Fire Destroys Alleged Castro Drug Den – February 23, 2018. This is the backdrop for Joel Elliott’s story. You might recognize his name as the owner of a controversial Sanchez St. property that has been labeled a “drug den” by many reports, though any sources can only refer to the building as an “alleged drug den.” Why? Because that particular case was dismissed. This man was not convicted of the much hyped 2015 drug offense. In fact, despite all the press when the San Francisco City Attorney filed their case, only $1,600 of cash and about 130 grams of some drug was found. But “drug den” is attached to his name in every story, on every news outlet – effectively branding him for life. Maybe this is why no one has thought twice about turning him onto the streets.
Mr. Elliott first came under the City’s watch when he failed to make fairly routine repairs to his rental property and home at 517-519 Sanchez St. The repairs included replace smoke detectors, handrails, peeling paint on exterior of property, among others. As a result, the City filed a case supposedly meant to protect tenants, though the situation wasn’t quite so black and white.
Those close to Mr. Elliott say that repairs were postponed due to fact that he did not have the money, which was made even more unattainable by tenants’ consistently late or nonexistent rent payments. As many landlords do, Mr. Elliott relied on the rent money to meet his expenses each month, including building upkeep. The necessary maintenances would have cost less than $25,000 in total, but the City brutally penalized Mr. Elliott with $1.7 million.
With no money to fight the City in court, the City Attorney’s demand of $1.7mm quite literally took Mr. Elliott for everything he was worth – without a trial, without a chance to defend himself, and with no money to hire help or fix his building.
What’s worse is that this whole vicious case could have been avoided. The Health Code in the State of California states that the Building Department can make necessary repairs and lien the building, but this reasonable opportunity was not offered to Mr. Elliott. Even with interest and paying back the Building Department, this would have been a much cheaper – and less permanent – solution than losing millions of dollars (that he didn’t have in the first place) in addition to the roof over his head. But because of media-induced group-think and other motives of the City Attorney’s Office, Mr. Elliott was forced into the direst situation possible.
Friends note that Mr. Elliott has suffered several personal traumas and struggles with his mental health, particularly now that he has virtually nothing to his name. He has no family on the West Coast and didn’t see a nickel of any loans or sales. The City took everything. How is this possible?
A specific clause of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution limits governments from imposing “excessive fines” as punishment. Punishing someone $1.7 million for $25,000 worth of maintenance – and robbing him of his home and only source of income – certainly seems to fall under the category of “excessive.” But with a brainwashed public and a lack of checks and balances in the San Francisco legal system, “excessive” has become the norm – and it could happen to anyone.
Friends and neighbors of Joel Elliott, those affected by bloodthirsty government prosecution, and any citizens and legal professionals with empathy must unite as one voice and urge the City of San Francisco – a place that has branded itself as a sanctuary to all – to take a closer look at its own villainous actions and answer to the hurt and wounded citizens it is sworn to protect and serve.