Owners of SF building challenge new relocation payment law

The property owners of San Francisco's Park Lane Apartments have filed a lawsuit against the city to avoid paying $1.1 million to the 10 remaining tenants to move out.
The fate of San Francisco's new law that bumps up relocation payments to evicted tenants may soon be in the hands of a judge. Property owners and the city faced off in district court Friday.

The owners of Park Lane Apartments on Sacramento Street are among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They want to evict the buildings 10 remaining tenants, but don't want to pay what's mandated by the city.

"The Park Lane is supposed to be some kind of limited partnership which is built on a number of other different partnerships," Park Lane Apartments tenant attorney Joseph Alioto said.

Alioto is not happy with the new owners of his building. The son of the former mayor and attorney is one of 10 remaining tenants at the Park Lane Apartments facing eviction.

Under San Francisco's new law, the building owners are required to pay them a total of $1.1 million.

"As far as we know, they're a bunch of marauding speculators and they're operating like a hedge fund," Alioto said.

Alioto appeared at district court Friday where the owners of his building are among the plaintiffs challenging San Francisco's new law.

It requires property owners who want to get out of the rental business to pay the difference between the tenant's current rent and the cost of comparable housing in the city for two years.

For the Levin's who own a two-unit building on Lombard Street, that would mean paying the tenant who lives below them $117,000 to move out.

An amount they say would wipe out a big chunk of their retirement savings.

"Well, I mean it's our house, right? And so that's how we feel. It's our home. It's a small home. There's just two little one-bedroom units and we want to be able to have the right to have our friends and family stay with us and we don't have that right now," Dan Levin said.

But the city attorney's office appears confident that San Francisco's new law will be upheld.

They say the government routinely regulates property and this latest ordinance is no different.

"San Francisco is an expensive place to live and we don't want it to be only a city for the rich and the constitution tolerates that kind of regulation. It's very common," city attorney's office spokesperson Christine Van Aken said.

Common or not, property owners are looking forward to their day in court. The trial is scheduled for October 6.
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