After lawsuit, Tenderloin building owner squashes Thug Lords

S.F. Examiner File PhotoHome wreck: 245 Leavenworth St.was known for squalid conditions and drug-dealing gangsters before a city lawsuit led to positive changes.

The Thug Lords have been evicted.

A vicious street gang known as the Cambodian Crips was stripped of its headquarters, City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced Tuesday, as part of a settlement with the landlord of a reportedly bedbug-infested, crime-ridden Tenderloin apartment building.

Nearly a year ago, The City sued John Wai, owner of the six-story, 88-unit building at 245 Leavenworth St., for allegedly allowing tenants there to live “like prisoners in their own homes.” Residents not only endured mold, mildew and bedbug infestations, Herrera said, but also drug-dealing gangsters who had been using the building as a base for their operations.

After the lawsuit was filed, Herrera said, the landlord began playing ball with The City. He addressed health code violations and increased building security. The measures, city officials say, have worked to eradicate both the bedbugs and thugs.

Additionally, a settlement filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court requires Wai to sell the property by the end of October and pay The City $135,000 in civil penalties.

Herrera said it was unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to secure the landlord’s cooperation. Nevertheless, Wai’s subsequent actions avoided a “contentious legal battle” that would have landed him “much larger” civil penalties, Herrera added.

The lawsuit, filed in October of last year, detailed allegations that painted 245 Leavenworth St. as a den of hell. Along with bedbugs, residents dealt with other pest infestations, a broken elevator, no heating in multiple units, and plumbing and sewage leaks, among other issues. But worst of all were the Cambodian Crips, aka the Thug Lords or 245.

The City’s lawsuit cited 13 separate police reports between 2009 and 2011 that referred to the gang’s alleged activities, which reportedly spread throughout the neighborhood. One resident told police the thugs regularly loitered outside the building and threatened residents.

Other reports noted sales of oxycodone, crack cocaine and heroin in front of the property and on the block, along with assaults and drive-by shootings in the area.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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