Posts Tagged ‘lawsuit’

Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Sues Short-Term Rental Scofflaws for Illegal Conversions, Unlawful Business Practices – Ellis Act, Baby!

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

[UPDATE: Direct link here and the full press kit with complaint here.]

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, The Happy Warrior:

“Herrera sues short-term rental scofflaws for illegal conversions, unlawful business practices

Two cases target ‘egregious offenders’—both involving Ellis Act evictions of disabled tenants to illegally convert residential apartments into tourist lodging

SAN FRANCISCO (April 23, 2014) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed two separate lawsuits against short-term rental scofflaws for illegally converting residential apartments into commercial tourist lodging, which the property owners then marketed through such online platforms as Airbnb, Homeway.com and VRBO.com.  In both cases, the defendants had previously evicted long-term residents from their apartments under the Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to evict tenants and withdraw their properties from the residential rental market.  Two of the evicted tenants were disabled, according to San Francisco Superior Court and Rent Board records cited in today’s pleadings.

“In the midst of a housing crisis of historic proportions, illegal short-term rental conversions of our scarce residential housing stock risks becoming a major contributing factor,” said Herrera.  “The cases I’ve filed today target two egregious offenders.  These defendants didn’t just flout state and local law to conduct their illegal businesses, they evicted disabled tenants in order to do so.  Today’s cases are the first among several housing-related matters under investigation by my office, and we intend to crack down hard on unlawful conduct that’s exacerbating—and in many cases profiting from—San Francisco’s alarming lack of affordable housing.  I’m grateful to the city departments, including the San Francisco Planning Department, and community advocates who have worked with my office to help us pursue these kinds of scofflaws.  And I encourage tenants and neighbors to report housing-related wrongdoing online to my office through our Up2Code.org website or the Up2Code app, or by calling our Code Enforcement Hotline at (415) 554-3977.”

Herrera’s complaints filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning detail pervasive violations of the city Planning Code and state Unfair Competition Law at three addresses: 3073-3075 Clay Street, owned by defendants Darren and Valerie Lee; and 734 and 790 Bay Street, which is owned or managed by defendants Lev, Tamara and Tatyana Yurovsky.  If successful, the litigation could result in permanent court-ordered injunctions; civil penalties of up to $200 per day for Planning Code violations; up to $2,500 for each unlawful business act; disgorgement of illegally obtained profits; and attorneys’ fees.  Though the Ellis Act itself does not preclude the commercial use of properties for tourists where long-term tenants have previously been evicted, Herrera’s litigation emphasized longstanding city policy that tourist conversions of residential properties be aggressively policed “in order to protect the residents and to conserve the limited housing resources.”

According to one of Herrera’s civil actions, defendants Darren and Valerie Lee purchased 3073-3075 Clay Street in 2004, and invoked the Ellis Act in 2005 to evict their tenants from both of the property’s residential units.  One of the evicted tenants was disabled.  Evidence presented in the complaint found that the Lees have marketed 3075 Clay Street, a four-bedroom, three-bathroom property, for tourist lodging on such vacation websites such as Homeaway.com and VRBO.com since 2009, describing it as an “exquisitely renovated home, in prime Pacific Heights.”  The Lees charged their guests between $395 and $595 per night for a minimum stay of three nights.  But in doing so, the owners flouted the city’s required conditional use authorization process—depriving neighbors and city planners of their role to first determine whether the conversion is necessary or desirable; compatible with the neighborhood; detrimental to the City’s housing stock; or consistent with the city’s Planning Code or Planning Department’s General Plan.  According to Herrera’s complaint, San Francisco’s Planning Department repeatedly cited the Lees for their illegal use of the property for commercial tourist lodging, even collecting penalties of as much $250 per day for violations.  The Lees—who at one point assured Planning Department officials that their illegal conduct had stopped—then defiantly resumed marketing and renting their property to tourists.  In 3073 Clay Street, the Lees evicted a disabled tenant who had lived in the unit for more than ten years and, until evicted, was paying $1,087 per month.  By invoking the Ellis Act, the Lees were legally restricted until August 25, 2011, from re-renting the unit at market rate.  But evidence presented in Herrera’s action shows that the Lees admitted to the Planning Department that they had, in fact, re-rented 3073 Clay Street and charged their new residential tenants between $5,000-$7,038 per month.

Herrera’s other civil complaint against Lev, Tamara and Tatyana Yurovsky notes that they, too, used the Ellis Act to evict long-term residential tenants — including one who was disabled — from one of their properties, at 734 Bay Street.  Together with a residential unit at another of their properties owned by Lev and Tatyana and managed by Tamara, at 790 Bay Street, the Yurovskys illegally converted their apartments into tourist use beginning in 2010.  They marketed the rentals to tourists on Airbnb.com and “greatsfvacation.com” for rates of between $165 and $320 per night, with three-night minimum stays.  Though the Yurovsky defendants boasted on social media that they had hosted several hundred tourists, according to evidence detailed in the complaint, they too flouted the city’s conditional use authorization process, violating the San Francisco Planning Code and state law.

The cases are: City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Darren Lee et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 538857; and City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Tamara Yurovsky et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 538854.  Additional documentation from the case is available on the City Attorney’s website at:http://www.sfcityattorney.org/.

Ouch, “Friends” No More: Lawyer for the Agent Lisa Kudrow Stiffed Calls Her an “Unsophisticated Actress Client”

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Boy, there are two interesting grafs here.

In a statement, Kudrow’s attorney Gerald Sauer said, “The jury’s verdict is merely one step in the legal process. This case ultimately will be resolved at the appellate level. Ms. Kudrow has faith in the judicial system, and she believes that the eventual outcome of this contractual dispute will be in her favor.”

How do think jurors feel after hemming and hawing day after day, sweating the details, you know, only to be told their brand-new decision just doesn’t matter?

NOT GOOD, prolly.

But it gets better:

In a statement of his own, Scott Howard’s attorney Mark Baute countered, “What generally happens now with unsophisticated actress clients is they overpay for filing a frivolous appeal that has no chance for success. The verdict is rock solid, and we look forward to collecting 10 percent, 16,000 dollars a month, in post-judgment interest while their frivolous appeal is pending. We will collect that interest for two years, which is how long it will take for the Court of Appeal to affirm this jury’s righteous verdict.”

Oh, so this kind of thing happens all the time, not with actors generally, but specifically with actresses, the “unsophisticated” ones, and just from recent cases, so we can generalize this particular case and know for sure what’s going to happen? Wow.

Now if I were Lisa Kudrow, I’d be thinking, mmm, the math’s off a bit, but mmmm, maybe I should cut a deal right now.

Is what I’d be thinking…

Peas in a Pod: The Tesla Model S and the Fisker Karma are Very Hard to Tell Apart

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Ah look, from Marin it’s a red Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid in red and in the background it’s a silver Tesla Model S electric car.

Don’t they look super similar?

Click to expand

Ah memories:

“On 14 April 2008, Tesla Motors filed a lawsuit against Fisker Automotive, alleging that Henrik Fisker stole Tesla’s Model S hybrid technology and was using it to develop the Karma. Tesla’s suit claimed that the design work done for the Model S sedan by Fisker Coachbuild was substandard, and that Fisker Automotive diverted its best ideas to the Karma.[77] On 4 November 2008 CNET News reported that Tesla Motors would discontinue its suit after an interim ruling in favor of Fisker et al.[78] A news release on the Fisker Automotive website stated that Tesla was ordered to pay US$1,144,285 in costs.[79]

City Attorney Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Says “MeetMe.Com” Enables Sexual Predators and Child Stalkers

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

All the deets:

“MeetMe.com enables sexual predators and child stalkers, San Francisco’s lawsuit contendsSocial network’s unlawful publication of minors’ profiles, photos and geolocation data has been used to victimize children as young as 13 years of age — and younger

SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 3, 2014) — San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed suit against MeetMe, a popular social networking platform that facilitates interactions among strangers, over inadequate privacy protections and unlawful publication of minors’ profiles, photos, and location data, which can enable sexual predators and stalkers to target children as young as 13 years of age.

The civil complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning alleges that the New Hope, Pa.-based MeetMe, Inc. is violating California’s Unfair Competition Law by relying on legally invalid consent from minors between the ages of 13 and 17 to collect and improperly distribute their real-time geolocation and personal user information.  Approximately 25 percent of MeetMe.com’s user base is under the age of 18, according to social media marketing statistics cited in Herrera’s complaint.  The lawsuit additionally alleges that MeetMe fails to adequately disclose to users how their personal data is distributed.

“MeetMe has become a tool of choice for sexual predators to target underage victims, and the company’s irresponsible privacy policies and practices are to blame for it,” said Herrera.  “MeetMe improperly collects personal information from young teens — including their photos and real-time locations.  It then distributes that information in ways that expose children to very serious safety risks.  Sadly, these risks aren’t hypothetical.  Dozens of children nationwide have already been victimized by predators who used MeetMe to coerce minors into meeting.  Under California law, MeetMe’s reckless business practices are illegal, and we’re asking a court to put an end to them.”

MeetMe has been a key factor in numerous crimes involving sexual assault and illicit sex with minors in California, according to news reports documented in Herrera’s complaint.  In Aug. 2013, a 29-year-old Citrus Heights, Calif. man was charged with multiple counts of sexual acts with a minor and communicating with minors for unlawful purposes.  Police investigators found that MeetMe was among the apps the perpetrator used to send sexually-explicit photos and text messages to underage girls in order to begin a “sexting” relationship that ultimately progressed to sexual contact.  A Fresno, Calif. man was arrested in Oct. 2013 on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor that he met using MeetMe, according to news reports, and in July 2013 a 21-year-old Fair Oaks, Calif. man was criminally charged after posing as a 16-year-old boy to have sex with two girls — aged 12 and 15 — whom he met using MeetMe.

Dozens of minors nationwide have been similarly victimized in sex crimes by predators who relied on MeetMe to target their underage victims, according to reports cited in the complaint.  In June 2013, a Tewksbury, Mass. man was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to more than 50 charges, including rape of a child by force, indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.  The man used multiple aliases on MeetMe to trick teenage girls into sending him nude images.  He then threatened to publish the photos in order to blackmail victims into having sex with him.  A Wilmerding, Penn. man, who was criminally charged in Sept. 2013, used MeetMe to meet and then sexually assault three teenagers.  In Grady County, Okla., a 25-year-old man used MeetMe to meet and rape a 15-year-old girl.  An Albuquerque TV news station, reporting on MeetMe’s role in the case of a 21-year-old man who was arrested for soliciting sex with a 13-year-old girl, noted: “Investigators say it’s the latest site predators are cruising to find new victims, and it’s happening all too often.”

The lawsuit, which was investigated and filed by Herrera’s Consumer Protection Unit, is seeking a court order to enjoin MeetMe from continuing to engage in activities in California that violate state law; civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation found to have occurred in the state; and costs of the City Attorney’s lawsuit.

About the S.F. City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit
The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office’s Consumer Protection Unit pursues public interest civil cases under California’s Unfair Competition Law, which are funded virtually exclusively by civil recoveries — not taxpayer dollars.  The award-winning program, for which the National Association of Consumer Advocates recognized Dennis Herrera as its 2009 Consumer Attorney of the Year, reflects voter-enacted changes to California law that require civil penalties recovered by public prosecutors to be used exclusively to enforce consumer protection laws.  Since voters passed the amendments as part of Proposition 64 in 2004, Herrera’s Consumer Protection Unit has recovered some $20 million in successful battles against unlawful business practices that include price-fixing, illegal marketing, credit card collections arbitration scams and more.  The unit’s work has helped win equally important industry reforms to help protect consumer privacy, end discriminatory practices in health insurance and media metrics, protect immigrants, halt predatory evictions, and obtain recoveries for victims of wage theft.

The litigation is: People of the State of California ex rel. Dennis Herrera v. MeetMe, Inc. et al. (San Francisco Superior Court Case No. 537126, filed Feb. 3, 2014).  Complete documentation on the case is available at: http://www.sfcityattorney.org/.”

Driver and Writer CW Nevius Goes on a “Rant” Against the “Militant” Pedestrians of SF – Do They Have the Right to Jaywalk?

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Here’s the latest effort from CW Nevius, who’s taking a break from being spokesman for San Francisco’s right-side-of-the-aisle  political faction to go on a “bit of a rant” against local pedestrians. But what’s up with this?  

“Even when they are in the right, I worry about them. When the traffic light countdown gets to five or six, they step confidently into the crosswalk — which is their right…”

But pedestrians don’t have “the right” to do so. It’s agin CA law – check out V C Section 21456,* which is dealt with by Rule #3 of the Five Rules for Pedestrians.

Don’t you have an editor, Nevius? Oh, that’s right, you’re too old and experienced to have an editor, and plus, editors cost money, that’s right.

But don’t you have a fact checker, Nevius? Oh, that’s right, you’re too old and experienced to have a fact checker, and plus, fact checkers cost money, that’s right.

But don’t you have a photographer, Nevius? Oh, that’s right, photographers cost money. So all your observations, we’ll just have to take your word about them. OK fine. BTW, [sarcasmmode ON] nice stock photo you’ve got there, Neve. “Cause a stock photo taken in the People’s Republic of China, you know, from more than a thousand li away, well, that really illustrates how “militant” and “freaking nuts” San Francisco peds are, huh? [sarcasmmode OFF]

And oh, BTW Neve, the peds of SF aren’t militant, not at all. Try to find a different word for what you mean.

Of course you’re new in town, I get that. Sure, welcome to San Francisco, Neve.

But you’re doing a half-assed job doing your half-time gig.

You need to try harder.

*”Walk, Wait, or Don t Walk

21456. Whenever a pedestrian control signal showing the words “WALK” or “WAIT” or “DON’T WALK” or other approved symbol is in place, the signal shall indicate as follows:

(a) “WALK” or approved “Walking Person” symbol. A pedestrian facing the signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal, but shall yield the right-of-way to vehicles lawfully within the intersection at the time that signal is first shown.

(b) Flashing or steady “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed crossing shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone or otherwise leave the roadway while the “WAIT” or “DON’T WALK” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol is showing.

Amended Ch. 413, Stats. 1981. Effective January 1, 1982.”

Uh Oh, Now There’s a Lawsuit Against the City for Recent Ellis Act Legislation – SFAA & realtors Fighting Us

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Read it and weep, San Francisco. We’re getting sued:

“For Immediate Release, January 29, 2014:

San Francisco Housing Associations File Lawsuit to Block Anti-Family Legislation

San Francisco – On Tuesday January 28, 2014, the San Francisco Apartment Association, Coalition for Better Housing and the San Francisco Association of REALTORS® filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of legislation known as the Avalos Ellis Act and Merger Prohibition Legislation.

 The legislation was passed by the Board of Supervisors and signed into law by Mayor Ed Lee in violation of building owners’ rights under the state law known as the Ellis Act.

 The legislation prohibits owners of multi-unit buildings from combining units in a building for ten years following an Ellis Act eviction or for five years following an owner-move in eviction.

 On a practical level, the legislation prevents families who own a building from creating a home that meets their needs. For example, the legislation prevents a family from combining two small units into a larger one to provide a home for a growing family. Couples with young children often find themselves in need of additional space they did not anticipate when they purchased a rental building, yet the legislation punishes them.

 Only 2 percent of new housing built in San Francisco since 2001 are single-family homes that provide adequate space for families, often with multiple generations living together. Lack of adequate housing to meet the needs of families has contributed San Francisco losing 5,278 people younger than 18 between 2000 and 2010, according to the census.

 “The San Francisco Association of REALTORS® supports the rights of private property owners for the free use of their property as their needs suit them.  This legislation only exacerbates the problems families face in finding adequate housing and drives out the families that have created the diversity we want and celebrate in our city,” said Walt Baczkowski, CEO of the San Francisco Association of Realtors.

 Because so few single family homes are being constructed, families rely on improving buildings they own, including tenancies in common to add living space. This legislation prohibits them from creating the home they need in a building they own.

 “Families are fleeing San Francisco due to a multitude of reasons that include a lack of adequate space for growing families that often include multiple generations. This legislation exacerbates that problem by punishing and limiting options for families who simply seek to create a home that meets the needs of their family,” stated Janan New, Executive Director of the San Francisco Apartment Association. “This legislation punishes hard working families, while doing little to protect renters.”

 The lawsuit states that the legislation is pre-empted by state law known as the Ellis Act, which allows building owners to take a building off the rental market and convert those units to condominiums or single -family homes. Under the law, building owners are already required to give occupants up to one year advance notice and provide relocation fees of $5,210 per tenant, up to a maximum of $15,632, plus $3,473 additional for tenants who are senior or disabled.

 “My clients are seeking relief from this just-passed legislation which unfairly takes away the right of individuals and families who simply want to create a home for themselves and their family in a building they own,” stated Jim Parrinello, attorney for the plaintiffs.

The Five Rules for Pedestrians and Crosswalks in California – Or, How to Make Sure You Win Your Lawsuit Against That Uber Driver

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

1. YOU NEED TO BE IN THE CROSSWALK WHEN YOU GET HIT. This one’s pretty basic. And actually, it’s pretty flexible IRL. So let’s say you’re over the line a bit, your foot was 18 inches away from the white paint, well that could be OK. This rule becomes important if you’re halfway between blocks and you start jaywalking – a top cause of death of peds in SF. There’ve been many cases of this on the streets of San Francisco lately, like Hayes, Lombard, Masonic, Market, I could go on and on.

2. YOU CAN’T START TOO EARLY. This is called jumping the light. So of course, you’ve got to wait for the green light (or green WALK signal), you already know that. BUT THAT”S NOT ALL. You’ve also got to wait for traffic legally in the intersection to clear the intersection. So, GREEN DOES NOT MEAN “GO.” Green means you need to look for traffic clearing the intersection. And if that traffic isn’t over the speed limit and if that traffic entered the intersection on a yellow (which is totally OK under CA law, generally) and you step off and get hit, then, surprise, you’re the one at fault. So yes, you were in the crosswalk, but the collision is your fault, sorry.

3. YOU CAN’T START TOO LATE. This means that DON’T WALK means don’t walk. Now, in many places about town, you don’t have a ped-only signal telling you what to do. So, you’re allowed to start crossing on a green all the way until a yellow light appears. Effectively, the yellow light is your DON’T WALK signal. Of course this means that you might still be in the crosswalk when the light turns green for cross traffic. But now the law is in your favor, ped. The law says that cross traffic needs to wait for you to clear the intersection.

4. YOU CAN’T GO TOO SLOW. This one’s easy – it means you’re not supposed to stop during your trip across the street as best I can figure. (Leaving aside the law, there are standards for how long peds should have to cross an intersection, but they get thrown out the window when SF deals with 100-foot-plus wide monsters like horrible, horrible Octavia Boulevard, oh well.)

5. YOU CAN’T GO TOO FAST. Ooh, joggers. Your California Vehicle Code was written without concern for joggers, pretty much. So if you’re sprinting into an intersection and get hit by a MUNI, look for the SFPD to put the blame on you, yes, even though you were in the crosswalk.

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So that’s reality.

But if you’d prefer a distorted, rose-colored view of reality, feel free to surf on over StreetsBlog SF (Straight Outta Park Slope!), or the SFBC (declining membership these days, despite being sponsored by SFGov SFMTA MUNI DPT) or Walk SF (sponsored by let’s-build-high-near-the-Waterfront real estate interests).

Your choice.

A Tale of Two Internship Ads: SF Weekly is Doing It Right, San Francisco Magazine is Doing It Wrong

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

(Doin’ It Right is important, you know, for its own sake, right?)

This internship ad for “luxury magazine” San Francisco Magazine is straight outta 2011 or someplace. Check it:

San Francisco Magazine Editorial and Web Internships (north beach / telegraph hill)

243 Vallejo St
San Francisco Magazine Editorial Internship
Location: San Francisco, CA (North Beach)
Duration of Position: 6 months (with a 3 month review), rolling basis
Work Schedule: Monday-Friday two weeks/month; Monday-Thursday two weeks/month (10am-5:30pm)

We’re looking for ambitious budding journalists to help produce our award–winning monthly regional magazine and website. This program gives interns a rare opportunity to be exposed to the full spectrum of journalism and magazine production through first-hand experience. Interns’ primary duties are fact-checking the magazine, researching, and reporting. Interns are also expected to pitch and write stories, with opportunities for taking on more responsibilities, depending on experience. Interns also participate in editorial and pitch meetings, work closely with editors, and often help report on feature packages. After the internship is completed, interns may have an opportunity to apply for our editorial fellowship, with a $1,000/month stipend and more challenging assignments. We’re currently seeking a website/blogging intern in addition to general editorial interns.

This internship is offered on a volunteer basis, or for college credit.”

Did you spot the issue, Gentle Reader?

Here’s some perspective from the plaintiff side and from the defense side.

Now keep in mind that this gig/these gigs are being advertised as “SanFranMag hiring!”

To wit:

Erik Verduzco ‏@Erik_Verduzco18 Nov Hiring full-time positions for no money? @Jenna_Scatena: @sanfranmag is hiring edit and web interns! Inquire within. http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/wri/4188098787.html …

Now, compare that recent ad with this one:

SF Weekly:

Experience: We’re looking for interns who have some news writing experience (school newspapers count!) and are eager to tackle any story challenge (whether it be a source who isn’t returning your phone call or trying to find an interesting angle to general news story).

How To Apply: Please send your resume, clips, and cover letter to Mollie.McWilliams@sfweekly.comThe deadline for submitting is Dec. 31, and internships start mid January. Please note what sections you would like to write for.

*All interns will need to provide proof of school credit upon acceptance of an internship with SF Weekly.”

Do you see the difference?

I think you should.

Oh, what’s that, you’ve been doing things this way for years and it’s been working out?

Maybe so, but it won’t work out now. Sorry.

Oh, what’s that, your people won’t just up and sue you for peanuts?

But yes they will.

You’ll see.

If You’re Cool, You’ll RIde Your Bike Down Market Street Like This – Look Ma, No Hands – Coffee Cup Bonus

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

This dude is bad-ass.

Now, do you think this guy is on Strava going 60 MPH downhill, so fast he can’t stay in his lane?

Or do you think he’s the kind of Strava person who would plow through a Market Street crosswalk over the speed limit and then place all the blame for a ped death* on pedestrians?

I don’t.

Click to expand

Dude’s just taking it easy.

No medallions, dreadlocks, or black fists it’s just that gangster glare, with gangster raps that gangster shit, that makes the gang of snaps, uhh.

*True story. It’s the Chris Bucchere story. Our District Attorney’s Office has offered him a verrrrrry generous plea bargain deal, but there’s no resolution yet.

Photo of the SFPD Investigating the Death of David Hamzeh at 2030-2040 Fell Street – Bay to Breakers 2013

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Erin Sherbert has the details: