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Renters Face Federal Eviction From San Francisco's Former Iranian Consulate

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- The federal government has filed a lawsuit against renters of a mansion at 3400 Washington Street, according to court documents.

It's an Ellis Act eviction, which is allowable as long as the landlord is taking the property off the rental market.

The house is in Presidio Heights, one of the richest neighborhoods in San Francisco, so evictions are rare.

The 8,718 square foot mansion with 17 rooms and 8 bathrooms is the former Iranian consulate. Zillow estimates the property is worth $15,760,243 and would draw about $15,000 a month in rent. Bruce and Alexandra Owen have been renting the property since 1984. They pay $5,524 each month.

In 1971, the property was the site of the largest bomb blast in San Francisco history, when Iranian dissidents set off explosives on the side of the house. No one was hurt.

After diplomatic relations broke off with Iran in 1980, the U.S. State Department took custody of the building to conserve it and made a rental agreement with the Owens. But a recent federal inspection found the property is in bad shape and the couple's rent is not enough to make up for the $5 million repairs needed so the government began an eviction process.

"They have been model citizens for this city," said Charlie Ferguson of the Presidio Heights Association of Neighbors and the Owens' next-door neighbor. "They put their money, a lot of money, into renovating this place after it was ruined."

Ferguson worries about a repeat of 3800 Washington. In 2015, police arrested a squatter for selling stolen art out of that property after it fell into disrepair.

"What happens is people who are up to no good manage to sneak in and stay there for long periods of time," Ferguson said.

The couple was unavailable to talk to KPIX. They are fighting the eviction.

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