When Serena Ventura purchased her home 22 years ago in affluent Presidio Heights, she never expected she’d have to deal with blight and hazardous living — let alone squatters in an abandoned building next door owned by a foreign government.
The neighboring property, located at 3247 Jackson St., is owned by the Republic of Nigeria and was once the home of the consulate general. The problem for Ventura and her neighbors has been getting in touch with the Nigerian government to maintain and secure its vacant 4,200-square-foot home.
After years of complaining, Ventura only received a response this month. Now a private security guard stands over the property to keep out the squatters Ventura says have occasionally taken up residence at the posh home, which is valued at $2.8 million.
“I don’t know how or why you find an abandoned home in Presidio Heights,” Ventura said of the squatters. “For past 20 years, the house has not been utilized as an official Nigerian residence, but now that we have this on their radar, they’ve been very responsive.”
The Nigerian government shut down its San Francisco consulate in 1989, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, which had been unaware that Nigeria currently owned the San Francisco property. Now that the issue has come to the department’s attention, U.S. officials plan to meet with the Nigerian Embassy, the spokeswoman said.
Officer Albie Esparza, a Police Department spokesman, said the department had no record of anyone being arrested for trespassing on the property. However, he noted that an arrest for trespassing cannot happen until the property owner — in this case, the Nigerian government — complains. But Ventura said trespassers have squatted inside the home and police have visited after neighbor complaints.
The Nigerian property — which features seven bedrooms and four bathrooms — has racked up more than $7,000 in fines over a dangerous deck, roof leak, hazardous waste and broken windows dating back to 2006.
The most recent complaint, listed as an abandoned building, is dated Aug. 11.
The property has “been in the system” for years, according to Department of Building and Inspection spokesman William Strawn. And while abatement hearings and liens have been placed on the home, contacting the owner has been difficult for city officials.
Ventura said Nigerian officials have assured her the property would return to serving as the home of the consulate general. She’s even looking forward to their government taking care of the property since she’s been doing it for the past year.
Requests for interviews to Nigerian consulates in Washington, D.C., and New York were not immediately returned.