Residents outraged as San Francisco street auctioned off to private investor after tax confusion

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In real estate, they like to say, "Location, location, location."

So, let's consider the posh Presidio Terrace neighborhood in San Francisco. It's an enclave of the rich, the famous, and after today, the furious.

"I was always under the impression that it was our street," said homeowner Sam Ching.

Presidio Terrace is one of those rare private drives in San Francisco. Residents owed the city a whopping $14 a year in property taxes. Just one problem. Those payments never arrived in the city treasury.

"State law is very strict," explained Annabel Fried of the tax collection office. "If people do not pay property taxes for five years we must offer the property up for auction."

They did. In 2015, real estate investor Michael Cheng won with a bid just north of $90,000. "I like to say that there is a price for everything but obviously we are looking to hold onto this."

However, it will not be so simple. The Presidio Homeowners Association says they never received a bill from the city, or notice of the auction. For thirty years, they say the city has sent its tax bill to a long ago dismissed accountant.

"We mailed to the address of record," said Fried. "It is the property owners' responsibility to keep their information up to date."

Now, the Presidio Terrace Homeowners will appeal to San Francisco's Board of Supervisors. "It's a little late," said Fried.

"We got lucky. Bought the street fair and square," said Cheng, who now has every legal right to charge residents for the parking spaces in front of their homes.
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