susie-c

When Steven J. Kopff asked Oakland Local to publish his opinion piece on how his personal efforts have been transforming his Eastlake neighborhood, he clearly didn’t realize what he was getting into.

Kopff mused on his value planting trees and installing library boxes after purchasing an 8,000 square foot mansion and moving here a year ago. The piece lamented the area’s lack of restaurants, grocery stores, and services — to the scorn of nearby residents, including myself, who pointed out just how very many of these things there are in our community. Some commented that Kopff has called the building department on some neighbors, and that he took responsibility for projects that others had actually implemented.

The piece was so reviled that Oakland Local ultimately deleted the post, they say, at the author’s request, along with all its attendant comments, but without any further explanation. (Google has a cache of the page and many of the comments here.)

What they can’t delete is the rest of Kopff and his business partner’s well-documented history of Bay Area property manipulation.

According to records, Kopff actually incorporated his Oakland neighborhood beautification nonprofit one week before the sale on his Oakland home closed. What’s more disturbing, though, is the San Francisco accountant’s history of property flipping in what has now become the country’s most expensive city.

According to San Francisco county property records, between 1998 and 2007, Kopff and his apparent business partner Peter Lenox purchased and sold eight homes in some of the city’s southern, less well-to-do neighborhoods. All told, they raised property values a cumulative $1,690,000, and collected untold profits for themselves. I’ve mapped those properties here.

I would have had no interest in spending a couple hours looking up Steven Kopff’s deeds were it not for his piece about moving to this dense and diverse residential area, where home prices haven’t been increasing at the quick clip they have in other parts of the city, and where families of moderate income have been able to remain, building lives for decades. But Kopff got my attention, and the attention of many others, both new and old residents of this city, who are concerned about where it’s headed next.

Though I hate its overuse, I think the term “gentrifier” is apt here. But Steven Kopff is not a typical gentrifier. He is an indicator of change to come, for he is the one who creates that change — not organically, but through careful planning and economic manipulation.

But I hope others like Kopff won’t stay silent when the community speaks out against them next time. I hope they’ll keep talking. So we can find them.