If you've lived in the neighborhood for a while and stay abreast of local happenings, you're probably aware of the ongoing battle over the mansion located at 930 Grove Street. This historic property, known as the Koster Mansion, has become a source of frustration for both the city and its neighbors as it sits in limbo, deteriorating with each passing year. The situation has escalated to the point where the city has taken the property owner to court, seeking injunctive relief on behalf of the community and concerned residents.
Built in 1897, the mansion was commissioned by the Koster family, specifically John Ludwig Koster. The property quickly became an architectural gem and a testament to the grandeur of the era.
One of the notable chapters in the mansion's history unfolded in the aftermath of the devastating 1906 earthquake and fires in San Francisco. The city government, in need of a temporary City Hall while the official one was being rebuilt, turned to the Koster Mansion. The property served as a makeshift City Hall, offering a central location for the city's administrative functions during the challenging period of recovery and reconstruction.
In 1929, the mansion was purchased by Rose Fritz, a physician, and it remained in her family's possession for nearly six decades. In her will, Rose bequeathed the residence to her niece, Anna Havel, ensuring that the property continued to stay within the family's lineage.
However, during World War II in 1943, the federal government took temporary control of the mansion. It was converted into low-cost housing for military personnel. To accommodate the increased demand for housing, the mansion was subdivided into four one-bedroom and nine studio apartment units. This period marked a significant alteration to the property's original layout and configuration.
The Koster Mansion returned to private ownership after the war, and it continued to hold its historical significance and architectural beauty. That is until 2004 when it was purchased by Pham Phuong/TP Pham LLC. The property, at that time, was occupied by tenants, and it was not until 2010 that TP Pham LLC filed permits for remodeling and improvements.
In 2004, the property was purchased by Pham Phuong/TP Pham LLC, and at the time, it was occupied by tenants. However, in 2010, the new owners filed permits for improvements, including remodeling of kitchens and bathrooms in the apartment units. This led to the eviction of the tenants, as TP Pham LLC claimed the need for capital improvements as the reason behind the eviction. The relationship between TP Pham LLC and the property's tenants quickly soured. The eviction of the tenants, followed by unauthorized construction work beyond the permitted scope, led to a lengthy legal battle and the continued deterioration of the historic building. According to court documents, the property owner went beyond the scope of the permit, tearing down walls and conducting unauthorized construction work. This resulted in a lawsuit from the evicted tenants, alleging wrongful eviction and failure to complete the promised renovations.
The legal battle between the tenants and TP Pham LLC lasted for several years and was finally settled in 2015. However, during the entire duration of the proceedings, the property continued to deteriorate as TP Pham failed to complete the remodel outlined in their initial plans. It was a frustrating situation for the neighborhood, who had to witness the decline of a historic gem.
Around 2018, TP Pham finally took a step in the right direction by hiring a qualified contractor and submitting a construction schedule for the property's rehabilitation. The approved plan involved starting work on the exterior of the building before moving on to the interior. However, things took a turn for the worse when TP Pham surreptitiously hired a second contractor to demolish the property's interior, violating the approved construction schedule. As a result, asbestos was released into the property and the surrounding area, posing a significant health risk to the community.
The ongoing neglect and unauthorized actions by the property owner have not gone unnoticed by the city and its residents. The frustration has reached a tipping point, and the battle over 930 Grove Street is far from over. Adding to the mounting pressure on TP Pham and other neglectful property owners in San Francisco is the recently passed Proposition I, which introduces a vacancy tax.
Proposition I, passed by San Francisco voters, aims to address the city's housing crisis by discouraging property owners from keeping their buildings vacant. The vacancy tax imposes a penalty on property owners who leave their buildings vacant for an extended period, incentivizing them to find tenants or put the property to productive use. This new development may have significant implications for the Koster Mansion as TP Pham LLC faces the prospect of paying additional taxes if they continue to leave the property unoccupied and in a state of disrepair.
As the battle over 930 Grove Street continues, it is crucial for the city and the community to work together to find a resolution that preserves the historical integrity of the property while also ensuring its rehabilitation and productive use. The plight of the Koster Mansion serves as a reminder of the challenges faced when historic properties fall into the wrong hands and the importance of holding property owners accountable for their neglectful actions.
The saga of the Koster Mansion exemplifies the challenges faced by historic properties over time. From its early days as a symbol of architectural grandeur to its role in the city's recovery after the 1906 earthquake, the mansion has witnessed both triumph and neglect. Its rich history contributes to the significance of the property and the community's desire to see it restored and preserved for future generations.
It is hoped that the combination of legal action, community pressure, and the potential impact of the vacancy tax will finally prompt TP Pham LLC to take the necessary steps to restore the Koster Mansion to its former glory. The Koster Mansion's history deserves to be respected and honored, with its restoration benefitting the community while preserving a valuable piece of San Francisco's heritage.The neighborhood and its residents deserve a resolution to this 18-year battle and the opportunity to witness the revival of this significant piece of local history.