Injunction calls hotel ‘public menace’

City Attorney’s Office: Drug deals, noise, violence rife at Mission residential facility

A residential hotel in the Mission district was placed under a court order this week to prevent drug sales and use on its premises after the City Attorney’s Office sued the landlord.

The Albion hotel constitutes a “public menace,” according to the preliminary injunction handed down in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday.

That order compels the owner, Vena Shotiveyaratana, to increase security measures, make repairs and post signs to prevent the sale or distribution of drugs on the property.

The injunction, the result of a lawsuit by City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office, comes just weeks after the Department of Building Inspection announced that it was cracking down on negligent landlords.

Though the 62 liens the DBI announced in August were orders to make physical repairs, the City Attorney’s Office is using drug abatement laws to hold the building owner accountable for the actions of the tenants.

“It really does send the message that we are not going to let residents, most of whom obey the law, be terrorized by indiscriminate drug trafficking that a property owner might allow to flourish,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Thursday.

Michael Weiss, who is arguing the case for the City Attorney’s Office, said the nuisance comes from people yelling up to dealers to let them in, fights between some tenants and drug buyers and a stream of uninvited visitors.

“I don’t think anybody expects it to be Mayberry, but I don’t think that allowing drug trafficking and drug use in people’s homes is what the tenants had in mind when they came to stay there,” Weiss said.

Neighbors of the Albion appeared to agree when contacted Thursday. “It’s a full-fledged crackhouse,” said Michael Katz, who owns neighboring Katz Bagels.

But getting a handle on the drug dealing and other tenant-related problems is uphill work, according to Shotiveyaratana’s attorney, Arthur Lipton. “I think my client is operating a building in a neighborhood with a lot of problems. She’s doing her very best to see those problems are controlled.” Lipton said Shotiveyaratana is complying with The City’s demands, which include hiring a security company, evicting problem tenants and hiring a “competent front desk clerk.”

Mariana Viturro, of the St. Peter’s Housing Committee, said the problem for tenants of single-room-occupancy hotels such as the Albion lies in the fact that before The City can make such demands, the tenants must make and document requests to landlords, who she said can be intimidating.

“Because the population is more vulnerable, more marginalized and many of them are on fixed incomes and are extremely poor — many are formerly homeless — they are afraid to exercise their rights in the hotels,” she said.

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