Beating someone with your mind and your money is always the sweetest revenge.
That was the case for Tina Lam, an engineer in Silicon Valley and real estate investor Michael Cheng, an Asian couple who quietly purchased an upscale San Francisco street two-years ago for $90,000 — much to the residents’ dismay. The private street is in a prestigious gated community known as Presidio Terrace and was once billed as a haven for White people looking to stay segregated from Japanese and Chinese people in 1906.
According to court documents filed in Superior Court in San Francisco County, residents of Presidio Terrace are suing the Asian couple for purchasing their street at a city-run auction in 2015. Baldwin and Howell, the company responsible for the segregated community, wrote in a 1906 advertisement, “There is only one spot in San Francisco where only Caucasians are permitted to buy or lease real estate or where they may reside. That place is Presidio Terrace.”
Reports say anyone who purchased property at Presidio Terrace back in the 1900’s could only sell to White people until 1948, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling banned racial segregation in neighborhoods. The lawsuit against the couple, filed by the homeowner’s association on July 17, says Lam and Cheng were unable to pay property taxes on Presidio Terrace’s common areas. However, Lam and Cheng claim the city of San Francisco sent bills and relevant tax notices to the wrong address.
The suit also reveals that the address the city was sending bills too was associated with an accountant who hadn’t worked with the homeowner’s association since the 1980s. However, a spokeswoman for Treasurer-Tax Collector Jose Cisnero’s office suggested that the homeowners should’ve known better and added that there’s nothing that the state can do about the sale of their street. Despite the slander against the couple, Lam says she and her husband love San Francisco and just want to own property there, telling reporters, “The first time I came to San Francisco I fell in l love with the city. I really just wanted something to own in San Francisco because of my affinity for the city.”
The homeowners have appealed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and a hearing is set for Oct. 31.