Developer Angelo Sangiacomo, who founded Trinity Properties back in 1949, has passed away at 91 years of age.

Known by some as “the father of rent control” in San Francisco, as Trinity’s dominance and practice of escalating rents in the 1970’s is widely regarded as leading to the passage of legislation to regulate and limit rent increases in 1979, Sangiacomo’s swan song and true legacy project is the 1,900-unit Trinity Place project which is rising along Eighth Street between Mission and Market, a development which has recently been embroiled in a bit of controversy as well.

The third phase of Trinity Place is currently under construction and should open in early 2017, with the fourth and final phase slated to soon follow. Sangiacomo was funding the development of Trinity Place without any outside investors or loans.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by soccermom

    Sad news. I’m sure he wasn’t a nice guy all the time, but I wonder if a nice guy could build 1,900 units in San Francisco ever. A friend of mine had met him and his advice was, “You never sell…”

    • Posted by Tony

      Just because he died doesn’t mean he’s entitled to nice words. I didn’t know him so I don’t have anything nasty to say or anything, but no need for pleasantries. What I don’t get though is most greedy tycoons leave some sort of opulent landmark to their name. He “value engineered” all of the style out of his last building. What a lame way to go out!

      • Posted by curmudgeon

        Have to agree with Tony. Trinity Place was his opportunity to leave the City with a jewel to remember him by and counter his long held reputation. Instead, after a feint for tower one, he doubled down producing the value engineered dreck which will forever occupy this prime spot on Market. Sorry, I can’t forgive him for that.

    • Posted by zig

      My dad has a few friends in their 70’s who come from families who own so many properties that these guys never did any other jobs but manage the family properties. They also never ever sell, just buy. Not sure if that is always smart but in hindsight in this area it was a goldmine after WWII. All Italian Americans by the way so maybe it is cultural.

  2. Posted by anon2

    Say what you will about his motives, but those new buildings on 8th and Market will end up contributing more to change that neighborhood, and to change the development attitude of the city in general (for the better in my opinion) than any other factor, including Ed Lee’s famous Twitter tax cut.

    • Posted by Adam

      Those buildings might have been nice if they had not had any and all architectural quality value-engineered out of them, after approval of the original designs by the planning commission. Such a prominent site for what amounts to a couple of monoliths.

      • Posted by Orland

        Along with the buildings themselves, but especially the plaza, the development is going to be a great addition to that part of Market.

      • Posted by woolie

        Boring buildings are the best buildings.

    • Posted by Orland

      Too bad he didn’t live to see it completed.

  3. Posted by sfdragonboy

    Ok, now that he is gone (RIP) can rent control go away too?

  4. Posted by BayviewSF

    City attorney was suing him. Is it an abuse of power?

    [Editor’s Note: He was subpoenaed, not sued (see: Developer Subpoenaed For Investigation Into Short-Term Rentals, as linked above).]

  5. Posted by Cmac

    I knew Angelo reasonably well over a few decades, enjoyed his hospitality over lunch, and tried to sell a few retail buildings to him. He was a great, honest guy and has nice kids, which says a lot about a person.

    I learned more from him, per minute-of-contact, than from probably anyone else. About real estate, business, life, as well as a myriad of other entertaining subjects. Angelo was also a truth teller. To everybody. Unfortunately, that is not politically correct in this overly-sensitive world in which free speech and industriousness can be frowned upon.

    San Francisco also has a cottage industry of people looking for someone to pay for the their advocacy and causes. And, Angelo personally suffered by being a target for both the greedy and those seeking fame and power.

    We need more smart, fun, risk-takers like Angelo. However, they are in short supply when it can be easy to get along, by the work of another, while living in a great city that Angelo Sangiacomo helped build.

    • Posted by parklife

      Thanks for a great tribute. I didn’t know the man, but when I go I hope others speak as kindly.

    • Posted by jack

      I like the following for introspection:

      “…has nice kids, which says a lot about a person.” and

      “…industriousness can be frowned upon.”

    • Posted by Me

      I’m assuming you never actually *lived* in one of his properties. One of his “nice kids” owned mine. I have never in all my life dealt with such substandard management. My building has so much deferred maintenance, they refuse to make the most basic repairs, and if they do, they employ the cheapest, most inept vendors I’ve ever seen. I thought Citi Apartments was bad — they were angels compared to Trinity. I’d love to show you the lab reports that prove I have toxic mold in my apartment but the Rent Board said I’d have to sue them to get them to fix it!

      • Posted by cmac

        No, and while a renter, I have never lived in one of Angelo Sangiacomo’s properties. It also sounds is you have not either. However, my guess is you believe you have a good deal on your rental rate, because otherwise you would move. We are both lucky to live in this area and I wish I had your rent-controlled apartment being subsidized by someone else!

  6. Posted by neighbor

    Truly a larger than life individual.

    People who know Angelo well were lucky. While being a very astute tough-nosed businessman, he was also a very warm, gracious and generous man. He could be hysterically funny at times. He is surrounded by a great family.

  7. Posted by OMN

    Boy, through reading these comments, the reader-base of Socketsite really reveals itself.

    • Posted by Orland

      Get over yourself.

      • Posted by Real estate guy

        ad hominem: Definition – A Latin expression meaning “to the man.” An ad hominem argument is one that relies on personal attacks rather than reason or substance.

    • Posted by HousingWonk

      No kidding And defensive as all get out when called on it.

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      Look around you: the place you live in was probably built by someone with a similar ambition.

      He built actual housing, that many generations of San Franciscans will live in. In the mean time most of us will only trade it, live in it, rent it out, and more often than not complain it is just too goddamn expensive.

  8. Posted by tenderloiner

    I did not like the man. He upgraded a Market street building’s roof lantern right beside Trinity Plaza three years ago. He used LED lights that were so bright it cast shadows on my walls which are 6 blocks away from Market street! For 6 months, he refused to turn the lights off. His actions pissed off Jane Kim’s office and the Planning Department. Only when the Planning Director threatened to stop signing off on Trinity Plaza permits, the lights were turned off.

  9. Posted by Oh Dear

    I met him when he was in his prime, yes a nice person given the circumstances of the meeting. However he was the prime reason for the city instituting rent control…any way, RIP.

    • Posted by Cmac

      I believe the “prime reason” rent control was instituted in San Francisco was the voters enacted it, not some action of Trinity Properties. Furthermore, it remains a flawed system of protecting existing renters, who got to San Francisco first, instead of just assisting the most financially deserving. However, a better system of helping the poor does not stand a chance of becoming law because it would not transfer transfer money into the pockets of middle-class renters voting only out of self interest.

      • Posted by HousingWonk

        You don’t know SF history then.

        • Posted by Cmac

          Your own referenced website states “At the time, rent control was catching on like wildfire throughout the state.”, as well as “Many factors converged in the late 1970s to bring about the dictate of rent control not only here but in nearly ten cities around the state, including Los Angeles.”, and “Deinstfrey, however, believes inflation was clearly the motivating factor in its enactment.”, and “To this day, Welch says that because of his actions, “(Howard) Jarvis was the father of rent control.”

          Furthermore, many other factors are referenced, which should include the free will of San Francisco voters.

          • Posted by HousingWonk

            Sangiocomo was one of the most visible and notorious landlords of the time and provide a quite public figure as the rallying symbol for tenants rights advocates at the time to push for rent control IN San Francisco. All politics is local.

    • Posted by zig

      How can that be. He was in the business of renting apartments at the time on leases and was seeking the highest rents. The prime reason was supply restrictions for new housing aka market failure. Why we had a market failure is debatable

      • Posted by san FronziScheme

        The 70s was a decade when people were getting accustomed to question authority. As such people refused to be pushed around on many issues.

        But for some issues, there’s no other way than pushing people around. A state like California was growing very fast and San Francisco was no stranger to that. But anti-development movements were successful in avoiding the growth that could have happened.

        2 comparisons:

        1 – in 1970, California’s population was 20M, in 2015 it is in the range of 40 Million. That’s a 100% increase.
        1 – in 1970, San Francisco’s population was 715K, in 2015, it is 850K, or less than a 20% increase

        San Francisco did not share the burden into absorbing much of the extra population, and as such faces a tremendous pressure on the demand side. Some of this of course is geographical. We are at the tip of a peninsula with no new land to conquer. But what we lacked in surface, we could have compensated in height. Since people will move here for the small city feel of some areas and are ready to pay a pretty penny for it, this is not something that’s going to change in the foreseeable future.

  10. Posted by Mark F.

    The inflation of the 1970s along with more restrictive regulation was the primary cause of the escalation of rents at that time. We would have gotten rent control anyway regardless of this gentlemen. San Francisco home prices and rents were not considered that excessive before 1970–I know a couple who bought a large house in the Marina for $67,000 in 1967.

    • Posted by zig

      My family moved to the Peninsula in the late 1970’s and it was a choice. My union blue collar father could have just as easily afforded a nice house in a middle class part of SF without question. My mom didn’t work.
      He has mentioned though home values escalated greatly around that time region wide so it was not only rents

  11. Posted by HousingWonk

    Hope he likes warm weather.

    • Posted by soccermom

      Is this a joke about Angelo Sangiacomo going to hell?

    • Posted by soccermom

      How many families have you housed?

  12. Posted by Leonard

    Alright, let’s stop building and start knocking down his value engineered [Trinity Place].

  13. Posted by BayviewSF

    Rent goes up due to market demand, not due to landlord “greed”. Landlord “greed” is the same everywhere in the whole world.

    Similarly house price goes up due to market demand, not due to seller “greed”. Seller “greed” is the same everywhere in the whole world.

    Sellers and landlords in San Francisco are not special. They behave just as normal human beings. It is stupid to describe a market behavior as a “greed” of one party. When buyers want to negotiate and pay as little as possible, do you call that buyers “greed”? In that sense, everyone is “greedy” since he/she is behaving in its self interest.

  14. Posted by Jim B

    Angelo is one if the last few remaining SF originals. Born and raised, and never sell any of the “bastards”. Many words will be be spoken about him. In the short time I knew him, Family was the most important thing in the world to him. Business can be tough, and the construction business is not for the weak. RIP Angelo, your storytelling of life in SF is legendary.

  15. Posted by Outsider

    I rented an apartment on Bay Street in the Northpoint area in the mid-1970’s owned by the gentleman. I had to pay a $75 fee in a separate check to the Trinity rental office down the street. He was later sued over these application payments he required of his potential renters.

  16. Posted by Mary

    It is a crime to call Mr. Sangiacomo anything of a greedy landlord or greedy developer.

    San Francisco is better off with him. Please tell me which developed has taken his own money and developed 1900 units and that great feat alone has changed San Francisco’s housing landscaping.

    Dirty politicians and lazy tenants do not like him. They need to demonize a successful, self made person to gain their political power. Shame on them. The Mr. Sangiacomo I know, is very kind, extremely kind, fair and honest. How many of you go to church every day, donation time and effort to the catholic charity, go to work almost daily after you are 80 years old, have only one wife after you become and billionaire. He is a tremendous man. It is not surprised that passed on one of the most important catholic saint’s feast day —
    Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. Those who knows him know that he is a saint.

    • Posted by Neighborhood Activist

      Sure. Because the Catholic church is such a wonderful institution.

      Go see “Spotlight.”

      People are complicated. Few people are all good, or all bad. Maybe no people. Someone can be a greedy developer and a wonderful family man who gives to charity, and perhaps Sangiocomo was both of those things.

      I’ve only been in the city for 16 years, so I wasn’t here in the 70s when he was increasing tenants’ rent by unconscionable amounts. But I am a landlord with a conscience who would never do that myself. (If there’s a surge in market rates, you’ll catch up to it eventually by raising your tenants’ rents by something modest, maybe 3-5%. There’s nothing but greed that justifies more than that.)

      In recent history, he got a somewhat creative and interesting design approved for Trinity Place, then reneged on it and built a cheaper project that made him a lot more money. Then he rented some of the units out on AirBnB full-time, in violation of the law. Regardless of his good deeds, this guy is not eligible for sainthood.

      • Posted by parklife

        3-5% rent increases? Not in a rent controlled building. Those sort of increases haven’t been seen in decades.

  17. Posted by jack

    “If there’s a surge in market rates, you’ll catch up to it eventually by raising your tenants’ rents by something modest, maybe 3-5%” <== If market rent surged by 20%, you can eventually raise your tenants' rents by something modest, like 5%, and catch up eventually in 5 years. This assumes the surge took place in one year and stayed flat over the next 5 years.

    Conversely, when the rent drops drastically by 20%, you can also eventually reduce the rent 5% per year and your tenant can expect to pay the market rent after 3 years.

    I am not sure if Sainthood is compatible with real-life.

  18. Posted by SFresident

    Years ago, I was riding up in a crowded elevator in the 1145 Market Street building.

    I was talking with a coworker and I said, “I got busy and missed lunch today.”

    From the back of the elevator came a dry voice saying, “It doesn’t look like you’ve missed any other meals.”

    It was Angelo Sangiacomo who I did not know.

  19. Posted by Real estate guy

    That is a funny story and it does sound like Angelo’s tell-it-like-it is sense of humor. Hopefully, you had a quick and witty come-back, or you could have felt insecure for more than one reason.

  20. Posted by SFresident

    I was stunned, so I said nothing.

    I got back to my office and had a good laugh, and an appreciation of a good insult – so rare in this day and age of “F-word you!” Then, when I was told that it was Angelo Sangiacomo, I had another good laugh.

    I didn’t know the man, but I knew of him. Who, in San Francisco, didn’t know of Mr. Sangiacomo? I’m glad I didn’t say anything to him. It would have been ill advised to butt heads with such a man. I would have been out of my league.

  21. Posted by Lori

    I had to face Trinity in court for a wrongful eviction recently. I felt like I was going against a behemoth. I didn’t hire an attorney, but I knew I was not in the wrong. In the end, they knew they wouldn’t win and we settled on MY terms. I like to think it was a win for me.

    He died the next day.

    Some of my friends called it karma.

    • Posted by Last Rational Man Left in San Francisco

      I heard Angelo Sangiacomo was also responsible for global warming, as well as both the Cretaceous and Paleocene extinctions.

  22. Posted by soccermom

    Here we go:

    “Peskin on Tuesday called on the City Attorney’s Office to explore mechanisms with which The City could extend rent control to properties constructed after 1979, or potentially properties built going forward.

    Peskin said he has reached out to state legislators to encourage them to consider amending California’s Costa Hawkins Act, which allows landlords to remove the rent-controlled rates for most single-family homes and condos after a specific date.

    At the local level, Peskin said he will work with various stakeholders, including tenants and landlords, to establish a rent-control proposal next year.

    “I very much want to pursue some relief at the state level,” Peskin said. “Meanwhile, I think there are things we can do locally that are real and meaningful.”

    • Posted by curmudgeon

      Peskin was a disaster the first time around, and he’s going to be the same this time. I can only hope that the Board majority will shift again before too long and render him powerless. Mar, Avalos and Campos are all termed out in 2016.

    • Posted by BayviewSF

      Rent control needs to be phased out at the state level. Relying on the city will be of no use.

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