Ordered to Comply with Health and Safety Codes, Apartment Building Owners Could Face Hundreds of Thousands in Penalties
SAN FRANCISCO (August 9, 2006)-City Attorney Dennis Herrera today obtained a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit against the owners of 555 Hyde Street, a nine-unit apartment building in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District known to building inspectors and law enforcement officials for squalid conditions and rampant criminal activity. According to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court yesterday, property owners Chiu Ki Luk and Teresa C. Luk have been repeatedly cited for health and safety code violations, including defective locks, rodent infestation, broken fire escapes, inadequate lighting, a nonworking elevator, unsafe stairways, mold damage, and disrepair throughout individual units. Inspection reports cited in the City’s litigation additionally document such appalling unsanitary conditions as hypodermic needles, used condoms, and human waste accumulated in hallways and other common areas. According to declarations accompanying the complaint, tenants, including seniors, live under near constant threat by unauthorized individuals who break into the building’s common areas to engage in such criminal activity as drug dealing, public drinking, public sexual activity, and prostitution. Despite numerous notices of violation by City building and health inspectors, however, the building owners have refused to abate problems at the property.
“These tenants have been forced to deal with lawlessness and filth that is often far worse in their own hallways than what they would encounter on the streets,” Herrera said. “This is an egregious example of neglect by defiant landlords who refuse to obey laws intended to protect the health and safety of residents and neighbors. These tenants are entitled to habitable conditions for the rent they pay, and we’re taking a very aggressive stand to ensure they are protected.”
The temporary restraining order approved by Superior Court Judge Paul Alvarado compels the owners to make immediate repairs and improvements to a property that has been deemed a public nuisance. With the court order granted today, continued violation by the 555 Hyde Street landlords could result in jail time and additional penalties.
Since July 2005, the City Attorney’s Office has worked in conjunction with the Department of Building Inspection and the Department of Public Health to improve living conditions for the residents of the apartment building, citing owners with numerous code violations and orders of abatement that have gone largely ignored. Filed by the City Attorney’s Code Enforcement and Resident Protection Team, the lawsuit involving 555 Hyde Street is seeking to have the property declared a public nuisance, and have the property owners ordered to abate all violations.
Total penalties resulting from the violations could reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The lawsuit additionally seeks attorneys’ fees and costs.
The case is City and County of San Francisco v. Chiu Ki Luk et al, San Francisco Superior Court No. CGC 06-454-926, filed August 8, 2006.