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Plagued San Francisco luxury apartment residents might not move home for 9 months

The luxury apartment building at 33 Tehama in Downtown San Francisco is pictured on September 16, 2022. The building flooded twice over the summer, forcing residents to temporarily relocate multiple times. | Kori Suzuki for The Standard

Residents of a problem-plagued luxury apartment building might not be able to move back into their homes until June 2023.

The move-in date for 33 Tehama residents has now been extended for a third time and some residents are deciding it’s time to move on.

The 35-floor tower in SoMa first flooded back in early June, forcing all residents to be temporarily relocated. Residents were told at the time that the earliest they would be able to move back was late 2022 to early 2023.

The tower flooded again in August, with dramatic videos of water gushing out of the ground floor exits surfacing on social media.

After those incidents, evacuated residents caught a contractor stealing from their home on camera.

“I’m not counting on moving back in,” said Caterina Vernieri, a four-year resident of 33 Tehama until this August, when she found the building flooded after returning from three weeks traveling abroad.

Vernieri has since moved into an apartment in NoPa and signed a lease which ends in April. She said her current apartment does not have the same amenities as 33 Tehama, but she pays slightly less than she did at the ritzy high-rise, which was $3,700 per month.

Vernieri said it is hard to trust the troubled building and its management. She hasn’t seen her old apartment since July and to this day does not know where her possessions are after 33 Tehama contractors removed residents’ belongings and placed them into storage units. 

“It was traumatizing waiting 10 days not knowing if my stuff was damaged,” Vernieri said. “After that, it is very hard to trust them.”

Other residents are left with little choice but to eventually return to 33 Tehama.

“We really have no choice,” said tenant Chelle Bataan, who had been living in a below-market-rate one bedroom apartment with her partner and three children at 33 Tehama.

Unable to afford market-rate rents in San Francisco, 33 Tehama tenants like Bataan, who were living in one of the 60 cheaper units in the posh high-rise, were transferred to other city-subsidized housing with financial assistance from 33 Tehama developer Hines. Hines paid their moving costs and for hotel stays until August, when the support stopped.

Bataan and her family are now living in a subsidized unit in SoMa’s Astella Apartments, but her stay is temporary until repairs are complete at 33 Tehama. She will have to vacate Astella once her Tehama unit becomes available so that her temporary home can be placed back in the city’s lottery system for affordable units.

Uncertainty hangs in the air for Bataan as she still doesn’t know when they will have to move back into 33 Tehama.

“When are we going to move back? No one knows when the repairs are going to be done,” Bataan said.

The move-in date extension was mentioned in a plan for repairing 33 Tehama that was submitted to the city Thursday, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

The plan says tenant re-occupancy is now targeted for the first half of 2023. Hines said it “will not have a more accurate target timeline until our assessments of the fire suppression system and electrical system are complete.”

Hines has been contacted for comment.