There are two vignettes that capture some of the qualities that make rich people different from you and me. First there is the story of billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla who bought a piece of beachfront property and promptly declared that the beach was his private property, fenced it off, and hired private security to throw out any peons who dared to encroach on his sacred land.
Naturally he was sued and on August 9, 2017 the state Court of Appeals of the First District of California rejected Khosla’s claim and ordered that access to the beach be restored to what had existed before. They also ordered Khosla to pay the attorneys’ fees for the group that brought the lawsuit against him. You can read the opinion here. This is not the first time that rich people have tried to eliminate access to prime property that had formerly been open to the public and this legal setback is a good sign.
Another case had an amusing twist. There is a very wealthy enclave in prime territory in the city of San Francisco. The houses in this enclave are serviced by a private road called Presidio Terrace.
Those residents value their privacy — and their exclusivity. Past homeowners have included Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her financier husband, Richard Blum; House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi; and the late Mayor Joseph Alioto. A guard is stationed round the clock at the stone-gate entrance to the street to keep the curious away.
[T]he private development that has been managed by the homeowners since at least 1905. That includes a string of well-coiffed garden islands, palm trees and other greenery that enhance the gated and guarded community at the end of Washington Street, just off Arguello Boulevard and down the hill from the Presidio.
But the residents have not paid the trifling $14 per year tax for three decades, something that all owners of private streets in the city are required to do. So the city did what it does with all property that becomes delinquent for not paying taxes and put it up for auction. The road was then purchased by a young couple in another city for a mere $90,100 and they are planning to get a return on their investment by charging the residents for parking in the 120 spaces on the street.
Unsurprisingly, the residents were more than a little upset when they belatedly found out what had happened.
“I was shocked to learn this could happen, and am deeply troubled that anyone would choose to take advantage of the situation and buy our street and sidewalks,” said one homeowner, who asked not to be named because of pending litigation.
Why the tax was not paid for so long and why the residents were not aware of the auction sale of the street is not clear.
There is a final little irony to this story. The purchasers of the road Tina Lam and Michael Cheng are immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan but “Until a 1948 U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning the enforcement of racial covenants, homes in Presidio Terrace could be purchased only by whites.” It is probably the case that rather than seeking to actually put in parking meters and the like they are looking to have the owners buy them out at a profit.