SF sues single room occupancy hotel owners in Chinatown over health and safety hazards

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Why SF is suing single room occupancy hotel owners in Chinatown
One tenant says there's an ongoing rat and roach problem, the ceiling leaks, and she doesn't have hot water but advocates believe the lawsuit from the City Attorney will be a game changer.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The City of San Francisco just filed a lawsuit against the owners of three single room occupancy hotels in Chinatown.

City Attorney David Chiu says the landlords neglected the properties and created safety and health hazards for tenants.

Chiu said this is the most significant legal action he has taken in Chinatown so far as it pertains to substandard conditions in SROs.

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Building authorities and tenant advocates believe this lawsuit will be a game changer.

Inside an SRO hotel in Chinatown, Yang Fen Liu has been living in a tiny 10-by-10-foot room for nearly 3 decades.

With a subsidy, she pays $300 a month because she can't afford to live anywhere else and she says it hasn't been easy.

Liu said there's an ongoing rat and roach problem, the ceiling leaks, and she doesn't have hot water. Liu says the problems started in 2014 when Laurel Reality took over the building.

City Attorney David Chiu is suing three SRO hotel owners. They own the building where Liu lives at 1449 Powell Street, along with properties at 790 Vallejo Street, and 912 Jackson Street in Chinatown.

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"We are bringing this lawsuit to ensure that these owners are held accountable to make things right for our tenants and our city," said Chiu.

'You cannot do kind of things in Chinatown in San Francisco because if you do, the city will step in," said Malcolm Yeung, Executive Director of Chinatown Community Development Center.

CCDC said the investors, who bought the three SRO hotels, ignored years of tenant complaints and notices of code violations. Many groups say the lawsuit will help end those delays and improve living conditions for dozens of low-income seniors and families.

The Department of Building Inspection says it has been working with landlords and the properties, trying to bring them into compliance. But DBI says things have gotten out of hand.

"(It's) a cycle of neglect which has been very persistent," said James Sanbonmatsu, Chief Housing Inspector for DBI. "The City Attorney coming in to ask for civil penalties was the game changer here."

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