Fake project applications crop up in San Francisco

Fictitious filings challenge online planning system

San Fransisco Planning Department at 49 S Van Ness Ave Suite 1400, San Francisco (Google Maps, Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)
San Fransisco Planning Department at 49 S Van Ness Ave Suite 1400, San Francisco (Google Maps, Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

One plan called for demolishing San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter. Others called for lofty highrises and hotels around SoMa and the Tenderloin, or a rebranded Civic Center Inn.

They were all bogus – among a half-dozen fake project applications to the San Francisco Planning Department after it scrapped in-person filing requirements during the pandemic, the San Francisco Business Times reported.

The fake filings began last year after the project application process moved entirely online in spring 2020 because of the coronavirus.

The new system requires less upfront verification for applications than would have been the case with plans reviewed in person, which required affidavits and filing fees.

“We are aware of an individual who has submitted a handful of fictitious — and in some cases quite far-fetched — applications for about a half-dozen properties,” said Dan Sider, the department’s chief of staff, in an email to the Business Times. “None of these applications include the required documents, plans or owner authorizations.

“Accordingly, we are in the process of rejecting them.”

None of the fake filings were advanced to the next stage of project review. The department said it’s taking steps to change its online application system to defend against fictitious applications.

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The fake proposals were submitted from an applicant named Kaylee Lynn Stein, who was not available by phone or email, according to the Business Times.

The latest was filed July 20, seeking to demolish the MSC-South homeless shelter at Bryant and Fifth streets to make way for a 19-story mixed-use project.

The Bryant Street application lists real estate developer Jay Paul Company, based in the Embarcadero Center, as project representative. But the company had never heard of the project or its applicant.

“It’s a little disturbing that people are throwing our name out there,” said Matt Lituchy, chief investment officer at Jay Paul, who said he was unaware of the application until contacted by the newspaper.

Other fake applications were submitted in August 2021 for 790 Ellis Street, falsely claiming the applicant had acquired the Civic Center Inn and that their own hotel brand was “moving in.” The application was withdrawn five months later, but then resubmitted the following spring for a “full renovation of the property.”

– Dana Bartholomew

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