San Francisco sues Chinatown SRO owners over unsafe living conditions

Landlords neglected properties creating hazardous conditions for tenants and neighbors

SAN FRANCISCO (October 10, 2023) — City Attorney David Chiu announced today that San Francisco has filed a lawsuit against the owners of three Chinatown single room occupancy (SRO) hotels for creating a public nuisance and letting dozens of health and safety violations linger. The lawsuit, filed against Jeff Appendrodt, Shailendra Devdhara, Kamlesh Patel and five associated limited liability companies (LLC), seeks relief for the tenants and the City departments that have spent years trying to get the landlords to abate dangerous conditions at the properties.

City Attorney David Chiu announces lawsuit against several Chinatown SRO owners during an October 2023 press conference.

“It is unacceptable that dozens of immigrant tenants have had to live under these unsafe and unhealthy conditions,” said City Attorney Chiu. “Landlords have a responsibility to keep up their properties and ensure their tenants have a safe and healthy place to live. These property owners have not met that responsibility and instead profited off the suffering of their tenants. The owners need to be held accountable and make things right.”

“For years, we’ve tried to bring these properties into compliance and made only modest progress. Our warnings were ignored. Our violations were disregarded. That changes today,” said Department of Building Inspector (DBI) Director Patrick O’Riordan. “I want every San Franciscan to know that we will stand up for you when your rights are being trampled. We have your back and are committed to your well-being. And I want every landlord to know that we are here to make sure that every resident lives in a safe, clean, code-compliant home.”

“The investors who bought these three buildings ignored years of tenant complaints and notices of code violations,” said Malcolm Yeung, Executive Director of Chinatown Community Development Center. “This lawsuit seeks to end those delays. It also sends an important message that in every neighborhood of this city, low-income seniors and families are entitled to decent, safe, and sanitary conditions like everyone else. We thank the City Attorney for filing this case, the efforts of the Department and its tireless staff, and the tenants here who are standing up for their rights.”

Through different ownership configurations, Defendants own three SRO hotels in Chinatown located at 1449 Powell Street, 790 Vallejo Street, and 912 Jackson Street. Kamlesh Patel purchased 790 Vallejo Street and 912 Jackson Street in May 2023, and is not involved with violations at 1449 Powell Street. Collectively, the properties contain 67 authorized SRO rooms and at least 14 unauthorized SRO rooms and dwelling units.

Dating back to 2018, multiple City departments, led by DBI Chief Housing Inspector Jamie Sanbonmatsu, have issued Notices of Violation (NOVs) for health, safety, and building infractions at the three properties. The owners have illegally converted, combined, or added unauthorized SRO rooms and dwelling units.

Additional code violations have included unpermitted work, broken and rusted plumbing, exposed electrical wiring, insect infestations, mold and mildew, unsanitary shared restrooms, malfunctioning appliances, lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, seismic safety risks, insufficient emergency exits, broken doors and locks, missing hardware, broken windows and frames, damaged paint with lead risks, and damaged ceilings, floors, and walls.

While the owners have abated some of the numerous NOVs over the years, there are currently 21 outstanding NOVs for violations related to health and sanitation, structural damage, and work without permits.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants created a public nuisance that endangers the health and safety of the tenants and neighbors. Additionally, the City asserts the owners violated state housing law, multiple municipal codes, and California’s Unfair Competition Law. The City is seeking penalties, fees, and injunctive relief to cure the violations at the properties.

The case is City and County of San Francisco v. 1449 Powell St LLC, et al. The complaint can be found here.