A woman who will not allow herself to be identified has entered into a quick cash purchase agreement for the historic Rancho Santa Fe property at 15350 El Camino that takes advantage of a loophole in the state and county pandemic eviction moratorium allowing her effectively to evict current occupants with 16 days notice by Aug. 6.
Current state law and county ordinance addressing the pandemic state no evictions may begin in San Diego County until Aug. 15 at the earliest. Traditionally, and by statute, tenants are then allowed 30 days to vacate the premises.
However, this Rancho Santa Fe Covenant homeowner apparently has found a 1946 state law loophole allowing her to evict tenants with little notice, apparently threatening to cut off all utilities and service at the estate on Aug. 6, the day after the current owners tenant agreements terminate. However, further research showed that current ordinances voided that loophole, so even that doesn’t exst.
This word was passed along to tenants by current property owner Lucie Le of San Diego through e-mail on Monday, July 19. Le has told tenants that as of Aug. 5 she has no responsibility for the estate and her partner said no rent should be paid to them for August.
The loophole states that a new owner of a property may evict tenants without cause and with an ambiguous eviction letter not certified by the courts if the prospective owner is buying the property and intends to occupy it.
Real estate listing agent Elaine Gallagher and buyer’s agent Bill Carpenter said the woman whom Gallagher called “a very private person” owned a house within the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant. However, the woman, whom they would not identify, was perturbed that she could not make unspecified renovations due to Rancho Santa Fe Association policies.
The secret buyer then entered into escrow for an unspecified straight cash-only purchase price with the current owners to purchase the historic El Camino Real property.
This property that was the party home for many Hollywood celebrities like Bing Crosby, John Wayne and Fred MacMurray, along with many other stars, was built by San Diego’s super-wealthy and influential Benbow family in the 1930s. The Benbows had a Covenant opt-in clause that they never exercised for the property that is surrounded by homes within the Covenant area.
Is the buyer too ashamed to reveal her identity?
The real estate agents said the secret buyer wanted the property so she and her family could make unspecified renovations that they could not do at their Covenant home. While paying cash for the property that was listed at over $4.5 million, they were keeping their current home as well, according to agents and the El Camino house sellers.
Le, and her partner Vu, live near Lake Murray at San Diego and own several other San Diego properties. They rented out portions of the estate and a pool house to five current tenants and also rented space to area visitors through the Airbnb system.
Le and Vu said they wanted to maintain the over 10,000-square foot main house, pool house and 5 1/2 acre property and continue renting out space as a service to the Rancho Santa Fe community rather than allow developers to turn the historic property into new homes. However, records showed they were losing over $20,000 a month with their arrangement for a long period of time.
Vu said they had lost over $1 million on the property and were being heavily pressured by the buyer whose identity has not been disclosed to him, forcing them to take at least $1 million off the list price. He said the buyer who will not identify herself, and her agents, were continuing to try to drive down the purchase price by specifying changes such as gate repairs costing $6,000 and landscaping alterations Le and Vu needed to execute before the forced sale.
Secret buyer has inscrutable goals
The mystery buyer, who apparently has enough money to pay over $3 million cash for this property while maintaining another Covenant property without selling it, was strong arming the El Camino property owners who desperately needed the cash sale or allow the property to be foreclosed, according to Vu.
With his eyes turning red, Vu said he had received better offers but they were contingent on financing and he was forced to sell the property as quickly as possible.
Since agents Gallagher and Carpenter refuse to disclose the buyer, and the buyer is so “very private” she apparently hides behind a Wizard of Oz curtain and cloak of invisibility, it has been impossible to reach her for comment.
As everyone familiar with the current pandemic rental market and always super-competitive North County coastal rental market knows, rental properties are nearly impossible to find right now.
Reasonably priced rental properties under $3,000 a month are virtually impossible to find, tenants say.
Compounding the difficulty in finding a new rental unit on 16 days notice is the Del Mar racing season and summer beach vacation season that sees swarms of visitors swoop down on Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas scooping up units through fall, many at inflated prices that year-residents with local jobs and families, like the poor El Camino Real tenants, can not afford.
Another consideration about the scenario generated with no lead time or warning by the “very private” secret mystery woman is that questions arise whether she, and family members, actually will occupy the property any time soon.
San Diego renters attorney David McCarthy said any attempt to cut off utilities by a new owner while the property was occupied would be illegal and subject to significant damages paid to the occupants.
And consider the humanity, or lack thereof, of shutting off all services to tenants while acting on a loophole in the pandemic eviction moratorium county and state laws.
Is this unidentified “very private” woman so entitled, so enamored with her wealth, so narcissistic or uncaring and without empathy that she would kick tenants — two of whom have a total of four children under the age of 12 and one who has a teenager along with a senior citizen — to the curb with 16 days notice in an impossible rental market. Why not allow them the dignity and time to find a new, and appropriate, place.
What did these longtime Ranch Santa Fe residents ever to do to this secret “very private person” who apparently is willing to pay over $3 million in cash so she can make home renovations outside of the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant where she also owns a home to an estate not included in the Covenant but surrounded by Covenant property.
Why not go with state and county guidelines instead of using a loophole to shimmy and skirt around it, and consider the Aug. 15 date a kickoff to 30 days notice, allowing current tenants to have at least the opportunity through Sept. 15 to find new places, as the law requires for every other landlord and property owner in San Diego County and the state of California.
Why is this “very private” secret sub rosa buyer who is so afraid to reveal herself perhaps because of her shame and shamelessness, and recognition of her impropriety, lacking even the smallest amount of honor and empathy? Why does she want to keep herself and her apparently self-entitlement eviction scenario under the table and out of public view.
Do the right thing lady, if we may even presume to title someone capable of such heinous actions a lady, and let the victim tenants stay until Sept.15, and not cut off their utilities even doing it illegally, so they can live like human beings and find new digs with dignity. Seriously, is that too much to ask.