NIMBY Outrage: Trickster Uses Color of Authority to Threaten Eviction over a Garage Sale Sign

Have you ever heard of an outfit called “Neighbors for Clean Neighborhoods” or something? Well, neither has the Internet. But somebody is using that name to threaten tenants with eviction over things that tenants can’t control.

Like if there’s a sign advertising a garage sale on a traffic signal pole outside of your apartment building, you just might get “served” with a massive missive that discusses how you could get evicted.

The return address is listed as 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place San Francisco, CA 94102, which is of course San Francisco City Hall. Somebody named “Bob Williams” is behind this, but who knows who that is. Are you allowed to use City Hall’s address to threaten people with eviction freelance? I don’t think so. 

Anyway, look forward to getting this notice yourself someday. I’ll tell you, tenants were confused by this official-looking notice, some of them thinking that it came from the landlord.

One might think that you’d need an actual backyard before you can go all NIMBY on people, but it looks like Bob Williams has found a loophole. (You real NIMBYs might want to reuse some of the florid language – it’s pure gold.)

Click to expand.

Mostly you can read it. Mostly

Needless to say, I cry foul.

[UPDATE: Turns out that Chuckles Nevius was all over this issue last year.]

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17 Responses to “NIMBY Outrage: Trickster Uses Color of Authority to Threaten Eviction over a Garage Sale Sign”

  1. Endwahl says:

    Has anyone called Rick Thurber about this?

  2. Bill says:

    I got the same letter as the second one posted above in the mail today. It’s irritating that they print your name and phone number on the letter making look even more official. Anyway to find who is actually behind this?

  3. Tglow says:

    Sounds like Rick Thurber to me, too. The SF Dept of Public Works page that explains how to post signs legally ends with a notice about remarkably similar letters that were being sent from the nonexistent “SF Cleanup Project and Quinn Cooper” last fall.

  4. pta member says:

    Our school just got one for posting a small poster on a pole (but nobody remembers doing this, and now it’s gone). It threatens litigation and an abatement fee. we’re a school, for god’s sake!

  5. sfcitizen says:

    You’ve been punk’d, basically. All bark, no bite.

    If this dude ever actually sues anyone, Hell will rain down from his own personal storm cloud.

  6. Rufus says:

    I also just received this letter from “Bob Williams” for putting garage sale signs up last weekend. And it was addressed to me, which is interesting b/c I’m not on the lease of the property. The only way that this person could have gotten my name is by looking through our mail or our garbage.

    This happened in the Inner Richmond, near 9th Ave and Fulton. I would be interested if this is happening in other neighborhoods.

    Thanks for the posts and the info.

    – Rufus

  7. Ben says:

    I just received a similar letter, threatening civil action for some alleged “mini-billboards” that my organization did not post (and that may not actually exist; I have no idea what he’s talking about). The false use of City Hall’s address smelled wrong, but thanks for this article — it makes me feel a lot better.

  8. stephen says:

    I received this today and basically wanted to go find this guy and crush him (I know, un-San Francisco like, sorry). I took down all the signs the day after our sale and thus wasted less paper than he did in sending me this letter. Incredibly annoying and bothersome that he is even out there. If you ever find a way to contact him, please post it so I can send him a note of my own.

  9. engnr_chik says:

    We put up signs for our garage sale Saturday morning, took them down Saturday lat afternoon (4 total), and received this letter Tuesday afternoon. It was addressed to my spouse, but the house is not owned by us, so I’ve got the same question as Rufus: is some nut case going through our garbage? This was in the Miraloma Park area, near Portola Drive.

    I immediately scanned the letter, posted it, and contacted @SF311 on Twitter. They sent me this link

    Note the bottom paragraph:
    “The SF Cleanup Project and Quinn Cooper are not affiliated with the Department of Public Works or the City and County of San Francisco. If you receive a letter from one of these entities about signs you have posted, please submit it to DPW, Director’s Office, City Hall, Room 348, San Francisco, CA 94102 and DPW will deliver it to the City Attorney’s office. For more information, contact DPW’s Bureau of Street Use and Mapping at 554-5810.”

    Apparently there are different letters out there all using a City Hall return address illegally.

  10. Faith says:

    I posted an ad for an apartment sale on Craigslist and got a rather nasty, quite heavy-handed response from this jerk. It began by saying, “Thank you for posting your sale on Craigslist,” as though it was coming from them.

    I replied and told him he would get a much better response had he requested, rather than demanded, that I not post any signs.

    I Googled him, and saw this page. Now I know he’s a jerk. Somebody should staple HIM to a pole!

  11. Adam Victor says:

    If any of you have any contact info for Bob Williams please post it here. I am taking this up a personal crusade against this guy. I have lost 2 cats and both times I posted legal posters up around my area this guy tore them down and threatened legal action.

    I was in distress due to my animals missing and this is not a way to help.

  12. Anna says:

    Hello Neighbors!

    I think I know what he looks like but that probably won’t help us. I just received the notice (garage sale signs) and am very sensitive to such threats. I’m also suspicious so I called 311 and spoke to a very pleasant woman who said not to worry, even if “Bob Williams” were to call the city, all the city would do is tell us to take them down and not “advertise” again in that fashion. Relief (that $1500 fine would have squandered my meager garage sale earnings!)! She even advised on future postings and garage sales and to make sure to do it right the next time. No biggie with them.

    Then, I found this series of postings. I would like to help stop this threatening behavior and educate Bob toward more peaceful communication skills. I really don’t like being threatened with arrest when a simple, “Please know that the signs aren’t really legal, take ’em down and keep us looking beautiful in SF. Thanks.” Now wouldn’t it be lovely to behave neighborly and compassionately (or at least with a kind tone).

    Anyway, I’m now very suspicious of a bearded man who was sitting across the street yesterday as I pulled some debris from the sidewalk into our driveway for the dump pick up and I overhead, “There’s some woman taking stuff off the street now…” Is he stalking me now too!?! Jeez, who’s writing the script for this town drama…I feel a documentary project in the making.

    I am making copies of the letter and sending to the address above.
    Thank you for posting!

  13. Alma says:

    I just received one of these letters from Bob Williams – a year ago I got one from The San Francisco Clean Up Project – return address was City Hall.The name he was using then was Quinn P. Cooper – there was an article in the Chronicle (Nevius).What a nut – I hope he can be found and charged with fraud – I wish people like this would put their time,money(the postage!)and energy into feeding people or some other important pursuit.

  14. Kevinpm says:

    just got one of these Bob Williams letters. it was in the mail box when i got home from my studio an hour ago. i don’t live at the address to which Bob sent the letter, haven’t since December 2009, so it was forwarded to my new place. the letter also notes a telephone number i presume Bob thinks is mine. never had and don’t have now that phone number. i am glad i searched the Goggle-world and found this thread

    annoying and, since i dig this example of classic San Francisco “too many people with too much time on their hands” crap, entertaining really. hurrah! it’s yet another San Francisco nut job!

    Mr Williams is, as older relatives in the South used to say, “touched.”

  15. Tracey M says:

    Oh my goodness I just got one in the post today for my garage sale that happened Sunday just gone. It really panicked me. I too am in Inner Richmond and was wondering whether anyone has taken this any further? I just spoke to 311 and the lovely lady there put my mind at rest but she said that she thinks I should go to my local police station just to see if they know about this going on etc. I am worried cause this guy has my name, my husbands name and my home phone number! Its not even my property, I rent. I will definitely let my neighbour know about this as it was a joint venture but would really appreciate any feedback from anyone else.

  16. John Sims says:

    I received a letter too from some posters we put up 3 weeks ago for a Community Yard Sale we were having. Who can we contact in regards to this?