Slumlord Owns 241 Housing Units in OB
By Frank Gormlie / OB Rag
Many OBceans struggle long and hard to earn the financial resources to purchase their one house, condo or apartment. Many never obtain enough to make the plunge into buying property in Ocean Beach. It is so expensive to buy a home at the coast, that it’s prohibitive for most.
But not for Michael Mills, the notorious slumlord of Ocean Beach. Mills has a virtual empire in OB. He and his trusts own 241 homes, condos and apartments in the Ocean Beach area.
Imagine that. Two-hundred and forty-one units. And many of these units exist within multi-unit apartments.
Last June, we began the effort to document Mills’ properties in the community. Residents undertook a tenants rights rally on June 4th in OB at the end of Newport. During the event, Mills’ name kept coming up. Here’s how we reported then:
On Saturday, June 4th, activists from a renters’ advocate organization called San Diego Tenants United held a rally at the foot of Newport Avenue, where among other issues in the speeches and testimonials given by organizers, supporters and OB tenants, the name of a notorious OB slumlord was mentioned several times: Michael Mills.
Mills owns a lot of property in Ocean Beach – many rental units. And he has a long history buying up properties, raising rents, and maintaining sub-standard living conditions. In fact, back in 1998, a judge sentenced Mills to a year in jail after he pleaded no contest to 10 charges of maintaining substandard rental properties in Ocean Beach.
The judge also placed Mills on three years probation, and one of his conditions of probation was to hire a professional management company to bring his properties up to code.
At the sentencing, the Deputy City Attorney hailed the victory over the slumlord, particularly since many of his tenants were low-income families with children. San Diego Source (1-28-1998)
Rumors have swirled for years about how many rental units Mills actually owns, so we set out… to find just a few of his properties.
The June article continued with an accounting of 51 units owned by Mills, along with photos of a number of the apartments and units.
More recently, with the aid of a property researcher (who wishes to remain anonymous), we continued our search of his land holdings in the village.
What we came up is astounding. We put together a long list of his properties in OB and surrounding neighborhoods. And we tallied them up and found he and his trusts own 241 units. They are scattered all over OB and parts of Point Loma, but Mills has focused on the old “war zone” area of northwest OB.
What’s more, 6 out of every 7 OBceans rent. So, with this base to work from, Mills has enjoyed decades of living off the land – with hundreds of residents paying him and his managers. Imagine just one month’s worth of rent: 241 units x $1200 (a low-ball figure for an apartment, definitely). A very conservative estimate, then is around $300,000. A month. Which is over $3 and half millions a year – taken from OB tenants. (Certainly, many units may not be occupied, but that $1200 figure is so low, it’s almost silly.)
Of course, this is not “profit”, for he has to pay mortgages, his managers, all the upkeep and maintenance on all these units.
Our good friend Dave Rice – who writes for the SD Reader – also reported on the rally back in June. One of the organizers of that rally, Rebecca Shulman of San Diego Tenants United, told Rice:
“Michael Mills has…been paying cash for multi-unit buildings around O.B. and, after 60 days, raising rents. Some of the tenants who’ve remained in these buildings say they’re half empty now, and though he’s coming in and putting a little paint on, some flooring, but if you look at the properties he owns they’re really some of the gnarliest, most run-down buildings in O.B.”
One thing our map doesn’t show: the multiple unit complexes and apartments.
For example, his property at 4955 Niagara – only 1 star on our map – has 37 units – his largest complex in OB, which he bought in 1991. His place at 4657 Muir – which takes up half a block – has 25 units.
Our list and map tell the general story. We’re sure there are hundreds of individual stories of tenants of Mills. But for now, for today, this is sufficient. They stand for what they are.
Part of the OB Rag’s eternal quest to provide truth to the village residents. More to come.
Here’s the list: