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‘Villain’ eviction attorneys Bornstein & Bornstein break up, sue each other

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Michelle Malliett, pictured at an anti-eviction rally on July 7, is a Mission District teacher who faced eviction earlier this year — thanks to attorney Jonathan Bornstein. (Rachael Garner/Special to S.F. Examiner)


Eviction specialists, brothers and gentrification “villains” Bornstein & Bornstein are breaking up. And boy, is it (legally) messy.

Few local landlord attorneys are as storied and vilified as the Bornsteins, who’ve been in business since 1993. The two brothers — Daniel and Jonathan — are known San Francisco-round for their time holding workshops to teach landlords how to legally evict “no-fault” tenants.

Those are tenants who haven’t done anything to breach their leases, for those not familiar with the lingo. The Bornsteins were oft-described as experts at finding every possible loophole to extract profit for landlords.

Remember the Mission District teacher who earlier this year was going to be evicted for using household appliances — you know, in her household? That was Jonathan Bornstein at work.

Jonathan Bornstein also made headlines in 2011, when he represented landlords who sued San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Tim Lincecum. (Even The Freak faced the landlord reaper!)

The Bornsteins are “all about scare tactics,” said Deepa Varma, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union. Varma said the Bornsteins have a unique skill to verbally shake tenants’ nerves “when they’re in a vulnerable place.”

Now, the brothers are turning that unenviable talent on one another.

In the filings in Superior Court in Alameda County from September, Daniel Bornstein alleged his brother Jonathan brought home a paltry portion of the law firm’s profits, and that they agreed to split the profits based on who brings in the most clients.

Daniel alleged Jonathan siphoned off more money than he was owed.

Daniel also alleged he provided written notice to Jonathan that the firm would dissolve on May 20, but that his brother “has refused to dissolve the Law Firm to date.”

Jonathan sued right back.

In his San Francisco Superior Court filings, Jonathan provided a signed document, dated 2013, from both brothers that reads they “shall share equally in all profits and losses in equal proportion unless they agree otherwise.”

Daniel recently formed a new firm, Bornstein Law, which Jonathan has called an “illegal business entity” formed to compete with Bornstein & Bornstein — resulting in Jonathan claiming Daniel owes him “in excess of” $500,000 for his trouble.

Cherry on top: One of Jonathan’s “exhibits” is a photo of a computer technician with a twisted up handlebar moustache. Is Jonathan accusing this guy — ostensibly employed by the Bornstein story– of moonlighting as Snidely Whiplash? Hercule Poirot? The U-lock swinging bicyclist from Critical Mass?

Yosef Peretz, a tenant’s attorney representing Daniel Bornstein, told On Guard, “It’s not an easy situation, as you can imagine.”

Peretz said Daniel brought all of the eight or nine staff members from Bornstein & Bornstein to his new firm, leaving only Jonathan behind.

“To some he’s a saint, to some he’s a villain,” Peretz said, but either way, “Daniel is saddened this didn’t work out.”

* * *

Seems allies of Ahsha Safai are taking one more bite at the endorsement apple.

The District 11 supervisor candidate (that’s Ingleside and the Excelsior, among other ’hoods) lost the Democratic Party endorsement by a single vote in the last meeting of the Democratic County Central Committee.

The D-triple-Cee was split even-Stevens — half for Safai, and half “no endorsement.” On Guard is told that union clashes between those who back Safai and those who back his opponent, Kimberly Alvarenga, led to “no endorsement” as the alternative.

Now, state Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma and moderate flag-waver Mary Jung proposed for the DCCC agenda the Democratic Party vote just one more time to potentially back Ahsha, which would help the D11 candidate get his face on even more cardboard mailers on your doorstep.

But there’s a twist. Last time around, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s proxy (who can vote on Pelosi’s behalf) was absent. Will Ess Eff’s congresswoman tip the endorsement toward Safai?

That’s Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the California State Building basement, for those who care to see Democracy inaction.

* * *

While much of San Francisco splashed liquids of various bodily origins at the Folsom Street Fair on Sunday, I had a grand ol’ time with my loved ones at the calm waters of the San Francisco Model Yacht Club’s regatta — founded in 1898.

Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park was an oasis in an otherwise fraught political season.

Few sights could give me as much joy as seeing my friend (who I consider a brother) Erik Visuano’s 4-year-old daughter, Olivia Marilyn, squealing with joy as a model fire boat swung its mini-water jets in her direction.

Erik and I played at the same pond when we were her age, and enjoying those oh-so-seriously recreated boats is a true blue San Francisco tradition. Despite our lovely bound (and gagged) community, I wouldn’t miss those boats for all the leather on Folsom.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter.

This post has been updated from its original version.

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