Immigrant Couple Buys Street To Charge Rich Californians To Park Outside Their Own Homes


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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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A California couple bought the street bordering some of San Francisco’s most expensive properties, and now they’re going to charge those homeowners for parking.

Tina Lam and Michael Cheng, first generation immigrants, found Presidio Terrace listed for only $994 dollars in an online auction. The city held the auction to pay off the $14 per year property tax on the street that the local homeowners association had neglected to pay for more than 30 years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday. The couple wasn’t the only party to recognize the potential value of the street, however, and they paid more than $90,000 when the bidding was all said and done.

The homeowners claimed they only failed to pay the tax because the annual bill was being sent to an old address, the Sacramento Bee reported. However, the city was unsympathetic.

“Ninety-nine percent of property owners in San Francisco know what they need to do, and they pay their taxes on time — and they keep their mailing address up to date,” spokeswoman Amanda Fried said.

The street is a small oval bordering 35 properties prized by San Francisco’s most elite residents. Over the years, personalities like Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein have owned homes in the closed-off paradise, which has an entrance overseen by a full-time guard.

Homes on Presidio Terrace in San Francisco (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Homes on Presidio Terrace in San Francisco (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

After buying the street two years ago, the couple bided their time, consulting with property lawyers about the potential uses for the street. They only notified the homeowners that they’d bought the street in May when they approached the homeowners association asking if they’d be interested in purchasing the street back, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The locals were not amused. They sued Cheng, Lam, and the city to get the street back.

“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 resident told the Chronicle.

The city claimed there was nothing it could do at this point to reverse the sale since it happened so long ago.

The couple plans to make a profit from the street by charging residents for parking, as it reportedly has 120 parking spaces. If the homeowners don’t want to cooperate in purchasing them, Cheng and Lam hope people outside the community might be interested.

The homeowners association lawsuit alleges that the couple is only using the threat of charging for parking to incentivize them to buy the street back, but Lam claims she and Cheng have no plans to part with the property.

“I’m a first-generation immigrant, and the first time I came to San Francisco I fell in love with the city,” Lam told the Chronicle. “I really just wanted to own something in San Francisco because of my affinity for the city.”

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