Rat droppings, wood flakes and soiled clothes are strewn about this room at "The Pit," an SRO at 1312 Utah St. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez, 2019.

An inspector at the Department of Building Inspection says that Paul Pelosi, Jr. asked him to “take care of” violations at “The Pit,” a squalid Mission District residential hotel at 1312 Utah St. 

This is the same building at which federal charging documents recount the unnamed “Client-9” participating in an alleged bribery scheme in 2017 with indicted permit expediter Rodrigo Santos and former senior inspector Bernie Curran to ameliorate violations in which mandated fixes were never made.

“Client-9” is described in federal documents as “an individual working on behalf of the owners of the property.” This was how Pelosi represented himself to DBI employees in 2018 while attempting to mitigate the so-called Pit’s myriad issues. And, a building inspector now tells Mission Local, it’s how Pelosi represented himself when attempting to personally enlist him to do away with persistent violations on the property. 

Federal sources declined to comment on whether Pelosi is indeed Client-9. What is clear, however, is that Pelosi repeatedly interacted with DBI employees over the violations at this building, where he presented himself as the point person between the owners and the city.

“What he was looking for was how to get rid of Notices of Violation — or get them taken care of,” recalls the building inspector of his series of 2018 meetings with Pelosi. “He was never overt with me on how to take care of this.” 

Pelosi, 52, has not returned multiple messages left both this week and last week. He is the only son of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Paul Pelosi, Sr. He has a background in real estate, banking and cannabis entrepreneurship; his LinkedIn page lists his present position as a strategic advisor to an “eco mining and recycling” outfit in Quebec, Canada. 

The building inspector was puzzled that Pelosi never actually invited him to the property at 1312 Utah St. to offer first-hand advice. 

“I was like, ‘Hey, if he wants to take me there, I could say, “fix this, do this”‘ — that’s what I do. But he would never go to the property,” said the inspector, who provided contemporaneous text messages he exchanged with Pelosi. “The things I was telling him were pretty straightforward. But he would never go there. Evidently he tried to do something else.” 

Following the inspector’s advice would involve actually fixing the problems. The solution “Client-9” hit upon — purportedly bribing Curran at Santos’ urging — would seem to be faster and cheaper than actually spending money to remedy violations. The violation Curran signed off on was, in fact, never fixed. 

1312 Utah St. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

Mission Local last week was able to pinpoint the oblique location listed in Santos and Curran’s August, 2021, federal charging document and November, 2021, indictment — “on the 1300 block of Utah Street” — as the troubled 17-unit single-room occupancy hotel at 1312 Utah

In 2018, we wrote about this property, and how the involvement of Paul Pelosi, Jr. baffled observers at the Department of Building Inspection.

In the August, 2021, charging document, a text chain between “Client-9” and Santos is reprinted. In the 2017 text messages, Santos assures “Client-9” that Curran will abate the violation at the building. He then asks “Client-9” to make out a $1,000 check to Curran’s preferred youth sports nonprofit. “With pleasure,” responds “Client-9.” 

“Please drop off the Bernie check this morning,” Santos subsequently prods. According to the charging documents, “Client-9” later sent a photograph of the check, for $1,500, with the message “made the donation and it is being sent today.” 

Use the interactive to see how Curran and Santos figure into the corruption scandal

The Department of Building Inspection in 2018 referred 1312 Utah to the City Attorney for potential litigation after a raft of complaints about unpermitted construction and deteriorating conditions. The building’s former manager told Mission Local in 2018 that the few remaining residents of the structure were being subjected to maddening conditions by the owners, who hoped the tenants would leave so that higher-paying renters could move in. 

The City Attorney never filed a suit, however, as the specific violations were belatedly cured. The building’s former owner, Karena Feng, did sue; in 2019, she alleged in a federal case that Paul Pelosi, Jr. “targeted” her as an “easy mark” and participated with others in a scheme to swindle her out of her property. 

Feng sought $96 million. Her case was dismissed in 2020. 

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Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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13 Comments

  1. The City rivals long time cesspools like Chicago and New York for the sheer hubris of the corruption from top to bottom of the organization.

    Great reporting Joe.

  2. SF DBI inspector blaming others is amateur move and just trying to change the narrative from corrupted DBI officials.
    Hopefully David Chu will put some teeth in city laws.
    Herrera dropped the ball yrs ago

  3. Thank you for all of this information. Now: who is going to run for office? Who truly cares about our City, and is not part of the power-group who has been operating here for at least 50 years? We won’t see change unless new people are in office. I’ve committed my volunteer time to electoral reform, and we have a few good practices in place here. But we certainly need candidates, or the same crowd will stay in power. I think it was a tragic comment on our City when we had no competition for Mayor’s office last election. Let’s not let that happen again. I’m not able to run for office, but I certainly am willing to help honest and visionary candidates.

  4. Unbelievably good reporting Joe. Based on your reporting, a number of bad apples at DBI are now gone for one reason or another. And the notorious expeditors like Wong, Santos and Pelosi are no longer around at DBI. But are there others, both within the Department or expeditors you

  5. I agree, excellent reporting from Joe Eskenazi! And this seems like the tip of an iceberg. I’d like to see more details on Karina Feng’s lawsuit against Pelosi Jr. and others for trying to swindle her out of her property. Who dismissed it, and why? What evidence did she provide? Evidently she *did* lose the property, since she’s identified as a “former owner” of 1312 Utah Street. Were there any contributions to the judge by Pelosi Jr. or his confederates?

    Also wondering why the story headline doesn’t reflect the *real* dirt revealed here, namely that Pelosi Jr. didn’t merely ask DBI officials to make violation notices go away, but that *he actually paid a $1500 bribe* to the organization of the corrupt Curran, at the behest of the corrupt Santos, to ensure this would happen?

  6. As a neighbor of The Pit, it is waaaaay more complicated than this.
    It is Wiliam Garlock who tried to take over and swindle both Karena Feng and “investors.” He showed me photos of an Italian Villa he was going to make The Pit look like, then I knew he was full of it so looked him up.
    Slippery guy who finds gullible people.
    Because Garlock kept it in her name as Feng LLC people assume it was still her, but he had control. Google “William Garlock fraud” and you will see he is a long term con artist who did this repeatedly, including to Univ Of Santa Barbara! He lives in Atherton and did bogus bankruptcy. He has an entire team that makes fake companies he hides behind, takes control of properties, gets investors, takes the $, and repeats.
    I told the city. They know, but you know, it is the city which means everything dargs or gets dropped.
    I am pretty sure Pelosi, as an old customer of Fengs clinic her dad had, was trying to help Karena.
    You can also look up Karena Feng’s lawsuit. Her claims are all over the place, and she is a sadly troubled woman, but she did not deserve to lose the property.

    1. Hi there.

      We’ve written extensively about this property, but the details you’re talking about really aren’t entirely germane to this particular story.

      Here are our prior stories:

      https://missionlocal.org/2018/05/paul-pelosi-and-a-single-room-occupancy-hotel-known-as-the-pit/

      and

      https://missionlocal.org/2019/05/squalor-continues-at-the-pit-the-mission-district-residential-hotel-where-paul-pelosi-jr-s-involvement-baffled-san-francisco-officials/

      I think it’s too early to say who was trying to help whom.

      Yours,

      JE

      1. Thank you. IMO all trails lead back to Garlock, who tried to not leave a trail by keeping the former owners name on the LLC and having a front person, Gina. I talked to them
        early on in the process, as well as some of the “contractors.”
        Re Paul-he did used to come to her Dad’s business and him and Karena were friends and maybe more. We’ve been here since 1988 so seen a lot.
        Not sure on the Pelosi/Garlock connection. Pelosi probably trying to clear years of violations not taken care of so a sale could go through. For years Karena listed it herself for $10-12 million and showed a photo of a pool on the roof-none of which is reality (a price 3-4X or a pool)
        So there is a lot to untangle.
        As neighbors we simply want it taken over by responsible owners who maintain it properly.
        **But the big issue is the SF problem which is:
        Who can purchase it , correct the problems , and keep it as an SRO and not be losing a large sum monthly? So there it stands getting worse because there is no one to sink the $ in and no way to sell it to someone who would buy it.

  7. Look at the complaints that I just place with DBI and with the Dept. of Justice at their invitation. Just like 1312 Utah no-permits, false inspection, false sign offs, illegal CFC and corruption. Plus Bernard Curran is a part of this with his pal Rodrigo Santos, ECS, Caritas Management corp, Walter Wong, Tom Hui and others.

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