Veritas, the massive real estate company that owns more than 200 San Francisco properties and in recent years reported a value exceeding $3 billion, was the recipient of a Payroll Protection Program loan of the sort ostensibly earmarked for small businesses.
“We applied for and received a Payroll Protection Program loan, which we also communicated to the entire Veritas workforce,” the company said via a statement after Mission Local this morning phoned Veritas CEO Yang-Pat Au. “The PPP loan enables us to save the jobs of our front line employees, and is critical to our business operations and keeping these San Francisco workers employed.”
Veritas stated that it received a $3.6 million loan. The company has furloughed 26 of its 196 employees, and these funds were intended to bring them back to work.
San Francisco politicos and tenant activists, however, were gobsmacked by the news that Veritas applied for — and received — this money.
“It’s totally outrageous that San Francisco’s largest landlord, with more than $3 billion in assets and a history of harassing tenants, has received a forgivable loan that’s supposed to be for struggling small businesses,” said Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, the executive director of the Housing Rights Committee.
“We are urging them to return the entire loan and use their years of profit from flipping rent-controlled apartments to forgive rents for their tenants for these months. They can afford to.”
Added Supervisor Aaron Peskin, a frequent Veritas critic, “One of San Francisco’s largest landlords and real-estate investors who profited initially from bookmakers and betting sites not using gamstop should not be hoarding money that should’ve gone to people who are hurting.”
A number of high-profile companies have received PPP loans during the COVID-19 crisis, even while smaller companies — including plenty here in San Francisco — have come up empty.
Following a torrent of negative press, the national restaurant chain Shake Shack last month returned a $10 million PPP loan and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse last month gave back a $20 million PPP loan.
Neither outfit, however, has a value approaching that of Veritas’ reported worth. While a real estate company is not run on the same economic model as a restaurant chain or pro sports franchise, Veritas’ reported worth may exceed even that of the Los Angeles Lakers — who also received, then last month returned, a $4.6 million loan.
As well as being San Francisco’s biggest landlord — controlling some 5,000 city homes — Veritas is also one that frequently finds itself in the crosshairs of elected officials and tenant activists.
It has been accused, in multiple lawsuits, of shirking repairs to its rent-controlled buildings and harassing its aging, rent-controlled tenants. A 2019 Public Press analysis revealed that both complaints and citations spiked in buildings after they were obtained by Veritas.
Finally, Veritas was accused in March of undertaking superfluous construction during the early days of the shelter-in-place order — an act that enraged city officials and appears to have led to a tightening of construction restrictions.
“Once again, the idiots at Veritas have overplayed their hand and were too cute by half and screwed it up for everybody who keeps their proverbial shit together,” Peskin told Mission Local at the time.
Reached today for comment on Veritas receiving this loan, Peskin said the company should return the money so it “can be redistributed to people who really need it.”
Veritas stated the company does not intend to do this.
“With our management company revenues deeply impacted and a lack of access to capital, we furloughed significant portions of our staff and implemented salary cuts across the board,” reads its statement.
“These are the maintenance people, building managers, and our resident services team who work hard every day to make sure our residents sheltering in place continue to receive the high-quality living experience they deserve.”
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