Hundreds of SF residents’ homes saved from condo conversion 

click to enlarge Fillmore Center
  • Juan Pardo/Special to The S.f. Examiner
  • “This is a major legal victory that protects affordable housing at a time when San Francisco desperately needs it. The displacement of Western Addition tenants from more than 1,100 apartments in the midst of the current housing crisis would have been unthinkable," said City Attorney Dennis Herrera about the Fillmore Center.
A six-year court battle over the future of a huge apartment complex in the Western Addition ended in what some are calling a victory for the tenants in 459 units saved from condo conversion along Fillmore Street.

“This is a major legal victory that protects affordable housing at a time when San Francisco desperately needs it,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said. “The displacement of Western Addition tenants from more than 1,100 apartments in the midst of the current housing crisis would have been unthinkable. And the high stakes of this potentially devastating legal attack justified the resources we deployed to defend against it.”

About half of the units were saved from condo conversion in 2012 during another phase of the case.

The apartment complex, called the Fillmore Center, lies just south of Geary Boulevard along Fillmore Street and takes up several city blocks. The complex, which has had numerous owners, was completed in 1991 on land owned by the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency with the guarantee that 20 percent of the units would stay below market rate until 2017. In exchange, the developers received “advantageous financing terms,” according to the City Attorney’s Office.

The case, which was heard by Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow, was originally filed in 2008 by current owners Fillmore Center Associates after they were barred from converting more than 1,000 units into condominiums because the previous owners had relinquished such rights.

Fillmore Center Associates lawyers argued in the case that a handful of property rights should have allowed them to convert rental housing into condominiums. Those rights, they said, superseded The City’s condominium conversion laws.

The City’s case contended that because the previous owners had failed to attain their condo conversion rights, the current owners had no such rights.

Locals say the court ruling is a well-deserved victory for the neighborhood.

“I’m really happy about it,” said Supervisor London Breed, whose district includes the Fillmore Center. “There were a lot of people that were worried.”

The complex’s landlords have not been good to residents or the community, she said. The owners and their management, the Laramar Group, have capriciously raised rents, Breed said, adding that numerous constituents have complained to her about their treatment there.

“They should be better to the community,” she said.

The Rev. Arnold Townsend, who chaired the citizen advisory council to the former Redevelopment Agency, said even though few longtime Fillmore residents still live in the complex, taking away those rental units would have done real harm to a neighborhood that has already had a lot of harm done to it.

“They missed their opportunity and they were trying to resurrect it,” said Townsend of the building owner’s effort to convert the rentals to condos.

The owners of the Fillmore Center, the retirement fund Prudential, did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

A case management conference has been scheduled for March 13 to ascertain if any additional proceedings are needed.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Bio:
Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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