City Attorney Dennis Herrera has just filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court against Ashok Gujral, a local real estate developer and investor accused of routinely engaging in under-permitted construction on residential properties throughout San Francisco.
According to the complaint, Gujral would seek permits for simple and uncomplicated projects and then routinely conduct major renovations that were beyond the scope of the permits issued. From the City Attorney’s Office:
Between June 2015 and September 2016, Gujral purchased seven residential properties in San Francisco. Shortly after purchase, Gujral followed a similar approach with each. First, he would seek permits for what he claimed would be simple construction, like interior remodeling or removing plumbing and electrical fixtures. The permits were issued quickly without additional review by other City departments. Gujral would then do major renovations at each property that went well beyond what was represented in the permit applications. By doing this, Gujral evaded proper City oversight and applicable permit fees while unlawfully bulking up homes to apparently flip them for a higher profit.
“If you get a permit to remodel your kitchen, it doesn’t mean you get to build a new wing onto the back of your house,” Herrera said. “Real estate scofflaws trying to make a quick buck by flouting the law increase safety risks, endanger the character of our neighborhoods and cheat honest developers by creating an uneven playing field. Let this be a warning to those who think they can ignore the rules while flipping as many homes as they can.”
While Gujral had obtained permits for an “interior” remodel of the Noe Valley home at 1613 Church Street, the resultant work included both vertical and horizontal additions, not to mention a new roof deck.
Over in Bernal Heights, Gujral converted a two-unit building at 120 Brewster into a single-family home without a required dwelling unit merger (DUM) and expanded the envelope behind a new facade at 4068 Folsom Street, including the addition of a new rear deck and patio, without the benefit of any permits.
Under-permitted work on Bernal Heights homes at 437 Ellsworth and 310 Montcalm is outlined in the complaint as well.
Over in Dogpatch, Gujral removed the historic façade of 903 Minnesota Street sans approval. And the facade of 531 33rd Avenue in the Outer Richmond was removed, and a top floor deck enlarged, sans approval as well.
And in addition to seeking court oversight to ensure that all the aforementioned properties are brought into compliance with San Francisco’s building and planning codes, the City is seeking civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each act of unfair and unlawful business competition; daily penalties of up to $500 for each violation of the San Francisco Building Code; and daily penalties of at least $200 for each violation of the San Francisco Planning Code committed at each of the properties.
“We’re seeking a steep penalty to ensure that cheating the system isn’t worth it for unscrupulous developers,” Herrera said. “If you think gaming the system will just be part of the cost of doing business, think again.”
UPDATE (7/29): Scofflaw Developer Settles for $1.2 Million.