On Tuesday morning, chants filled the air as FiDi workers with take-out lunches in hand tried to navigate their way through the sidewalk. Their main obstacles were activists protesting outside of 220 Montgomery Street, the headquarters of San Francisco real estate magnate Neveo Mosser. The activists were led by tenants of two Mosser properties—285 Turk and 425 Hyde—who have levied claims of neglect and greed against the property owner.
285 Turk Street has been an issue going back to 2016, when Mosser bought the building and immediately informed the tenants that rents would be raised by ten percent, and soon after another 70 percent. After successful protests aided by Supervisor Jane Kim, he rescinded the latter increase, but followed up last June with rent hikes ranging from five to 25 percent.
After a series of protests in Fall of 2017—covered in the September issue of Street Sheet—Mosser agreed to hold off once again on the proposed increases and meet with the tenants as a collective to settle on fair rent increase terms. According to local activists from Hospitality House though, he hasn’t held true to this promise. Even though negotiations are supposedly still in progress, Mosser hasn’t responded to requests for further meetings. Residents continue to live in fear of sudden rent increases that will displace them from their homes.
Tenants at 425 Hyde Street are facing similar neglect. Residents have been facing ongoing water intrusion and mold issues for years. Although they repeatedly bring this to the attention of the property manager, they are met with indifference at best and eviction notices at worst.
One resident, Sato, said that she moved into the building eight months ago and immediately started experiencing water and mold issues. She contacted the property manager but was told that she would have to pay out of her own pocket for damage assessment. She did, and was informed by the inspector that the mold had led to spores which were emitting toxins. When she told the property management once again, the building sent a handyman who did patch-up work insufficient to prevent future water intrusion and mold. Both have since resurfaced.
She figured that other people in the building were having the same problem and asked around. She learned that there was a family with a six-year-old boy living in an apartment in the building who had been diagnosed with respiratory issues related to the mold.
Sato received eviction warning from the property manager and Mosser Companies when she continued to bring up the issue. On one occasion, they served her an eviction warning citing that she had not allowed them into her apartment. According to Sato, though, she had in fact allowed them into her apartment to inspect the mold, but they refused to enter when she told them she would record the inspection.
She also asserted that because she is a recent resident paying market rate, the property manager has responded to her more swiftly than longer term residents. Another resident who has been living at the property for more than four years, Sandra, affirmed this. Sandra also said that her unit has likely not been remodeled for decades, which has resulted in perpetual water intrusion. The residents are asking for proper maintenance and mold removal to ensure that they can live in a healthy, safe environment.
As detailed in the previous report on 285 Turk St, Mosser has a reputation of greed and negligence. He was sued by the City of San Francisco in 2002 after inheriting his father’s SRO hotels and engaging in the illegal practice of “musical rooms,” or forcing hotel guests out before they had stayed for 28 days to prevent them from gaining tenant rights.
His role in San Francisco property management is complicated by the fact that he has served as the alternate landlord commissioner for the powerful San Francisco Rent Board—which enforces rent control and mediates tenant/landlord conflicts—since 1996.
Local activists are unfortunately all too familiar with complaints against Mosser, and the tenants were flanked by representatives from the Housing Rights Committee, the Tenderloin People’s Congress, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, the Tenderloin Filipino Association, Glide, and Hospitality House.
They hope that with enough voices, Mosser will finally be forced to make a change. As Sato said at the rally, “We have no hidden agenda. We are fighting for health and justice.”