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Rally calls for ouster of SF Rent Board commissioner over tenant disputes

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Tenants and their supporters called for the ouster of landlord and real estate mogul Neveo Mosser from the San Francisco Rent Board on Thursday. (Laura Waxmann/S.F. Examiner)

A group of some 60 Tenderloin tenants and their supporters rallied against real estate mogul Neveo Mosser Tuesday, calling for his removal from the city’s Rent Board over allegations that he is attempting to force out rent-controlled tenants and failing to maintain properties.

Mosser is the head of Mosser Companies, a property management firm, and son of the late real estate investor and hotel owner Charles W. Mosser. He is also a longtime commissioner for the San Francisco Rent Board, a city body tasked with enforcing rent control and mediating tenant and landlord conflicts, among other things.

However recent issues with tenants at two Tenderloin buildings, coupled with with a long history of tenant disputes that includes a 2002 lawsuit by The City, inspired dozens of current residents and advocates on Tuesday to call for his ouster from the board.

Equipped with megaphones and signs that read “slumlord,” they gathered on the sidewalk in front of 220 Montgomery St., where Mosser Capital is headquartered, chanting: “Mosser, Mosser you can’t hide, we can see your greed inside.”

Mosser was appointed to the position of alternate landlord commissioner in 1996 by then-Mayor Willie Brown and is set to term out in September.

“Why our mayors are appointing a problematic, abusive landlord to the Rent Board is beyond me,” said Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. “[Mosser] is creating new ways to raise rents on tenants because he has this inside knowledge.”

Last September, some 20 long-term tenants of a rent-controlled building at 285 Turk St. bought by Mosser in 2016 were served with rent increases as high as 70 percent in what they believed to be bid to force them out.

The City’s rent control law allows for a 2.2 percent rent increase annually at buildings constructed before 1979. However, advocates say Mosser capitalized on a little-known loophole that allows landlords who have invested more than 75 percent of the cost of new construction in renovations to be exempt from such rent-control protections, as was previously reported by the San Francisco Examiner.

“Clearly this is a loophole that should not exist and should be closed,” said School board Commissioner Matt Haney, a candidate in the District 6 Supervisorial race who supported the tenants on Tuesday.

Following advocacy by tenant groups and Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district includes the Tenderloin, Mosser rescinded the proposed rent increases at 285 Turk St. temporarily last October.

But negotiations between Mosser and the tenants are ongoing, and the fear of displacement is widespread among tenants in other Mosser properties.

Some tenants of 425 Hyde St., a 25-unit rent-controlled apartment building, say Mosser has failed to address a pervasive mold issue there..

“If you have been there forever, they delay [tenant improvements] for many years,” said Sato Bon, a new tenant at 425 Hyde St., who moved in eight months ago. “They want [the rent-controlled tenants] out of the building so they don’t fix anything in hopes that the tenant will leave.”

Tenants in the Hyde Street building are diverse and include professionals, immigrants, seniors and working class families. Rents at the building range from $780 for a rent-controlled studio to $2,900 for a market -rate junior one bedroom, depending on the length of tenancies.

On Tuesday, tenants and advocates called for Mosser to address what they said was a “public health hazard.” They also called for Mosser to step down from his role as commisioner.

“He is like a mole in the organization to benefit his company,” said Bon. “That should be illegal.”

For most of her short tenancy at the building, Bon, a market-rate tenant, said that she has been urging the building’s management and Mosser Companies to conduct mold tests and proper abatement, to no avail.

“I paid out of my own pocket to have a mold intrusion specialist come in and they got upset with me,” said Bon, alleging that she was threatened with eviction if she continued to “push” the issue.

In response to the Examiner’s inquiries, Mosser offered Department of Building Inspection documents that show that a Jan. 29 Notice of Violation in response to a mold complaint at 425 Hyde St. was corrected on Feb. 15.

But other tenants from the building at Tuesday’s rally said mold and water damage inside of their apartments remains unabated.

“I have a giant container in my apartment so when it does rain, it will be there to collect the water,” said Sandra Jimenez, who has lived in the building for four years.

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