Over the past couple of decades, the San Francisco Bay Area, known as a hub of diverse, progressive, and freethinking spirits, was hit with an influx of transplants recruited to build the future of technology. The rise of Silicon Valley and its innovation came at the cost of eradicating the soul of America’s anti-capitalist capital along with affordable rent in the metro area.
As former and current residents direct their frustrations toward gentrification and the outsiders, new reporting from the San Francisco Chronicle maps out 12 power players who own the majority of the area’s real estate.
After a year of culling through 2.3 million unique records with the help of machine learning—and good old-fashioned journalism—reporters at the Chronicle created a map highlighting property ownership in nine Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.
The networks of property owners include Veritas Investments, Invitation Homes, Michael Marr, Greystar, Woodmont/Tad Taube, Equity Residential, John Vidovich, Neill Sullivan/REO Homes, Essex, UDR Inc., Tricon Residential, AvalonBay, and Ardenbrook/Ardenwood. They’ve become the antithesis of the Bay Area community and have found themselves on the receiving end of lawsuits by residents who claim maltreatment and foul play.
Here’s what we learned from the reporting:
- Veritas Investments. With 293 buildings in San Francisco, Veritas is the largest property owner in the Bay Area. According to the report, “though Veritas Investments says it operates thousands of apartments, its name didn’t appear on a single Bay Area county property ownership record as of mid-2021.” Veritas’s business model relies on working with investors to buy rentals or manage tenants. More than 200 investor LLCs tied to Veritas offices are registered to the CEO, Yat-Pang Au, and his family members.
- Michael Marr. One of the East Bay’s largest private landlords, Marr made a name for himself in the real estate world by buying and flipping homes. Marr was so successful that he caught the government’s attention, which led to an FBI raid of his offices in 2011 and subsequent jail time six years later. “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Marr privately agreed with other bidders not to compete against each other at the public auctions, having members of the groups purchase the properties at the public auctions for artificially low prices, then holding second, private auctions among themselves,” the Chronicle’s report says. Marr was released in 2020.
- Greystar Real Estate Partners. The subject of 200 federal lawsuits over the past 26 years, Greystar is not only the bane of renters’ existence in the Bay Area but that of renters across the country. An international real estate corporation, Greystar is the largest property management group in the U.S. with almost 750,000 multifamily units. Greystar became a notorious landlord villain when it demolished a 216-unit rent-controlled complex in Silicon Valley to build one-bedroom units starting at $3,299 per month.