San Francisco Board of Supervisors rules that if you're rich enough to own a private sidewalk, you don't have to worry about overdue taxes


Is Ahab supposed to stick the harpoon into the property owners or the Board of Supervisors?


I don’t care which gets harpooned, but I hope they’re all on the ship when it sinks.

edited for spoilers


My argument, however, is that in such a case everybody should get what you call a do-over.

When my child became a lawyer one of their first cases involved a client who they disliked intensely and suspected were somewhat criminal. But, in this particular civil case, they were 100% in the right.

It’s bad that only the rich have access to the law. I don’t agree with that. But the answer is not to spread obvious injustice across everybody.

Happy now? (See above).


I agree with the sentiment, but not in this particular case.

The same HOA, if they were shorted $14/year in fees by a resident, for 35 years, would have incredible power up to and including putting a lien on the resident’s home.

This isn’t the kind of thing that’s done on accident. At one point, they were paying the taxes. Then they stopped. They were reminded and started paying them again. Then they stopped. It’s not the kind of thing that gets missed when the HOA bookkeeping gets done. I could see it happening one year. Oops. But either the HOA treasurer or their management company or hired accountants would have caught it. At that point, somebody decided to try and get away with it.


Much better. I edited mine for spoilers as well.


This point and many others like it were addressed in the previous thread.


Speaking as a resident of the SF Bay Area (and someone who is NOT wealthy and does NOT have unconditional sympathy for the wealthy) I think the spin put on this story is more than a little bit unfair. The original actions of the city – selling the land to speculators – was pretty egregious to begin with. I view this as a correction of that mistake, not some kind of giveaway to the rich.


The City put the land up for auction after the homeowners failed to pay the tax for over 30 years.


You’d better ask the estate of the late Robert Lowell to edit The Quaker Graveyard Nantucket for spoilers too. He gives the whole thing away. But at least he doesn’t mention the bit where unknown to Ishmael, Starbuck survives the wreck of the Pequod and goes on to start a chain of coffee shops.


When I read about things happening to speculators, I always hope it’s something nasty.

However, I believe in most jurisdictions the rule that applies is that if someone sells something that is not theirs to sell, whether it be Brooklyn Bridge, gold bricks, or something that fell off the back of a truck, the person with the problem is the one who does the selling. The buyer is not the legal owner. If someone steals your car, or your pavement, and sells it to a third party, the third party is not the owner.


Fine. Then they should offer second chances to everyone. Saying, in effect, we’ll only roll over for you if you have a bottomless warchest from which to sue us is the same in practice as having a different law for the rich. Any official that supports that is corrupt.

No matter how you frame it or what excuses are given for it, ultra-wealthy San Franciscans were given special treatment that the rest were not.

If it’s a law that can be defeated in court then it’s a bad law and shouldn’t be applied to anyone. Yes, the whole legal system is corrupt, not just the public officials, and yes there are many exmaples of bad laws that the rich can sue their way out of while the rest are left to be screwed over. But elected officials are the ones with the power to change things. If we don’t hold them accountable for the system, then why the hell do we even bother with elections? Why not just have the rich appoint the Board’s members? What’s the point of having laws if we don’t want those officials using tax revenue to enforce them on everyone?

I get wanting to use tax dollars responsibly. But if you place the burden for funding government on everyone except the rich, then it’s worse for “our tax dollars” in the long run (unless you’re rich enough to sue).


What happens when the property speculators, who bought the land in good faith from the city, sue?


While that’s technically true, it also omits quite a bit of context. It is, in fact, deliberately misleading.


It’s so hard to keep track of your private roads from your Summer home in the Hamptons or your penthouse in London. /s

If you live in a place with you’re own private street/sidewalk, maybe, just maybe, and I’m going to go way out on a limb here, it’s up to you to either know the tax code or hire someone competent to know it for you, find out what’s due and pay the fucking bill just like the little people.

If anyone who wasn’t rich had gone to the Board and begged special treatment for extenuating context, being experienced politicians I’m sure they would have waited until the petitioner was out of earshot to have a hearty laugh at their expense.


As it happens, this is not the only example of a small bit of land that is collectively owned by a neighborhood (or sometimes even fewer parties). There are other examples in San Francisco, and it is not exclusively the domain of the rich. There are bits of alleys and shared driveways here and there. These are the exception rather than the rule, but wealth is not actually part of the equation. If you knew more of the context around this story, you’d know that too.

They did know the tax code, and they did pay the bill. True, it didn’t make it to the city. But again, context is everything in this story. If you don’t have the patience for the context (or aren’t interested because you’re really here to make some kind of point, and jettisoning the context is the only viable way to do so) then perhaps you should consider a different hobby.


And have they been given second chances by the treasurer or Board?

Look, I don’t mind giving people second chances. In fact I think it’s the right thing to do. I mind giving them only to people with the money to sue for them.

I’m reasonably confident that Boing Boing’s commentariat isn’t filled with the super-rich. Why are working people defending special treatment?


That’s absurd why would anyone deliberately risk their property for pocket change? This was clerical error because the bill wasn’t arriving. I’ve had an important state documents sent to my rental property and not received them even though my business address is clearly listed in the property tax documents. Shit happens.


Yup, and they’d probably tell you to take a hike, peon. That’s if you could even get the Board to hear your case. More likely you’d get be hearing it from a low-level functionary of the tax office unless you we’re willing to pay open-ended attorney’s fees.


The problem in this case was that it was the city’s to sell, and only after it was legally bought did the city decide that although it was all done legally, maybe they shouldn’t have sold it. So I’m wondering what legal mechanism they’re using to wrestle it back from those who should be the legal owners, now, and how they’re compensating them for the city’s screw-up. The article says the city “rescinded the sale” - but the sale happened in 2015. And it’s not like the buyers just put in the cost of the land, too - they’ve had to fight some court battles here. I wonder if they’re just going to have to eat all their costs… I have conflicting feelings about that, as I feel the same way about speculators, but on the other hand, they’re likely getting screwed over in favor of wealthier people. I read about cases where the city/state/federal government screws up, sells off some land that they didn’t have the right to sell, and the original and theoretically-legal-owner is still shit out of luck.



Oh, it’s definitely that, too. It’s not the kind of “correction” that would have been granted anyone else, especially after thirty years of non-payment of taxes and two years after the sale of the land.


Citation? A case where valuable property is sold without due diligence of actually trying to locate the owners, like registered mail?