Time to Reform the Assessor's Office and Assessement Appeals Board

buchsons's picture

Either the Assessor's office intentionally over-assesses properties or the staff is incompetent.  The assessment on my condo went up last year, when the entire market was down an average of around 9%.  My initial appeal was turned down so I had to go before the Assessment Appeals Board (AAB).

The Assessor's representative was completely unprepared for the hearing, and had no comps when my case was called.  He ran down to his office and appeared nearly half-an-hour later with some comps from the wrong building.  I pointed this out and his manager got up and defended his case, saying that the building next door was just like mine, therefore the comps were valid.  The problem is that when I tried to provide comps from the building next door in the my prior years' base year hearing then Assessor's representative claimed that only comps in my building were valid, which at that time the AAB accepted. 

The AAB lowered my assessment, but it still was well above the market value.  This system is a joke.  There is no way that my condo went up in value last year and no way that I should have been forced to waste my time going to the AAB.  I cannot believe that the AAB is an impartial body.  They behave as if they consider the financial condition of the city when valuing properties, which should be irrelevant when considering an assessed valuation.

I will have to appeal my 2010 assessment as well.  I was assessed around $40K above the sale price of an identical condo immediately next door to me, that has nicer features.

I would be willing to make the city a personal loan of $10K interest free for a year to cover its short-term expenses if I could get an assessment that is aligned to the reduced value of my property.  And what about Prop 13?  I favor it.  We need to do everything possible to force state and local governments to run as lean as possible.

Phil Ting's picture

Thanks for your feedback.

First off, I am sorry you had to go through all that.  In June 2009, we reviewed over 15,000 single family home and flats and reduced almost 10,000 of them.  This was done proactively without any taxpayer applications.  Additionally, we reviewed 4,000 informal review applications and reduced approximately 1,700 of them.  Some people thought we over-reduced their home, but of course, they didnt file any complaints with our office.

There is no excuse for unprepared staff.  I would be interested to know the staff who handled both of your cases.

While we may not agree with every taxpayer about the value of their home, the valuations should be based on comparable sales and staff should always be prepared.  Comparables from your next door building should not be disqualified automatically.  There may be better comparables but comparables should be not automatically unless they do not fit state guidelines, which are comparable sales after 90 days may not be used for our valuations.

Again, I would be interested in knowing more about yrou case.  Please leave me an email or phone number and I will personally contact you.  Thanks,


Phil Ting's picture


Let's try this.  Call 311 and ask them to connect you to me.  This should at least get you to my office.  Let me know if that works.


We get a ton of emails at the generic address.  We might not be able to get to yours in the same day.

buchsons's picture


Left a voicemail with Summer.

Lucy in the sky's picture

I like this

Thanks for responding to this person so promptly I'm sure there is a lot of footwork that remains to be done but it's great to see that you so quickly responded and stepped up to the plate.

Glad to have seen this thread.

km123's picture

SF property value up 4%

It's great to see that Phil Ting is actually on here posting and responding to concerns of constituents. 

Buchsons, property value in San Francisco actually went up 4% this year - better than anywhere in the state. That could explain why your value went up, even if you weren't aware. And I agree with Phil, there's no reason for unprepared staff. We all need to work harder and smarter to make sure that everyone's prepared.

buchsons's picture

Thank you for the call


Thank you for taking the time to call me and discuss my post.

buchsons's picture

SF property value up 4%

My case was for 2008/2009.  And through FY2009 and FY2010, the property next door to me sat on the market for over 6 months, finally selling for over 7% below the listing price and 17% below the price my place was initially assessed at. 

That said, I'm glad to hear that prices are up 4% this year.  There are parts of Detroit where you can purchase most of a city block with a credit card.

DaveP's picture

Tax Assessment appeal process for Decline in Market Value

Sorry, but this entire process has been an utter sham in my experience.  For two or three years now, it hasn't worked.  Three years ago, I get the notice in the mail of my tax valuation, and send in my Informal Review Request, only to be told that the deadline for requests had closed.  Two years ago, I did the same, only to get an automated reply that the window had closed.  When I pointed out that it was for the current tax year (your office assumed the previous year, despite my correctly filling out the appeal form), and pointing out to your staff that the appeal deadline had not in fact passed, and that I would appreciate a reply, I received the one-word email "received."  That's it.  No change.  Fast-forward to Tax Year 2010-2011.  I AGAIN get an appraisal that is obviously and significantly higher than the appraised value of my property.  Determined to get it changed, I watched the slick little video on how to appeal, and see the time it would require and the hoops I'd have to jump through.  This system is a farce, and is obviously stacked in the City's favor.

Oh yeah - the evidence I provided each and every time, that was over-ruled by your office, Phil?  Actual sales of units exactly like mine, or even larger, in MY SAME BUILDING.  I have a condo in a small complex (8 units total).  In addition to a professional appraisal of MY UNIT, and comps used for real estate appraisal, I provided actual sales figures of identical units, only to be told by your office that the city's appraised value stands.

This is a joke.  If you want my place for the amount you say it's worth, you can have it.  Give me a call, it's yours.

Phil Ting's picture

Thanks for your comments


I'm sorry you had to go through this.  All our mailings have specific deadlines so staff can manage their work throughout the year.  As I mentioned earlier, we reduced over 11,700 homeowners asssments for the FY 09-10 bill and over 12,000 homeowners for the FY 10-11 tax bills. 

As I offered the previous owner, you can call me at 311 ask for my admin office and I will be happy to take a second look at your property.  Happy to look at the comps in your building and look at your values.


DaveP's picture

  Thanks, Phil - it is nice


Thanks, Phil - it is nice to have a means to get a personal reply to a sincere question and and my legitimate appeal for a better process.  I took you up on the offer of a phone call, to no avail.  However, as a clarification, I WAS told two years in a row that the deadline had passed for appeals, and the second time corrected your staff that the appeals deadline had not, in fact, closed.  And, I genuinely appreciate your offer to look at comps, but as I said, I have already provided a combination of professional appraisals of my unit, comparable sales figures, and, more to the point, sales from units equivalent to mine, or even larger, that sold for FAR LESS than the amount your staff were telling me that my unit would be taxed upon.  I'm unsure how you can do better than provide actual sales amounts from the same condo complex, during the appropriate sales interval.

Your Base Year Value of my condo is $397,004.

Even with the $7000 exemption that "I may be eligible for" (no, I don't know whether I am or not, and am not sure how to determine whether I am), you tell me that in 2010-2011 my unit has a Net Assessed Value of $293,000.  A unit the same size as mine sold in January for $229,000, ($64,000 lower than your assessed value) and a LARGER UNIT THAN MINE, with one more bedroom than mine has, just sold in the last few days within this same condo complex (again, only 8 units total) for $235,000 ($58,000 lower than your assessment of mine).

It's hard to see how the city has been accurate in their assessments these past years.  You can see why it is especially surprising when people like me provide you with irrefutable evidence that your assessments are unjustifiably high, only to be told year after year that your indefensibly high valuation still stands.

By the way - I can't get through on 311.  The live operator did transfer me to your administrative office, but the recording simply refers me to the AAB website, thanks me, and politely says goodbye before disconnecting me.

Do you see what I mean about this process being a joke, how it takes a disproportionate effort on the taxpayer's part to correct YOUR mistakes, and how it blatantly keeps valuations high? I'd have to take vacation time from my job to see this through the way the process works (or, more correctly, fails to work) now.  This is a sham.

Phil Ting's picture

Let's try this

Dave if you pass along an email or phone number.  I will call you directly.  You shouldn't get a voicemail for our general line since we don't have voicemai off our general line. 

Did you ask for the Assessor's office or the Assessment Appeals Board?  I'm at the Assessor's office.  311 worked for the last taxpayer. 

Happy to look at your comparables as well as your property.  The informal reviews are a cursory look at over 20,000 properties over a six week period.  We are not able to spend a significant amount of time on each property.  Given this, any borderline cases are rejected and we encourage people to appeal to the AAB.  The deadline in our county is September 15th.  The case should not take more than one hour - usually they take less time.  I know time is precious  - I often feel the same way you do when I have to protest a parking ticket or have to deal with other bureaucratic snafus.

Regarding homeowner's exemption, as long as that is your primary residence and you have not applied for it in another county in the state, you are eligible for the exemption.

Thanks and look forward to talking to you!


DaveP's picture

OK - let's try this, but how to transmit my contact info?


How can I provide my email address and phone number for your use without broadcasting both on this forum?

I'll provide my email address, and if you get in touch, I'll give you my telephone number directly.  Thanks so much for your attention to this matter.


MODERATOR, can you please transmit to Phil Ting without broadcasting my email, or delete it after a short time?

buchsons's picture

Following up...

Hi Phil.


Any thoughts on the 2010 assessment that we discussed?  Thank you.  I will be appealing unless I hear otherwise.



Phil Ting's picture

Following up...

I heard you accept our reduction in value.  Let me know if we have any other follow up.  Thanks!

DaveP's picture

Call back?

Hi Phil-


Someone from your office phoned me, but I was on my way into a meeting and could not stop to talk.  I asked for a call-back on the following Monday, but no call came.  And, when I tried to re-dial the number that appeared on my cell phone, I got the message that it is an un-usable number.  Can I get that call back to discuss all the information I provided about the valuation of my condo?


Thank you-


buchsons's picture

Following up...

Yes, I did accept your assessment provided to me by phone.  It matches that of the identical unit next to me that sold during the fiscal year.  That's much more reasonable than what it was previously.  


Thank you for the calls and for your time.

monikaml's picture

The Assessor's office definitely needs an overhaul!

I have to agree with a lot of what's being said in this thread.  I have been arguing my property value for 3 years now.  The first year was a lesson on how it works, but I did receive the correct reduction utilizing the Appeals Board that I didn't receive from the Assessor's office.  The second year I was told by the Assessor's office NOT to re-apply because my property would be automatically re-assessed.  I kept calling and asking and I was told to wait and wait....that is until the time period for me to appeal was over.  After that deadline, everyone at the office acted as if I should have known how their job works and I couldn't possibly have been told to wait for my re-assessment by their offices.  Very clever.  So this past year, I automatically went with the Appeals Boards, now seeing how the Assessor's office does things.  And by the way, I don't know if the economy skyrocketed this past year but my property value sure did.  If I could get that much for my house, I'd sell it today.  It is clear to me that the Assessor's office is doing this kind of thing to most San Franciscans to make money for the city instead of doing their job properly because when I called the Appeals Board to find out when my court date was, I was informed that 2010 appeals will be heard in a year and a half.  That is astonishing!  If you really want to "Reset San Francisco" Phil Ting, start with your own office.

bobbyh's picture

Very cool

While government is certainly not perfect, and we all know that well here, I just wanted to stop and take minute to recognize that we have an Assesor of a major US city posting responses on a discussion board directly engaging taxpayers and following up to resolve issues.  Very cool, that is what government service should be about, and I wish other elected officials did the same, imagine that....

denbearx2's picture

property tax assessment scam

My property tax this year on my condo was almost $100,000. greater than the market value. When I asked the assessor about this, he told me I could contest this assessment, that it could take up to "1.5 to 2 years before the issue is resolved".  This is an outrage!! It is also grand larceny!  And we as working people are powerless to do a thing!  It is quite clear that the government has every intention of balancing the budget on the backs of the working people!  As previously stated, the assessor is either grossly incompetent, or intentionally overstating property values! What do you think? 

Phil Ting's picture

Market Values

Denbearx2 - wanted to just get back to you.  If you're referring to the bill you received in October 2010, the value was based on your value as of Jan 2010.  We reviewed over 15,000 homes which were purchased after 2000 in every neighborhood in the San Francisco and reduced approximately 10,000 homes where we found data to support a reduction.  Some homes may have dropped in value, but we may not have had any data to support a reduction so we have to wait until we go through a more formal appeal to do a more detailed review.  While I know it's an inconvenience to you, it's the only fair way to go given the resources of the office and the Revenue and Tax Code of California.  If you want us to take a closer look - call 311 and ask for Michael Hunt in the Assessor's office.  Give him your information and we'll see if we agree with you.  Again, our value are based on other home sales in your neighborhood or similar type homes.  If we dont have any good comparisons we can't reduce the assessment.  Thanks,

Phil Ting's picture


Monkami - I'm sorry about your situation.  Your home should have been reviewed and if we believed the property did not increase in value, then the same reduction should have applied to this year.  Can you call 311 and ask for Michael Hunt in my office and give him the info for your property?  I'd like to take a look at it and understand what happened.  Thanks,

ronzer's picture

Assessor-Recorder Office wont take into account AAB findings

The property tax assessment of my TIC is based on the purchase price from 2007.  I believe that the value has gone down since then and requested an assessment appeal through the Assessment Appeals Board.  I finally got an AAB hearing in Feb 2011 for tax year 2009 (application 1848).  The board agreed with me reducing my assessment significantly.  My expectation was that the next new city assessment would take into account the AAB board findings but that was not the case.  The 2011 assessment showed that the value of my property had gone up since 2007, not down.  I called the Assessor-Recorder Office asking why they didn't take into account the AAB hearing result in the latest  assessment and they said that it is their policy that the AAB results only affects the year in which you appeal and that I would need to file a separate appeal for every tax year until the value of my house exceeds the 2007 purchase price.
I have my tax year 2010 AAB hearing scheduled for the end of this month (application 4954).  I contacted the city assessor assigned to my hearing and asked if we could agree to settle for the tax year 2009 AAB hearing result to save us both time but he would not agree to it.  So not only do I have to request an appeal every year, I have to redo all the research  (can't use the same comps) to prove that the value has gone down and take time off work to re-present my case to the AAB.
I do not understand this policy.  If the AAB finds the value has gone down why won't the Office of the Assessor-Recorder take that into account in future assessments?

buchsons's picture

Questioning the integrity of the Assessor's Office

My property was assessed at $150K more than the appraised value from when I tried to refi in March.  It's clear that the people who valued it either had no clue what they were doing or did this on purpose.
If I give Phil the benefit of the doubt and assume that he hires competent people then I am convinced more than ever that the assessor's office intentionally over assesses properties and forces taxpayers to appeal, knowing that the process can be lengthy.  In the meantime, the city can hold the taxpayers' money interest free.  The taxpayer is than forced to go before a board that is biased in favor of the city (as I have been told in confidence by a city employee). 
This free borrowing comes out to some large numbers.  If as few as 10,000 properties are over-assessed yielding an average overpayment of $1,000 in tax, and it takes 1-2 years for overpaid tax to be refunded  then it's the equivalent of a 1-2 year interest free $10M loan.
If the city wants to borrow money from its citizens inexpensively, then it should just ask rather than make us go through this assessment appeal process every year.  I would gladly loan the city some cash in exchange for a fair assessment, and to avoid having to deal with this.

DaveP's picture

Here we go again; over-valuation, broken assessor's office

Time for the process to repeat: 1) SF Assessor's Office overvalues property to increase revenues; 2) Assessor's Office sends notice AFTER the appeals period has started; 3) Assessor's Office creates a difficult, time-consuming appeals process, and makes the owner pay to correct Assessor mistakes; 4) Then, don't even bother responding to a correctly filed appeal that is documented with ACTUAL comparables to demonstrate REAL property values, and which is filed on time.  No, simply send your over-inflated tax bill, and take UP TO TWO YEARS TO DECIDE.
Phil, this is ludicrous.  We work hard enough making ends meet, and the work your appeal takes is outrageous, and the response one gets would be laughable if it wasn't my money you are extorting.  You sent me a tax bill that does not come close to reflecting reality, and I sent you ACTUAL COMPS and sales data for my neigghborhood, and you ignored it.
Re-set this, Phil.  Utter incompetence and greed.  Do I have to contribute to somebody's campaign?

DaveP's picture

I guess this wasn't worth replying to.

Phil, if the Assessor's Office does not plan to even respond to my correctly filed Request for Change in Value, and declines without response to answer my emails, then the least you can do is refund my $60 and explain how what I did to appeal was in any way inadequate and undeserving of a reply.
I guess the actual data I provided for comparable sales prices, from my neighborhood, collected from the appropriate time frame, and demonstrating unequivocally that my assessment was inflated wasn't good enough.  I would be very interested to hear why this wasn't good enough.

DaveP's picture

Assessor's Office Non-response and incompetence

Phil, what do I have to do to get a response from your office?  I sent my Request for Change in Value materials in ON TIME, and to the letter of the instructions, and I have been trying ever since to get some kind of answer.  The first few times, someone called from a telephone number that cannot be called back.  Zero help.  The next few times involved me re-submitting my materials via email or fax, directly to a named individual, in this case Michael.  This happened over months, by the way.  Michael was responsive, and corresponded with me via email.
On November 21, after no response or even acknowledgement of receipt, I again emailed Michael.  I received a one-line email response, saying "I will try to review your case."  Phil, I doubt if this city would accept if I said that I would try to pay my taxes.  When I replied to this effect, I received an email that my request has been assigned to an appraiser.  Are you kidding me?  If I had submitted even one day after the deadline, your office would have thrown my application out, but here I am months after starting the process, and my application has yet to be assigned?
Phil, payments are due on December 10.  Yes, I realize that your office says that during applications review, we are still required to pay based on your assessed value (only one of several aspects of this process which makes me question how legitimate the process is).  But come on, it should not be a full-time job getting a fair appraisal. 

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137