City Cites Its Own Land for Blight, Gives Self 15 Days to Fix

The empty lot at 490 South Van Ness Ave.

One San Francisco department has issued a notice of violation against another for a vacant Mission District lot on which the city hopes to build affordable housing.

The Department of Public Works gave the owner of a lot at 490 South Van Ness Ave., at the corner of 16th Street, 15 days to fix “blight” on the empty property.

The former gas station has sat vacant for more than a year as the city prepares for construction, a chain-link fence surrounding a graffitied structure and trashed lot. 

The notice, issued July 22, cites an oil company for the violation. But the site is actually owned by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the San Francisco department responsible for affordable housing. It bought the site last year for $18.5 million and plans to commission at least 72 units of below-market-rate housing there in the next few years.

“This area is declared a blighted vacant lot and you are hereby served notice to abate the violation within 15 days,” read the sign posted on the property.

“I think it’s just a muck-up, I have no idea why it would say that,” said Kevin Kitchingham, a project manager with the housing office. “Odd.”

The notice goes on to warn that if the owner of the property does not fix the mistake, the city will fix it “at the owner’s expense.” It’s unclear how the city would levy fines on itself.

“Mistakes do happen,” said Mindy Linetzky, a spokesperson with the Department of Public Works. She said the department was unaware that the site was owned by the city until contacted about the notice because the notice also referenced an incorrect address, 501 South Van Ness Ave., a functional gas station across the street. 

Once notified of the mixup, Linetsky emailed the head of the Department of Real Estate, which oversees manages city-owned properties, and asked him to “keep [the lot] clean and free from blight” before construction starts on-site, she said.

“The city needs to keep the lots clean,” she said. “We really are trying to eliminate blight from neighborhoods.”

She did not know whether the notice of violation would have gone forward had the department known the site’s owner was the city itself, she said, nor what violation had prompted the notice at that particular site. Linetsky said empty lots are generally cited for issues from “trash to overgrown weeds to illegal dumping.”

Within the next few months, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development will award the contract to build on the site to a non-profit developer, who will construct at least 72 units of below-market-rate housing available to low-income tenants. 

Construction could begin more than a year after the site is awarded, however, so the site will likely remain vacant through 2018. 

Hat tip to local activist Eddie Stiel for pointing out the notice of violation.

The notice of violation posted at 490 South Van Ness Ave., the site of a planned affordable housing project. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

The notice of violation posted at 490 South Van Ness Ave., the site of a planned affordable housing project. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

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5 Comments

  1. Brian T

    Government bureaucracy at its finest. We could’ve had 60 new homes with about 10 of them affordable for free by now. But instead we have nothing but an $18.5 million hole in the ground thanks to the city and our dear supervisor campos.

  2. If there was any doubt that the right hand knows what the left is doing, that doubt must be lifted now.
    A really creative approach would be to allow some of the homeless living in tents outside the fence to clean the place up and pitch their tents inside the fence where there is still presumably a real bathroom or two, not to mention power for a hotplate and some warm areas inside that may serve as community rooms while the city is waiting for the city to get through the maze of red tape and actually produce some housing on this lot.

  3. Ray

    This would never happen in Pac Heights or Russian Hill or the Marina. I’ve been in the Mission since 1974. It still has issues but has never, ever been better in my lifetime but the streets are still inexcusably filthy along the commercial corridors. The elected representative David Campos is stuck in the provincial past and clueless about improving the neighborhood and moving forward. He is on the way out, thank god, although I fear his successor will be more of the same. Keep an eye out for him and his compadre Avalos. Ten to one both are bucking for positions in the Clinton administration. They’ll be perfect for promoting cesspool, big-city Democratic agendas.

  4. Bob Evans

    This is the luxury subsidized housing lot, the city is going to spent $940,000 a unit for “affordable” housing. You can’t get more crazy than that…..

  5. Bob Evans

    I get notices from the city sent to my address, warning me to fix graffiti on building 2 blocks away. I’m wondering if they do a bit of Meth smoking down at Public Works?

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