Herrera sues defiant owner of Castro District drug house over nuisances, safety dangers

Methamphetamine, other illicit drugs were seized in multiple S.F. Police Department raids of notorious property at 517-519 Sanchez Street

SAN FRANCISCO (Nov. 20, 2015)—City Attorney Dennis Herrera is suing the owner of a Castro District property over major habitability and safety issues, and persistent neighborhood nuisances related to the sale of methamphetamine and other illicit drugs.   The complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court yesterday names Joel Elliott as the defendant and owner of the property at 517-519 Sanchez Street, which has been raided on multiple occasions by the San Francisco Police Department.

“This property has been a neighborhood nuisance for far too long,” said Herrera. “Not only has the owner failed to comply with numerous orders to fix code violations at the property, he has harbored illegal drug activity there for years. His conduct endangers the health, welfare and safety of neighbors, and drains the City of resources to adequately patrol other parts of the City. With today’s lawsuit, we intend to bring this defendant to justice, and also send a message to other would-be scofflaws that the City won’t tolerate this kind of lawlessness.”

If successful, Herrera’s suit could win thousands in civil penalties for health and safety code violations, and force the defendant to shutter the property for one year. Herrera’s lawsuit follows numerous efforts on behalf of the City dating back to 2010 demanding that the property comply with building and safety codes and halt illegal drug activities. Multiple notices of violations issued by the Department of Building Inspection include such problems as missing exterior staircases, lack of heat and other habitability and safety issues. The property has additionally earned a reputation among neighbors as a “drug house,” for police raids and allegations of the sales and use of controlled substances, including methamphetamines and heroin.

After initially responding to a call regarding an armed trespasser in the house in January 2012, police found a significant amount of methamphetamine, cocaine and other narcotics. Subsequent searches resulted in similar findings, according to Herrera’s complaint, including an incident earlier this year, when police arrested eight people, including Elliott and some of his tenants.

The defendant faces civil penalties of $1,500 per day for each day that Housing and Building Code violations were permitted to persist; $2,500 for each act of unfair competition; up to $25,000 in civil penalties for violations of the Drug Abatement Act; and attorneys’ fees.

The case is: City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Joel Elliott et al., San Francisco Superior Court case no. CGC-15-549063, filed Nov. 19, 2015. Additional documentation from the case is available on the City Attorney’s website at: https://www.sfcityattorney.org/.

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