Sign-covered house sold after foreclosure 

The woman infamous for decorating her San Mateo and Belmont homes with massive hand-painted messages has seen her real estate portfolio halved after her Cottage Grove Avenue house was sold in foreclosure auction Nov. 30.

The sale ends more than a year of legal wrangling by the city of San Mateo to force Benavides to bring the signs into compliance with city codes.

The city’s forbiddance of roof signs, which cannot be larger than six square feet and must not exceed 10 feet in total signage, is vastly exceeded by Estrella Benavides’ 70 square feet of signs expounding on government conspiracies, biblical judgment and human-rights abuses.

On Nov. 30, Equity Growth Asset Management purchased the three-bedroom, one-bath home at 1864 Cottage Grove Ave. after its foreclosure, handing over control of the property to Founders Real Estate Services in San Francisco.

According to a notice from Founders President Raymond Grinsell posted on the front door of the home, Benavides was asked to remove herpersonal belongings — many of which are still visible through the windows of the home — for a new owner.

At the time of the foreclosure, City Attorney Shawn Mason said the city was drafting a request to San Mateo County Superior Court to order Benavides to remove the signage or face possible charges for contempt of court.

Benavides is also facing a similar motion from Belmont, where signs painted on her 3416 Beresford Ave. home have violated similar codes.

With the foreclosure, Mason said the city is suspending the case to work with the new owners to fix the violations.

"We are in contact with the new owner and will be working with them, and they’ve given an indication that they will be working with us to clean up the property," he said. "We’ll suspend what is happening in court right now, and if the new owner goes in and quickly fixes things, we’ll drop the case."

San Mateo has been fighting with Benavides to remove the signs since August 2006, when neighbors first complained about the visual blight on their Shoreview neighborhood.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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