Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Tech: A couple bought one of the most exclusive streets in San Francisco for $90,000 — take a look inside


Here's what the couple who paid $90,000 for a private street in San Francisco got for their money.

Tina Lam and Michael Cheng are living their version of the American dream.

The couple made headlines this week when a San Francisco Chronicle story outed their 2015 purchase of Presidio Terrace — a private cul-de-sac lined by $35 million mega-mansions.

An unpaid tax bill caused the City of San Francisco to put it up for sale, without the knowledge of the street's wealthy residents. Lam, an engineer in Silicon Valley, and Cheng, a real-estate agent, scooped up the street, its sidewalks, and other "common ground" for $90,000.

Now residents are up in arms, in part because the couple wants to charge them rent for using the street's 120 parking spaces. The homeowners association has sued the couple and the city.

We visited the ultra-exclusive Presidio Terrace to see the street for ourselves.

Welcome to one the most exclusive streets in San Francisco.

Presidio Terrace is a block-long, oval street (and private development) that has been run by homeowners who live there since at least 1905, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

It has attracted some of the wealthiest and most powerful politicians in California over the years, thanks to enhanced security and its isolated location at the top of the peninsula.

No one gets in or out without the hired private security knowing. A uniformed officer with Black Bear Security Services stands guard at the stone-gate entrance at all hours.

We peeped through the wrought iron fence to see what Presidio Terrace is like.

On the corner sits a Tudor-style home that once belonged to Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her husband, financier Richard C. Blum. Built in 1909, it contains 16 rooms.

Feinstein grew up across the street from the home but always admired this mansion, with its storybook charm. She bought it through a family trust in 1985.

Feinstein later passed it on to her daughter, Judge Katherine Feinstein, who sold the property for $9.5 million in 2013, within weeks of listing it.

"She has loved this house since 1945 and I've told her it's just too much house for us right now and she said 'You know, life is short, be happy,'" the younger Feinstein told The Wall Street Journal.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi once lived in a Mission-revival mansion further up the street. The Democratic Party held many fund-raising events there over the years.

Source: The Atlantic

The home most recently sold in 1990 for $2.7 million, according to property records obtained online from the City and County of San Francisco Office of the Assessor-Recorder.

A white Beaux Arts estate at the top of the cul-de-sac (you can barely see it between the trees) belonged to Mayor Joseph Alioto. It boasts six bathrooms.

Alioto's former home most recently sold in 2013 for $9.5 million, according to property records.

The median home value in the Presidio Heights neighborhood topped $5.1 million in June — about four times the median home value in San Francisco, according to data from Zillow.

Source: Quartz and Zillow

Residents pay an annual fee to the homeowner association. In 2013, that came out to $3,410 a home, according to a listing for Alioto's mansion.

Source: Forbes

The association failed to pay a $14-a-year property tax for three decades. It claims the city sent the bill to an outdated address, which caused penalties and interest to stack up.

In 2015, the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector went looking for someone to pay up. It listed the street in an online auction to recover $994 in back taxes, penalties, and interest.

Along came Lam, a product line manager at the software company VMware, and Cheng, a real-estate agent who brokers investment opportunities for high-net-worth individuals.

The couple, who live in San Jose, don't actually get much for their $90,000.

They own the palm trees and other greenery at the stone-gate entrance.

They own the sidewalks and these perfectly manicured shrubs.

The stone fence that wraps around the gated community? Also theirs.

So is this "Game of Thrones"-style wall designed to keep out passersby.

The couple is interested in charging the neighborhood's deep-pocketed residents to park on Presidio Terrace. "We could charge a reasonable rent on it," Cheng told the Chronicle.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Unsurprisingly, residents are not happy — more than two years after Lam and Cheng scooped up Presidio Terrace without their knowledge. Many were first made aware of the purchase in May, when a title-search company working on behalf of the couple contacted them to see whether they were interested in buying back the property outside their homes.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

"I was shocked to learn this could happen, and am deeply troubled that anyone would choose to take advantage of the situation and buy our street and sidewalks," one homeowner, who asked not to be named because of a pending suit, told the Chronicle.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

"We just got lucky," Cheng said of the bizarre purchase.

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