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Couple Buys San Francisco Street in Posh Neighborhood, Enraged Millionaires Sue

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Tina Lam and Michael Cheng, proud street owners
Photo:Nicole Boliaux, The Chronicle

Home ownership is pretty common. But street ownership? Not so much.

Two real estate investors from San Jose, Tina Lam and Michael Cheng, actually did buy a street. Back in April 2015, they purchased an exclusive private street in the Presidio Terrace neighborhood that was being sold via public auction along with other tax-defaulted properties.

Now, they’re seeking a return on their $90k investment. Lam and Cheng have expressed an interest in charging residents for parking spaces along the road. It’s a lucrative plan, considering that the going rate for local area parking spots is about $350.

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The resident millionaires at Presidio Terrace discovered that they no longer owned the street just a few months ago, back in May. Simply put, they aren’t happy about the purchase or about the potential parking fees they might have to pay to park on the street.

The property went on sale in the first place due to the Presidio Terrace HOA’s failure to pay their annual $14 tax bill. HOA members claim the tax went unpaid because the city was sending the bill to the wrong mailing address. In addition, they also blame the city for not sending them a written notice of the default or the 2015 property auction.

Photo: Cullen328

The HOA has sued both the city and the couple. Considering it’s been two years after the purchase, there’s a slim chance that the HOA will win. Amanda Fried from the Board of Supervisors at the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s office sides with the couple, stating: “99% of property owners in San Francisco…pay their taxes on time and they keep their mailing address up to date. There is nothing that our office can do.”

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Why did the couple want to purchase the street in the first place? It turns out that both Lam and Cheng are first-generation immigrants who came from China and Taiwan, respectively. Lang articulates they wanted to buy the street out of affection for San Francisco: “I really just wanted to own something in San Francisco because of my affinity for the city.”

Besides enraging the neighborhood’s elite, the couple’s purchase of the street overturns some longstanding racist legislation. Until 1948, the Supreme Court declared that only Caucasian individuals could purchase any property in the Presidio Terrace region.

Now, almost 70 years after the death of this discriminatory law, Lam and Cheng are not just enjoying their American street. They’re also exercising the very American notion of capitalism by brainstorming ways to make a return on their unique investment. Who could blame them?

Source: The Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle

Whitney Russell is a current resident of Dayton, though her spirit can be found beach-bumming on Puerto Rico (the land of her half-Puerto Rican heritage). When not adventuring through the exciting world of car news, she can be found hiking with her fiance and their 1-year-old Labrador, motorcycling, reorganizing and/or decorating some corner of the world (most likely in yellow), researching random things, scribbling on her blog, and escaping into a great movie, poem, or short story. See more articles by Whitney.