City Secures $1.2M From ‘Scofflaw Developer’

Ashok Gujral bough seven buildings in 15 months with the intent of flipping them to make a buck — but the discovery of inadequate permits stopped this developer cold.

A residential developer who was sued by the city last month for conducting work without permits on his properties has paid $1.2 million for his behavior, City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced Monday. 

Ashok Gujral owns buildings at 531 33rd Ave., 120 Brewster St., 1613 Church St., 437 Ellsworth St., 4068 Folsom St., 903 Minnesota St., and 310 Montcalm St. — all of which he bought between June 2015 and September 2016. In each case, he’d file a simple permit request for basic repairs and remodeling, which were quickly approved. Following those permits, however, Gujral would make major changes, presumably to increase the value of the property. Some cases were more flagrant than others; at the Church Street building for example, Gujral got permits to remodel the interior of the house, but then added extensive expansions, both vertically and horizontally. 

The motivation for such behavior was no doubt financial; flipping recently-renovated buildings at a cost can be a lucrative affair, but permits for major renovations cost money and can be held up by appeals from neighborhood groups or individuals.

Herrera uses this case as a warning against other developers trying to skirt around the system. In addition to the $1.2 million, Gujral will have to bring all seven of his properties back in line with current laws, and backpay $83,000 in permits. As a preventative measure, any building owned by him or his wife Susan will be inspected quarterly from here on out. 

“It’s game over for house flippers who thought they could ignore the rules in San Francisco,” Herrera says. “We will catch you, and the price will be steep. We will make sure that breaking the law just isn’t worth it. Unscrupulous developers trying to make a quick buck by flouting the law increase safety risks, endanger the character of our neighborhoods and cheat honest developers by creating an uneven playing field. The city is not going to tolerate people trying to game the system so they can profit off of San Francisco’s housing crisis. I want to thank the Planning Department for their help in bringing this case.”  

According to the City Attorney’s office, the $1.2 million will go directly into future code enforcement. 

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