A rundown laundromat on 4680 Mission St. appeared fairly normal from street-level, but underground it hid a secret for more than a decade. On Christmas Day 2016, firefighters responding to a blazed discovered makeshift rooms in the basement, which housed up to 20 people. Exposed electrical wiring, leaky pipes, little ventilation, rodents, and other hazards immediately became apparent, and the residents — many of whom were already in poor health — were promptly evicted, and housed elsewhere.
Last August City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a suit against the building’s landlord, Melissa Mendoza and her limited liability company, Lexamark Building, LLC.
Fresh on the heels of the Ghost Ship tragedy, he didn’t mince words. “This building was a firetrap. The living conditions were not only appalling and illegal, they were extremely dangerous,” he said last year. “These people were basically stuck in a dungeon. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if there had been a fire down there. … My office is continuing to do everything we can to protect tenants and ensure they aren’t being put in harm’s way by unscrupulous landlords looking to make a quick buck.”
This week, the city got a small bit of restitution for the efforts it made to rehouse the displaced residents and deal with the illegal space. Mendoza will pay $620,000 in fines and will have any other properties she owned closely scrutinized for future violations. Ernesto Paredes, the master tenant, will have to shell out $20,000.
“We will not tolerate slumlords who prey on those struggling to get by,” said Herrera in a statement. “If your business model is to violate the law and put people in harm’s way, be prepared to be put out of business.”