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An Exclusive San Francisco Neighborhood Owed Taxes. So a Couple Bought The Street for $90,000

A savvy couple just purchased mansion-lined, private street in the heart of San Francisco for $90,100 after the association that manages it failed to pay decades of property taxes.

Tina Lam and Michael Cheng, who live in San Jose, Calif., now own the common area that fills the oval, lush terrace that sits just south of the Presidio golf course and was once home to Calif. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“We just got lucky,” Cheng, a real estate investor, told the Chronicle. The couple now wants to capitalize off of their new purchase — by charging for parking. “We could charge a reasonable rent on it,” Cheng said.

The odd purchase became possible following three decades of unpaid, $14-a-year property tax bills by the association that manages the common area on the street. The city then put the property up for sale in 2015 to make up for the $994 of debt. Cheng and Lam out-bid several others to get the property for $90,100.

The association that had managed the common area on the street said the bill wasn’t paid because it was sent to the wrong accountant for years, the Chronicle reported. The association is now suing the couple and the city, hoping to block any efforts by Cheng and Lam to sell the street to anyone.

San Francisco Street Sold
An overview of the Presidio Terrace neighborhood, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, in San Francisco.Marcio Jose Sanchez AP
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

The owners of the street’s 35 multi-million-dollar mansions had no idea their street was up for sale in the first place. Residents on the street have also said the city had an obligation to notify them of the auction on their street in 2015, according to the Chronicle.

And the odd purchase has another interesting angle: the private street was home exclusively white people up until a 1948 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that banned racial covenants. Cheng, who was born in Taiwan, told the Chronicle, “The more we dug into this, the more interesting it got.”