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SF officials call for federal probe, hearing into housing nonprofit

Supervisor Catherine Stefani, left, and state Sen. Scott Wiener have both called for separate investigations into TODCO, an affordable housing nonprofit in San Francisco. | Composite photo by The Standard

Elected officials in San Francisco are calling for investigations into the Tenants and Owners Development Corporation (TODCO) following reports by The Standard that found large increases in the nonprofit’s political spending as tenants have complained of substandard living conditions.

Supervisor Catherine Stefani said on Tuesday that she wants a multi-agency hearing and review of TODCO’s contracts with the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, which has facilitated multimillion-dollar grants to the nonprofit.

“I want to be very clear: Public resources must not be used for political or personal gain, period,” Stefani said. “Profiting from the taxpayer and public subsidies and at the expense of the city’s most vulnerable is absolutely shameful.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. Scott Wiener told The Standard he believes the U.S. Inspector General should launch a federal investigation into TODCO, which receives millions of dollars from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to subsidize the rent of its elderly, disabled and formerly homeless tenants.

TODCO’s expenditures on lobbying, political campaigns, salaries for executives and grants to other political groups have surged over the last decade, while the organization steadily decreased the share of revenue it spends on tenants living in its eight buildings in the South of Market area. 

“An investigation would absolutely be warranted,” Wiener said.

Residents of one of TODCO’s single-room occupancy buildings said they deal with constant infestations, and city records show that 15 of the nonprofit’s tenants have died from drug overdoses since the beginning of 2020. Taxpayer money that goes to TODCO not only includes subsidies to cover gaps in rent, but also is intended to fund services and programs for residents.

The Standard found that TODCO has seen its revenue more than double over the last decade thanks to the soaring cost of rent in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the organization appears to have underreported the value of a free apartment given to its president, John Elberling.

“We welcome any honest discussion about our work,” Elberling said in an email Tuesday evening. “The facts will speak for themselves.”

A report published Tuesday also noted that Jon Jacobo, one of the nonprofit’s directors who was accused of rape in 2021, is being groomed to help lead the organization into the future after Elberling’s retirement.