12 mega-owners own the majority of the San Francisco Bay Area

Over the past two decades, the San Francisco Bay Area, known as a hub of diverse, progressive and freethinking minds, has been hit with an influx of transplants recruited to build the future of technology. The rise of Silicon Valley and its innovation has come at the cost of eradicating the soul of America’s anti-capitalist capital as well as affordable rents in the metropolitan area.

As former and current residents direct their frustrations at gentrification and foreigners, new reports from the San Francisco Chronicle mapping 12 powerful players who own the majority of real estate in the region.

After a year of sifting through 2.3 million unique records using machine learning and good old-fashioned journalism, reporters at the Chronicle created a map highlighting land ownership in nine Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.

Owner networks 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 have become the antithesis of the Bay Area community and found themselves at the end of lawsuits from residents who allege abuse and foul play.

Here’s what we learned from the report:

  • Veritas Investments. With 293 buildings in San Francisco, Veritas is the largest real estate owner in the Bay Area. According to the report, “although Veritas Investments claims to operate thousands of apartments, its name did not appear on a single Bay Area County property record as of mid-2021.” Veritas’ business model is based on working with investors to purchase rentals or manage tenants. More than 200 investor limited companies linked to Veritas offices are registered with the CEO, Yat-Pang Au, and his family members.
  • Michael Marr. One of East Bay’s largest private landlords, Marr has made a name for himself in the real estate world buying and flipping homes. Marr was so successful that he caught the attention of the government, which led to an FBI raid on his offices in 2011 and a prison sentence six years later. “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Marr privately agreed with other bidders not to compete with each other at the public auction, by instructing members of the groups to buy the properties at public auction at artificially low prices, then by organizing second private auctions between themselves”, the The Chronicle’says the report. Marr was released in 2020.
  • Greystar Real Estate Partners. The subject of 200 federal lawsuits over the past 26 years, Greystar is not just the bane of tenants’ existence in the Bay Area, but of tenants across the country. An international real estate company, Greystar is the largest property management group in the United States with nearly 750,000 multi-family units. Greystar became a notorious landlord villain when he tore down a 216-unit rent-controlled Silicon Valley complex to build one-bedroom units starting at $3,299 a month.

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