SF reaches settlement of $276,000, injunction against greedy landlords 

The City Attorney's Office on Wednesday announced a $276,000 settlement with greedy landlords over unlawful evictions.

Darren and Valerie Lee are alleged to have used the state Ellis Act to evict several longtime tenants, including a disabled man, from their property in the 3000 block of Clay Street and then marketing the empty units to tourists on the websites HomeAway and VRBO, City Attorney's Office spokesman Matt Dorsey said in a statement Wednesday.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed the lawsuit against the Lees in April 2014. It alleged that the owners flouted The City's conditional-use process requirements and deprived neighbors and city planners of a role in determining if the conversions were necessary or desirable.

Although the Ellis Act does not preclude commercial use of a property for tourism, Herrera said his lawsuit was meant to reinforce city policy that tourist conversion of residential properties be aggressively policed “in order to protect the residents and conserve the limited housing resources.”

“A successful settlement like this should send a strong cautionary message to current and would-be wrongdoers that there is a steep price to pay for flouting laws that restrict short-term rental uses in San Francisco,” Herrera said.

He added that the evictions were “a significant contributor to our housing affordability crisis.”

Along with the lawsuit, Herrera secured an injunction against the Lees that will prohibit them from similar behavior in the next five years for all properties owned wholly or in part by the couple, along with any new property they may acquire in the next five years.

The City Attorney's Office encourages any tenant going through a similar situation to contact the office's code enforcement hotline at (415) 554-3977.

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