A couple bought one of the most exclusive streets in San Francisco for $90,000 — now the rich homeowners are fighting back

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The ultra-rich residents of Presidio Terrace lost their street, unknowingly, in a private auction in 2015.
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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Earlier this year, a Bay Area couple shook up a private cul-de-sac when it was revealed that the immigrant real-estate speculators bought the street for $90,000 without the knowledge of its wealthy residents.

Now, the residents of Presidio Terrace are assembling a legal A-team to win their street back, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Presidio Terrace is a block-long street and private development that has been run by the homeowners who live there since at least 1905, according to the Chronicle. It has attracted some of the wealthiest and most powerful politicians in California over the years, including Sen. Diane Feinstein and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

It’s located in a less-trafficked area at the top of the San Francisco Peninsula and has around-the-clock private security at the entrance. There are 35 mega-mansions on Presidio Terrace.

In 2015, an unpaid tax bill caused the City of San Francisco to put Presidio Terrace up for sale in a private auction. Tina Lam, an engineer in Silicon Valley, and Michael Cheng, a realtor, scooped up the street, its sidewalks, and other “common ground” for $90,000. They told the Chronicle they want to charge residents rent for parking on the street.

Residents are up in arms. The homeowners association has sued the couple and the city. It wants the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to rescind the sale – an unprecedented move.

presidio terrace street san francisco 6979

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The median home value in the Presidio Heights neighborhood topped $5.1 million in June — about four times the median home value in San Francisco, according to data from Zillow.
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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

On September 11, the Chronicle reported that the Presidio Terrace Homeowners Association has hired a team of legal bigwigs to lead the pursuit, including a former assistant city attorney, Scott Emblidge; a former spokesperson for the city attorney’s office, Matt Dorsey; and a onetime chief of staff for former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Boe Hayward.

The group has a hearing on the legality of the sale scheduled for November 28.

Cheng, one of the buyers, told the Chronicle he wasn’t worried.

“I feel sure that we are on sound legal footing,” Cheng said.