The couple that paid $90,000 for a ritzy private street in San Francisco is now suing the city to get it back

Melia Robinson/Business Insider
  • A Bay Area couple paid $US90,000 for one of the most exclusive streets in San Francisco. In November, city leaders voted to reverse the sale.
  • Now the couple is suing the city to win their street back.
  • They launched a GoFundMe page to finance the legal action.

In 2017, a Bay Area couple shook up a private street in San Francisco when residents found out the duo bought the cul-de-sac for $US90,000 without the knowledge of its wealthy residents.

Homeowners railed against the buyers, Tina Lam and Michael Cheng, in a November hearing before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. City leaders voted 7-4 to reverse the sale.

Now, the couple is suing the city to win their street back, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Lam, a Silicon Valley engineer, and her husband, Cheng, a real estate investor, have also launched a GoFundMe page to finance the legal action. They set a goal of $US50,000.

Presidio terrace street san francisco 6925Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The story unfolding at Presidio Terrace, a private development made up of 35 mega-mansions, has captured the attention of people far beyond its stone walls. When news spread that residents lost ownership of the footpaths, landscaping, and parking spots outside their homes – without their knowledge – some celebrated the comeuppance of San Francisco’s ultra-rich.

In 2015, the city put the parcel up for sale in an online auction after the Presidio Terrace Homeowners Association failed to pay taxes on the street for more than a decade.

Lam and Cheng, who live in San Jose, scooped it up for just over $US90,000, with plans to charge rent on street parking spots. Before the hearing at the Board of Supervisors, the couple offered to sell it back to residents for nearly $US1 million, Supervisor Mark Farrell said at the hearing.

“I’m an engineer with a simple dream of owning a piece of San Francisco,” Lam said during the hearing last November. “I’m not rich enough to live on that street, but I like to think that by owning it, I’m a San Franciscan in spirit.”

Presidio terrace gofundmeGoFundMeA screenshot from the GoFundMe page created by Tina Lam and Michael Cheng.

For at least 17 years, the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector mailed tax forms to the address of a now deceased bookkeaper. The $US14 annual property tax went unpaid and racked up hundreds more dollars in penalties. The homeowners argued that they had been denied due process because the city’s tax collection office did not make a reasonable attempt to contact them.

Lam and Cheng told reporters ahead of the hearing that they planned to pursue ownership through the courts if the sale was resciended – and they’re following through. Attorneys for the couple have filed a lawsuit against the city with the San Francisco Superior Court.

The couple’s GoFundMe page, called the “Presidio Terrace defence fund,” has raised $US1,820.

“This fight is not just about the street. This is about defending property rights for everyone who is not super wealthy or doesn’t look a certain way,” the GoFundMe page says.

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