Tamale Lady Struggles as Landlady

Photo by Lydia Chávez

Photo by Lydia Chávez

En Español.

While tamale lovers await the opening of the Tamale Lady’s brick-and-mortar restaurant, few know that the Mission’s beloved Virginia Ramos is grappling with the responsibility of managing a four-plex she has owned at 3175 24th Street since 2008.

To her tenants, Ramos is simply “la señora Virginia,” their industrious but struggling and somewhat distant landlady who has had a difficult time maintaining her building. Mission Local spoke with tenants in each of the units and most complained about a lack of maintenance, but said they simply fix things themselves. One called it fair since the rents for the two-bedroom apartments are well below market value. Others are unhappy and would like to see the building repaired.

So would Ramos, but for now she is focusing on her finances. “When I get the loan, all of this is going to be solved,” Ramos said in reference to the business loan she is seeking to open her tamale restaurant on 16th Street.

The Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), which is helping Ramos with her business plan, issued a press release Thursday calling Ramos a “victim of predatory lending” and saying that Ramos “tried to fix her loan issue on her own starting in 2010 when a balloon payment came due. No luck.”

Christopher Gil, who wrote the release, added that an October 1 opening for the tamale place is “in the offing. Except for one other thing: Virginia’s personal finances still need to be addressed.” He called her an example of the predatory lending still victimizing many of their clients.

The 61-year-old entrepreneur has paid out some $5,000 a month for more than five years—an amount equal to more than half of her initial mortgage of $500,000, according to Samer Danfoura, a pro bono lawyer helping Ramos.

“It’s an interest-only loan and she still owes the exact amount that she owed,” Danfoura said. When Ramos purchased the building in August, 2008—just weeks before the economy collapsed—she paid $875,000 and took out a loan for $500,000, according to public records, and an additional $100,000 in revolving credit.

Danfoura said the Saratoga Bancorp forced her to accept the $100,000 loan and that his client has documentation showing that she returned the full amount and never used it. Nevertheless, the bank has put a lien on her property, he said.

The bank’s numbers in Los Gatos have been disconnected. Gil from MEDA wrote in an email that “the CA mortgage broker, who never paid the out-of-state lender the $100K he owed, has disappeared.”

Ramos said she bought the small apartment building in 2008 to have a home to offer her seven children. But for now, she said, the Ramos children live elsewhere. Ramos herself lives in an apartment on Woodward and is struggling to make her mortgage payments on 24th Street.

Without her tamale business, she added, that’s even more difficult. She declined to say how she has managed to make the payments or if she is behind. She also declined to talk about the details of her purchase and her efforts to resolve the mortgage.

Ramos, known to most as the matronly dispenser of home-cooked tamales and good advice, was banned from selling tamales at Zeitgeist and other bars in June 2013. Since then District Supervisor David Campos has taken the lead in helping her establish a brick-and-mortar tamale cafe. He rallied support from food writers at a June 2013 press conference at the Latin American Club, translating for Ramos as she announced her Indiegogo campaign to raise $150,000.

That campaign—reported as an effort to raise $50,000 on the Indiegogo site—failed, raising only $19,200. But Ramos has had some success. So far she’s managed to lease a space at 2943 16th St. near Capp Street and she has been putting together a business plan with the Mission Economic Development Agency.

Her mortgage troubles have complicated that effort. Rents in her four-unit building range from $750 to $1,800 a month—not enough, Ramos said, to keep up with the mortgage payment, let alone with repairs.

Ramos was able to buy the building at a time when lenders were giving mortgages to just about anyone who could sign on the dotted line. She must have looked fairly solvent to any lender as she had been able to save up a substantial down payment. Ramos declined to talk about details of the purchase. Like others who bought right before the 2008 crash, the property lost value immediately, but she has still managed to hold onto it.

One tenant said that the building is dilapidated and that Ramos is slow to respond to maintenance requests. Another tenant, Rosalba Bolaño, said she had escalated a dispute about a camera on the front of the building to the Rent Board and has to do all her own maintenance work, on her own dime. “If something breaks, the landlord doesn’t fix anything,” Bolaño said. Nonetheless, she described Ramos as “a good woman” and said she had “never had a problem with her.”

Another resident also said she performed repairs and maintenance herself. “We try to take care of the building, because this is where we live,” she said. Jorge Bermúdez, who has lived in the building for 18 years with his family, had to negotiate his way out of an eviction from Ramos when she first bought the building in 2008. Bermúdez also said he does most of his own repairs but hasn’t lodged any complaints. In all his time and throughout the eviction, he said, he has never met Ramos face to face.“I do whatever I can do,” Bermúdez said. “I’m not paying that much rent, so I think it’s fair.”

Antonio Sabas, a 70-year-old man from El Salvador who has lived in the building with his family since 1989, said he cooperates when Ramos makes repairs and that they have a good relationship, despite the fact that repairs take a while to get done and are not perfect. He pointed out a vent in his kitchen that has been missing a fan for years. Nevertheless, he added, “She treats me well.”

A more frustrated resident, who has complained often about plumbing in the building and requested she remain anonymous, called Ramos “a slumlord.”

Complaint records filed for the building with the Department of Building Inspections number six in 2014. One complaint describes a toilet out of order for months, while children in the apartment had to use the facilities at restaurants nearby. Another complains of the construction of an illegal unit in the basement, which residents said Ramos was planning to offer to a relative, but now remains in half-finished condition and uninhabited despite the installation of a bathroom and a forgotten mattress in the corner.

The garage door that opens to a basement that hosts an unoccupied illegal unit in the back.

The garage door that opens to a basement that hosts an unoccupied and incomplete unit in the back.

Meanwhile, Ramos said she has had problems with tenants who fail to pay their rent on time. She also struggles with a tenant allowing her husband, father and dogs to live on the property while their contract dictates only the tenant and her children should be living there.

Ramos said residents continue to complain even while problems are already being addressed. “Everything is okay…but the tenants don’t take into account that there’s a lot of things to be taken care of and that takes time,” she said.

“Everyone has complained, but what happens is that the tenants are just inconsiderate.”

For the time being, Ramos hopes that any new loan will allow her to open her business and that the money may also help her manage the costs of her property. Laura Lane, a legislative aide to Campos, said Ramos is aiming for an early fall opening. Just this week, Lane said, she was checking into construction bids that were coming in.

66 Comments

  1. Runforthehills

    My, how the narrative would be different if this lady were white. What a joke.

    • Sam

      Yes, I thought the same thing. I guess we should give ML credit for finding a “sympathetic” landlord in an attempt to show there really are two sides to this issue, and that many property owners struggle because of rent control.

      Of course, there’s a dig in there about predatory lending but overall it’s the familiar refrain of eviction-proof tenants with super-low rents who nonetheless whine all the time that their building is not the Ritz.

      The good news is that Zillow has the property now worth over a million, so Ramos can always cash out at a profit, to no doubt be replaced by a much less benign owner who will Ellis the joint. This story is a textbook example of why that happens.

      • ray

        zillow is a computer program questimating and offten way off. it;s value is what one would expect, for now and the future, since both suck, and are guaranteed to suck given sf laws, and the maintenance problems, zillow is wrong.
        wild that even the tamale lady is considered a slumlord. if she could raise the rents commensurate, or even close to the market, she would have none of those problems – she could afford her loan, maintenance, to address leglaly if need be tenants who are not following their lease terms. not all landlords are rich.

    • Douglas

      My sentiments exactly!

      • ron

        they are certain to censor any real discussion.

        • Lydia

          I know the page managers well and:
          1. Missy District, if that is the same person who frequently posted to VanishingSf as Missy Destrict, is a troll by any standard. You may want to get a little more creative with your nom de plume if you wish to continue.
          2. No, VanishingSF does not block commentary or comments of those who disagree with posts. They are a canny bunch. If someone is disrupting dialogue, using well-known troll tactics, VSF will actually intervene at some point to ask if the person is trolling. 9x out of 10, the commenter is never heard from again. If they keep it up, escalating in familiar ways we all should understand, they are eventually banned. Some overt racists and violent and uber-nasty offensive types have been banned outright. I think about 25 bans out of 9,200 likes and an average of 36,000 in almost 2 years.
          That’s the truth.

        • ron

          i look forward to vanishing sf’s posting of this article and the ensuing discussion. the issue is far more complex than the ‘evil and greedy’ landlord caricature.

        • Lydia

          Sorry, that’s 36,000 a week engaged with VanishingSF.

        • Ian

          And hate groups total in the hundreds of thousands. Your point is? That hate is popular?

      • Missy District

        Vanishing SF blocks discussion from anyone who disagrees with them. They call anyone a troll who disagrees, no matter how factually or how respectfully they express their opinions. They don’t answer any real questions and are hardly a forum for open discussion. It’s a shame.

        • Lydia

          “Missy District”, formerly “Missy Destrict”: You ARE a troll.

        • Ian

          No, she isn’t. I’ve seen her posts on VSF. They are reasonable and represent a point of view that is inclusive. She doesn’t insult anyone (at least, not that I’ve seen) and yet, no matter how polite or straightforward her comments or questions, she is called a troll for merely opposing the group-think pushed forward by Julie and her cronies.

        • Lydia

          Any comment worth banning someone over would have long ago been deleted, and I don’t know what it was. “Missy Distrect” had an obviously fake facebook page and several other tell-tale troll signs (I saw it) and was called out on other pages and forums as well. And that’s the truth.

        • Ian

          Okay, Lydia. I guess if you say so, that’s what it must be. Never mind what any other observer might think or might have witnessed. Sounds familiar.

        • Missy District

          I’m curious now about what your definitions of “troll” and “trolling” are.
          Wikipedia (I don’t claim it’s the best, but it came up) says this:

          “In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people,[1] by posting inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[4]’

          I have never, ever, in any forum, done that. If you react emotionally to other people’s opinions, you call them a troll. That is very different from someone having the deliberate intent to provoke you.

          What I post is what I believe, what I’ve learned from research, what I’ve experienced, what I think is informative on a topic.

          You have a convenient term to smear everyone who disagrees with you. Rather than a accepting that they are stating their view you claim they are disagreeing with you in order to provoke you.

          That’s just cowardice on your part.

        • Ian

          Yeah, I reiterate my backing of Missy’s point. She’s proven herself to be articulate and spoken her mind on both sides of the fence, which is more than anyone can say for the VSF crazies.

    • pam

      Or maybe the narrative would be different if she wasn’t a beloved local institution. But go ahead, make it about race and then explain how you aren’t racist.

      • Sam

        Pam, I didn’t take Runforthehills’ comments as racist at all, but rather it was a gentle parody of the kind of overdone political correctness that we often see from ML and elsewhere.

        As such, there was something refreshing here about what 24-24 describes below as a “total mind melt” i.e. in this case the “evil” landlord is a “local institution” as well of course as being a Hispanic woman, who are usually beyond criticism by virtue of some unstated but universal precept.

        And there is no doubt that ML would have taken a different and less deferential tone had the landlord been, say, a Google lawyer.

        The only way it could have been better would have been if her tenants were all white male tech shuttle riders. But then no story is perfect; the world is messy.

        Anyway, my point is that if parodying political correctness is deemed racist, then we are all in trouble.

    • Backtotheburbs

      If this were a white lady, she wouldn’t be slinging tamales from a cooler for 20 years. And she would have flipped her rental property years ago … So that would not make for a very interesting story …. Rather the one that we are all tired if hearing every day.

      BTW in your mind what would an equivalent white lady story be? Methhead in a shelter?

      • Bob

        Your comment doesn’t make a lick of sense.

        She evaded taxes and had an illegal business for decades. If a white guy evaded taxes and operated an illegal business for 20 years how do you think Mission Local would react?

        Not all white people are rich, smart guy, and it’s racist for you to assume that they are.

  2. Jeff

    Let me say first that, as both a property owner and a minority, I have nothing but sympathy for Ramos’ troubles. That said, I cannot WAIT to see the hypocrisy that is going to blanket this comment thread from the raving horde who have been calling every landlord in SF “greedy” and “opportunistic” without inquiring as to individual circumstance. I am going to love reading the comments from those who have called bullshit on the notion that landlords, too, are scraping to get by and are often driven to poverty themselves by tenants who dig in and pay below-market rates forever and feel entitled to do so in perpetuity. Further, I am going to love (even more) hearing uninformed opinions about how she was “victimized” by predatory loans, even though the sentiment from the angry masses has been “oh, well—landlords should know what business they are getting into! If they get screwed by tenants, it’s their own fault!” Sorry, no one forced her to sign off on an ARM loan (which is what I’m assuming she took on, based on the described debt) and she gambled her own future on the notion that she’d be profitable at some point. Why else risk getting ambushed by a balloon payment?

    Oh, man. Bring it, trolls. This is going to be amazing.

    • homer

      She did know what she was getting into. If she didn’t she was very foolish to make the purchase. She should not have signed up for such a mortgage. She is to blame all the way around, not the tenants (unless they are not paying rent or violating other terms of their rental). She knew what rents were being paid when she bought it. If she didn’t understand that maintenance & taxes & insurance cost money, she should have. My sympathy does not co out to uninformed landlords. She is required to keep that building safe & habitable no matter what. A toilet shouldn’t be broken for longer than it takes to make a phone call & get a plumber in. She chose to became a landlord, nobody forced her. And I bet that huge downpayment came from largely (or wholly) untaxed, undeclared income.

  3. Jeff

    The hypocrisy that will surely blanket this thread is going to be amazing. As a property owner and minority, I have nothing but sympathy for Ramos’ plight. However, I predict that the very same people that have been indiscriminately calling for every landlord’s head on a pike are going to be first in line to shower this woman with fistfuls of emo-confetti. To those people, I say: every single one of you jerks that called every SF property owner “greedy” regardless of circumstance and dismissed the notion that landlords, too, can be driven into poverty by opportunistic tenants who take advantage owe Ramos an apology. And everyone that scoffed and said flippant things like “if landlords lose money, too bad—they should have known the business they were in” can just kindly STFU if their next utterance is going to be some uninformed wailing about how she was the “victim” of a predatory loan.

    Other things to note:

    1. No one forced her to sign her name to a “predatory” ARM loan (what I assume she took on, based on the description). She’s a big girl and she did that all by herself, probably gambling her financial future on the odds that she’d be profitable before being ambushed by a balloon payment. If that isn’t “speculation,” I don’t know what is. But you fools will likely call it “The American Dream” and claim that she is entitled to it. The irony is rich and delicious, folks. I’m eating it with a spoon.

    2. I see that she had to negotiate an eviction at one point. Where were you sign-carrying protestors then? Nowhere near her front door, I imagine,

    3. I wonder how you all feel about her tenants paying below-market rent. You know, given that she is a local institution and deserves to be bailed out. Will there be calls for her tenants to do the right thing and pay more or will you support their right to dig in and pay a pittance in perpetuity.

    Bring it. This is going to be fun to read.

    • Backtotheburbs

      Hypocrisy? She is a small business and small scale landlord, with some financial troubles. She houses multiple tenants at below market rate and for the most part they are sympathetic to her and she to them. Rent controlled places are not known to be luxurious, common knowledge — and the tenants are grateful for low rent.

      So why hasn’t she evicted? Or flipped? Why didn’t she bootstrap her other business by liquidating? Why didn’t she cash in to support her family? Why was she even doing any repairs?

      These are the questions, and Sadly her actions are rather unheard of these days. In the current SF climate we need more people like this, but they are too few … This story is antithesis to speculative property owners. Even disregarding her decades as a member of the community. Care to count how many people she fed well on the cheap?

  4. Missionite

    Thanks ML, for a balanced story about the plight of small scale landlords who are caught in the toxic battle between below-market housing activists and opportunistic flippers.
    The sad thing is that rent control laws make well-meaning landlords like Ramos effectively charity providers – until she finds the situation untenable and sells to a profit seeking flipper group who will happily do what she wasn’t willing to.

    • J

      This is less about rent control laws and more about Ramos being duped into taking on a loan that was absolutely wrong for her. That is indeed predatory lending! All those tenants were there at the time–as well as the laws protecting them. Such information should have been taken into account along with her income, which was never a guaranteed one, and never high enough to justify buying a property this expensive.

      • Ian

        Whoa, whoa, whoa. Duped? I call shenanigans. She was not duped. Home loans, particularly, ARM loans, are explained in full at the time of signing. The last I saw, Ramos speaks and understands English perfectly well. And, even if they didn’t take her income into account, shouldn’t SHE have done so? Forget race and, sure, she’s a local institution, but why does she qualify for hand-holding when you (and other’s on ML) would have called out any other individual and told them that signing such a loan was dumb and, at the end of the day, their hard luck?

        • Don

          “Home loans, particularly, ARM loans, are explained in full at the time of signing.”

          This sounds like broker-speak to me — true in a perfect world but seldom in reality.

          I feel a great deal of sympathy for both Ramos and her tenants, but have a sad, sinking feeling that they are all going to get screwed — unless an angel appears to rescue them.

  5. Bluepuppet

    Headline should read: “SF Is Okay With Speculating Landlords As Long As They’re Latino.”

    • Ian

      Another option: “TAMALE LADY STRUGGLES AS LANDLADY AND IS MADE AN EXCEPTION TO HATE DIRECTED AT PROPERTY OWNERS BECAUSE SHE IS AN “INSTITUTION”

  6. 24-24

    this story is a total mind melt in so many ways.. I would give her $875K tomorrow for that place..

  7. Medalist

    She raised $20k and is getting all this help with funding her business yet is sitting on a mismanaged and almost insolvent asset with half a million in equity? Seems like she should be able to get her house in order by liquidating and funding her own restaurant. Isn’t she saying in the article she will use her business loan to correct her mortgage and deferred maintenance, effectively robbing Peter to pay Paul? This article goes to show you the only viable investment option for these low rent properties is to be vacated and sold off. Hey, under the cities new program they can offer her $1m for the property and the tax payers can finally be saddled with the deferred maintenance costs and losses year over year instead of a private citizen.

  8. Yes, they want first class maintainance paid for by their third class city mandated below market rents ! It’s only fair, you give less and get to expect less in return. Pay first class rent and then you can have first class building. pay sum rents and live in a slium building.Fair is fair.

    • J

      The tenants were there, as well as the laws protecting them, when she bought the place. Someone should have guided her through the process and ensured that she understood the process and could actually afford the property. Or at the very least, her lack of understanding of the true cost should not have been exploited in a predatory fashion.

      • Ian

        Um, why, exactly should there have been someone “guiding her through the process”? Because she was incapable of understanding it? Then she had no business borrowing funds in the first place. Based on your logic, should we then restrict all people that are judged as incapable? You can’t have it both ways. She was being treated equally as a borrower, with the same treatment and terms as anyone else would have at the time. I guarantee that if she’d been turned down for the loan (which it is clear she should have been), there would have been shouting and protesting in the streets re: discrimination.

        Equal opportunities, right? Sounds like she got them.

  9. missionresident

    This woman was able to save $375,000 in cash to put down as a down payment. I assume most of that was income tax free as she had an illegal business and probably didn’t report her income. She is also getting almost $20,000 from people feeling sorry for her. This woman knows how to work the system and is very smart. It’s interesting that this article makes it sounds like she has been taken advantage of. She is the one taking advantage of the system. She doesn’t pay taxes and is a slumlord who wanted to evict a tenant as the first thing she did when she bought the building. How much more money does she have tucked under a mattress? How much is she paying in additional rent for her 7 kids since the building she bought is too crappy for her kids to live in? Something doesn’t add up about this whole story.

    • medalist

      Also, note the article states she lives in an apartment on Woodword, where one can only assume she’s under rent control and has operated her illegal tamale business for all these years against not only presumably her lease but certainly zoning and health laws. Her current landlord indirectly subsidized her ability to run her illegal business and buy an apartment building after which she’s still able to retain her most likely below rate apartment. She operated an illegal business out of an apartment, used the illegal and potential tax free business proceeds to acquire real estate, failed to maintain the property, yet, the city, community and press are there to rescue her. From direct experience any building with 6 NOV’s in one year has very serious maintenance and habitability problems. This story is fascinating to say the least. Thanks ML for the article.

  10. JJ

    Zillow, as far as I can tell, doesn’t provide an estimate for this building, but it’s got to be AT LEAST $2,000,000, probably closer to 3 mil. She has equity of well over a million dollars at this point. Moreover, even with rent control tenants in place, SF real estate is very close to liquid – she can cash in at any time. So tamale lovers, pro bono lawyers, and everyone else are falling all over themselves to help this poor, burdened MILLIONAIRE. Anybody want to start an indiegogo campaign for me? I’ll think of something good to do with the money, and I’m no millionaire.

    • homer

      Seriously. My sympathy is reserved for the tenants without a safe building, who have to visit neighboring restaurants to use the toilet! This woman could sell that building & be well off tomorrow. On the other hand, the building would get Ellis’d & those tents would be in trouble. It’s not black & white.

    • Don

      Virginia Ramos’s story shows that a smile and a warm tamale can cover-up a multitude of sins.
      I just hope Ramos’ sins turn out to be ones of omission and not commission. From this account it is difficult to tell.

  11. Sabbie

    She also runs a catering biz and drives a big fat black Benz. Good for her.

    • homer

      Good for her if she paid full taxes on all her income & properly maintains her rental property.

  12. Jessica

    My grand parents came here from Russia with nothing and built their businesses by pushing carts wit their wares. The Tamale Lady has been so beloved in San Francisco for so long, there was nothing better that seeing her with her hot tamales on a Sunday afternoon at Zeitgeist or Th Eagle. I lived on 18th and Castro in the 90s and this sweet woman would ring my bell with a smile and a hot lunch whenever she passed by. She has been a cherished fixture in San Francisco past. I had no idea that she bought an income building in 2008. Isn’t that the American dream? Just like my grandparents she worked hard in the Land Of Opportunity cooking, pushing her cart and saving her money to build her American foundation which in this case is an income property. She bought this property in 2008, her livelihood wasn’t cut off until 2013 and her livelihood was cut off for the very reason that we older San Franciscans are mourning our city of the past as we watch it’s homogenization and do anything we can not to feel helpless as it happens. The younger generation coming in, making more money than they should for their maturity level, has nothing to reference what made this city so flavorful and cultural. The city that they gravitate to for it’s uniqueness is losing whatever uniqueness it managed to retain after the first dot com boom. It’s very, very hard to watch and my heart goes out to the Tamale Lady for doing everything she was supposed to do in following her American Dream only to fall victim to a Board Of Supervisors with no city soul voted in by their new constituents. Vote David Campos!

    • SFrentier

      “only to fall victim to a Board Of Supervisors with no city soul voted in by their new constituents. Vote David Campos!”

      Ummm….Newsflash: Sup Crapos was voted in already, and the majority of the bored of stupidvisors bends over backwards for tenants.

      Looks like genX granny be hitting the crack pipe hard this morning!

    • ron

      thanks to david campos, if the tamale lady wants to stop being a landlord and move her family into her property, she will have to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in subsidies to the tenants.

      (of course this is assuming his legislation isn’t shot down by the courts, leaving the city to pay all attorney fees to the property owners challenging the law.)

  13. Scott R

    She needs to Ellis this building and then sell it, plain and simple. Four units in the Mission, at least $1.5 million regardless of the building’s condition.

    • oscar

      she couldn’t ellis the building. you need to pay a lot of money in relocation, which she obviously doesn’t have. just sell the building.

  14. gentreFried

    there are two points that show that the tamale lady is in fact the inconsiderate one….

    she fails to consider rent code…the father and spouse of one of the tenants can live there as long as there is enough room….

    also she claims that tenants are late on their rent…she should consider evicting them…..

    if she does not want to consider rent code she should consider not being a land lord….

    thanks ml for a bit of iconoclasm this morning!

  15. SFrentier

    I’m so glad Dup Crapos is spending time and money helping this “mortgage fraud victim.” Sounds like she can’t manage her property, so let’s get her a restaurant going too!

    It sure sounds like “the victim” took advantage of a few things: 1- did she pay income tax on her illegal tamale business? I’ll bet anyone the answer is No. 2- I’m sure she pays dirt low rent while owning this bldg. That’s sleazy. Glad now you know first hand how rent control moocher tenants feel like!

    Bottom line: she is incompetent to manage a rental bldg, much less run a restaurant. But SF says, let’s give her both!

    Another foreclosure, coming up! (And btw, no way that POS bldg is worth more than $1.1 mil today. At least she benefited from the tech boom :)

    • Backtothburbs

      She is certainly the only tax evader in this country, nice detective work. Oh wait, they don’t have off shoring for individuals or small businesses? Isn’t that outrageous!

      If anything this is a success story of how to survive here despite tech booms and affordability crises.

      • SFrentier

        Success story that encourages creating an illegal business, not paying taxes, and top it off with being an incompetent slumlord. Welcome to business success wacko-liberal style!

    • medalist

      I disagree. It’s a double wide lot, 2 garages and over 3800 sq ft. $400 a sq ft at least.

  16. Me

    Life sure isn’t as simple as just getting rid of the big busses.

  17. Brandon Rainey

    I find the failure to mention race, racist

  18. Missy District

    What this story does is to put a sympathetic face on a narrative readers here have come to view with contempt rather than sympathy.

    The “landlord” narrative has been one of greed and immorality — someone who would do anything and sacrifice anyone for profit, who callously evicts poor people to line his or her pockets, who is rolling in dough and should be compelled to subsidize housing for low income San Franciscans.

    The narrative of the sympathetic and indeed beloved Tamale Lady, Virginia Ramos, must now be expanded to her ownership of rent controlled apartments in The Mission.

    Now, we see the landlord (landlady) as a small business woman who doesn’t have enough income from either her business or her building to pay the basic bills and for basic repairs, let alone to make a profit.

    Now we see a property owner who may be compelled to sell to a despised speculator of “flipper” in order to not lose all her money. Or she could “Ellis” the building herself, to recoup her costs and become solvent again.

    I hope that readers will now be able to see The Tamale Lady in all the small property owners, the mom and pops, the people who own the rent controlled units, who are struggling with these old buildings.

    Remember that nothing built since 1979 is rent controlled. Those big developers and corporate landlords can charge market rate at any time. The Victoria Ramoses of the city are supporting lower income housing almost entirely on their own.

    LOOK TO YOUR SUPERVISORS AND YOUR MAYOR who could legislate to compel a fair allocation of the burden.

    • Michael

      Great description of the issue. Thanks!

    • Sam

      Another reason why larger landlord can shrug off rent control is the law of large numbers. If you own 100 units then you will get several units turning over every year. Sure you will get stuck with your fair share of lifers, but you’ll also have other units that you can ramp to market.

      Small landlords like Ramos have maybe 2-4 units. If you’re lucky they may all turn over but a certain proportion will be unlucky and see no turnover. In those case, everything declines until a tipping point is reached, meaning sell or Ellis.

      Originally, SF rent control excluded 2-4 unit buildings for these very reasons. That changed in 1994 when they were retro-actively brought under the ordinance. Berkeley still excludes them, I believe.

      The good news is that, as you predict, small owners will tire of bearing the responsibility to provide welfare. They will sell or Ellis. And the new landlords buying are a lot more mean and aggressive than the old-school “nice” landlords who got screwed over.

      The fundamental thing that is happening right now is that the old-school small LL’s are bailing or dying, and that entire sector is declining. Thousands of rent-controlled units vanish each year, for one reason or another. Mostly not for “headline” like Ellis or Airbnb, but simply natural turnover and non-payment of rent – still easily the cause of most evictions.

      I’m just one anecdotal example but I have owned 16 units of rent-controlled housing in SF and, at this point, only one of them has a long-term tenant in them.

      And of course not a single new unit of RC housing is being created. So at some point there will no longer be a critical mass of beneficiaries of rent control, and at that point we will probably see it phased out, if only on a grandfathered basis.

      New York’s rent stabilization, which is much older, is mostly gutted at this point. Boston abandoned rent control. Its days are numbered because, in the final analysis, it drives up rents by constraining supply.

      • Me

        Rent control has many bad effects, but driving up rents is not one of them. History shows rents rising when rent controls are removed, and common sense expects that.

        • Sam

          “Me”,

          Yes and no. The best case study is what happened in Boston when the state of Mass banned rent control back in the 1990’s.

          You are correct that those who had controlled rents saw higher rents. That is what you would expect.

          But the market rent for the average available, vacant home went down.

          So what you had is a blended outcome, where the higher rents came down but the lower rents went up. This is exactly what you would expect when a distortion and dislocation is removed from the market.

          Given that, it’s fairly easy to predict what will happen when SF abolishes rent control. Those who have been sitting pretty for decades will have to pay more, or relocate. But those looking for a home, including the new arrivals that every town needs, will find it much easier.

          If we throw in some baseline protections for old, sick and disabled tenants, I think that would be doable.

          A system that protects incumbents but deters new arrivals is not healthy for any community. We need new people here to avoid becoming sclerotic.

  19. Missy District

    Mission Local removed some posts, some of which contributed to an interesting and uncharacteristically civil conversation.

    One of mine that was removed had a link to a Paul Krugman piece from 2000 explaining a well known study showing that almost all economists, on the left and on the right, from Krugman to Milton Friedman, know that rent control has a negative impact on the availability of good housing.

    He wrote, in part,

    “San Francisco is a city where a technology-fueled housing boom has collided with a draconian rent-control law.

    “The analysis of rent control is among the best-understood issues in all of economics, and — among economists, anyway — one of the least controversial. In 1992 a poll of the American Economic Association found 93 percent of its members agreeing that ‘a ceiling on rents reduces the quality and quantity of housing.”’

    The short NY Times link is here: http://nyti.ms/1yhCwof

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