen and bathroom. That is not the reality at all, they are in fact, splitting our apartment into two apartments and installing a new kitchen and bathroom.

"This, of course, would force us out of our apartment and give Prana 8 Properties the extraordinary benefit of renting the two new apartments for up to four times the amount that they currently collect for the space.

"On the very same permit Prana describes the following work. 'Provide new required exiting with new fire escape per "local equivalency.' This does not illustrate the terrible impact that this would have on the tenants.

"To begin with we already have a legal fire escape in the rear of the building that was built in 1993. Furthermore, this building is an old building that needs a lot of attention, that they have not paid to it since they bought the property.

"Besides structural concerns with hanging metal fire escapes off the front of the building, we are disturbed because most of these apartments are the 'shotgun' style, long narrow halls with access only in the front and back of the apartment.

"Prana 8 wants to install metal fire escapes on the Golden Gate and Lyon Street sides of the building where we already have front exits; they want to remove the existing legal fire escape in the rear of the building and then wall off all of those exits.

"Doing this would cause a huge fire safety hazard because it will leave no way for tenants to get out of the back of the building if there is a fire in the front. They want to do this work so that they can sell off the adjoining building on part of the property."

Tenants are represented by Raquel Fox of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and by Joe O'Donoghue, president of the Residential Builder's Association.




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