October 7, 2022

To study property ownership in the Bay Area, the Chronicle combed through millions of unique property and business documents, consulted experts and called on additional data sets.
We uncovered companies that have taken control of broad swaths of the Bay Area’s residential real estate — the single-family homes, townhomes and apartment buildings that are rented by tens of thousands of families in the region’s nine counties.
Last year, The Chronicle obtained data on almost every property in the Bay Area — about 2.3 million unique records. We were hoping the data would be a treasure trove of information about real estate ownership in the region, allowing us to easily identify who owns what, and thus pinpoint the most powerful corporate owners of rental housing.
Quickly, we learned it wasn’t so simple. California doesn’t have hard-and-fast rules on how property owners identify themselves; large corporations, hedge funds and even wealthy families often purchase multiple homes through shell companies or trusts, shielding their names from ownership records. It’s only by carefully tracing networks of ownership that one can start to grasp how much property an entity actually has.
So we redoubled our efforts. During the past year, The Chronicle analyzed these property records, which were collected from county assessors’ offices, plus nearly 7 million unique business records. We used machine learning methods to parse the data and called on dozens of experts and additional data sources. This work yielded a list of 12 of the Bay Area’s largest, most influential ownership networks. We believe this is an unprecedented effort to uncover rental ownership and management networks across all nine counties in the region: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma.
We still aren’t sure we’ve captured all of the Bay Area’s largest owners, but we’re confident this list of 12 includes some of the region’s major power players in residential real estate, housing tens of thousands of families in nearly 7,000 assessor-defined properties from San Jose to Santa Rosa. The owner networks on our list represent a diverse array of investors — from single-family rental giant Invitation Homes, to luxury apartment investor UDR Inc., to mobile home operator and California water baron John Vidovich.

It’s important to note that our analysis relied on counts of assessor-defined properties, which are unique “parcels” monitored and tracked by each assessor’s office. But a single parcel can encapsulate anything from an entire large apartment building to one condo unit to a single-family home, so our counts may not accurately reflect the true size of each ownership network.

Even if the owner of your property isn’t on our list, you can learn more about who owns it by using our map of nearly 2.3 million Bay Area properties here. You may read more about our methodology here.

Property Type:
Single-family homes
Tenant Type:
Market rate, affordable/lower-income
Invitation Homes Inc. (INVH), a real estate investment trust, or REIT, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, acquires, renovates and rents out single-family homes. Billing itself as “the nation’s premier home leasing company,” Invitation Homes has accumulated more than 80,000 properties nationwide, with homes concentrated in the western U.S., the Southeast, and Texas and Florida, since its founding in 2012, according to its latest annual Securities and Exchange Commission filing. In the Bay Area, our data shows that Invitation Homes owns at least 1,625 homes clustered in the East Bay and North Bay and spread across at least 29 unique entities, including subsidiaries like IH6 Property West L.P. and companies it recently acquired, like Starwood Waypoint.
A typical Invitation Homes property in the U.S. is a 1,870-square-foot single-family home, according to the company, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and its typical tenant is “less transitory than a typical multifamily resident.”
A Chronicle analysis found that Invitation Homes’ Bay Area properties are concentrated in cities whose populations are disproportionately Black compared with the overall region — Richmond (19%), Vallejo (19%), Antioch (20%), Vacaville (9.2%) and Fairfield (14.4%). (The nine-county Bay Area is 5.6% Black, according to the 2020 census.) Our findings mirror a recent Washington Post investigation that found, nationally in other U.S. regions, that investor-owned properties are concentrated in communities that have higher-than-average Black populations.
On its website, I.H. says its large-scale, “vertically integrated” operations give tenants a “consistent, worry-free way of life” that the company implies is superior to “mom-and-pop landlords” and smaller regional leasing companies. But Invitation Homes and its business model have recently come under scrutiny by tenants’ rights advocates, government agencies and the news media — a shift that the company lists as a “risk factor” in its corporate documents, along with eviction restrictions, rent-control policies and the transition to a “lower-carbon economy.”
In July 2022, The House of Representatives’ Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a panel examining what Democratic Rep. Al Green called the “mass predatory purchasing” practices of corporate owners like Invitation Homes. Another House committee, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, conducted a yearlong investigation of Invitation Homes and several other corporate owners of real estate, finding that I.H. “engaged in abusive tactics to remove tenants from their homes” during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic even as it “reported record profits.”
Kristi DesJarlais, a spokesperson for Invitation Homes, called the Financial Service Subcommittee panel’s use of the word predatory “egregious,” given Invitation Homes’ small share of the single-family-home market.
“In 2021 we purchased less than ½ of 1% of homes sold in the 16 markets we operate in,” DesJarlais wrote in an email. “The real challenge with housing in America is lack of supply, not the small impact of the purchases of owner-operators like Invitation Homes.” She added that the coronavirus subcommitee’s report “clearly states that we did not engage in practices that were unlawful,” and that the company “helped over 10,000 residents in obtaining rental assistance payments totaling more than $94 million.”
A Washington Post investigation published in July found the company performed “shoddy,” non-permitted work on some of its homes, leading tenants to experience risky living conditions including rotten wood, leaky ceilings and flooding.
DesJarlais, the I.H. spokesperson, said the company believes the lawsuit that served as the partial basis of the investigation “has no merit.”
In January, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote a letter to Invitation Homes requesting company information on its recent activity in the housing market, due to her concerns that its “business practices have driven up housing costs for millions of American families.”
“Tenants of corporate landlords were more likely to face eviction this past year than those of mom-and-pop landlords, and you yourself cited significant earnings increases from hiking rents,” Warren wrote in her letter.
Invitation Homes responded by arguing that it only evicted tenants for nonpayment of rent in “extremely limited instances” during the pandemic, and only when it was “permitted by law.”
“We are proud of the work we do on behalf of the growing share of Americans who prefer the ease of renting over the burden of owning a home,” Invitation Homes Vice President Mark Solls wrote in response to Warren, adding: “Because we own only a marginal percentage of the single-family housing market, we believe that our business practices are not a driving factor in increased home prices for first-time home buyers.”
Property Type:
Single-family homes and midsize multifamily buildings
Tenant Type:
Market rate, affordable/lower-income
Michael Marr, a self-described “second-generation investor” and lifelong East Bay resident, grew his real estate business during the 2008 U.S. financial crisis, scooping up hundreds of East Bay homes at steep discounts at public auctions; at one point he owned over 1,500 homes, according to the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. While he resold and “flipped” hundreds of these homes, he held onto hundreds more and rented them out to families in East Oakland, Hayward, Richmond and Vallejo through his two primary companies: Community Fund LLC and Community Realty Property Management Inc.
In 2011, the FBI raided Marr’s offices, the start of an investigation into what the bureau alleged was his practice of “rigging” foreclosure auctions. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Marr privately agreed with other bidders not to compete against each other at the public auctions, having members of the groups purchase the properties at the public auctions for artificially low prices, then holding second, private auctions among themselves.
A federal grand jury indicted Marr and three of his associates — his son Victor Marr, Javier Sanchez and Gregory Casorso — in November 2014. In 2017, a jury found Michael Marr, Sanchez and Casorso guilty (Victor Marr was acquitted at trial). The following year, Michael Marr was sentenced to 30 months’ prison time and ordered to pay a criminal fine of nearly $1.4 million. (Michael Marr and his co-defendants appealed their case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019, but the high court declined to review it.) Federal records indicate that Marr was released in the summer of 2020.
Marr continues to be one of the East Bay’s largest private landlords — despite complaints from tenants that he neglects his properties, raises rents exorbitantly and engages in “shady” eviction practices, according to a 2016 East Bay Express article.
The Chronicle’s analysis of assessor data allowed reporters to identify at least 560 properties in the Bay Area that are part of Marr’s ownership network, though that network may own more. These properties are often advertised on websites like apartments.com. While the majority of these properties are owned by Community Fund LLC or Community Fund 2 LLC, a handful are owned by Marr himself or people tied to his business or past activities — like Efrain Becerra, a Community Fund real estate agent, or Sanchez.
Reached for comment, Timothy Larsen, an attorney for Marr, said Community Fund has evicted “a grand total of zero tenants” since March 2020, and issued “zero rent increases” from 2020 to 2022, “even when rent increases were permitted by CA and local law.”
“While Mr. Marr had legal issues in the past, it is unfair to use his past criminal issues as relevant news. One has nothing to do with the other,” he said.
He added that Marr has not been involved in the daily operations of the company for over four years, “including any tenant evictions or rent increases.”
Property Type:
Multifamily apartments
Tenant Type:
Market rate, student/senior living
Greystar Real Estate Partners is an international, privately held property owner, developer and manager that operates across five continents: the Americas, Australia, Europe and Asia. Headquartered in Charleston, S.C., it was founded in 1993 by its current CEO, Bob Faith. With nearly 750,000 units under management in the U.S., it is the largest manager of multifamily property in the country, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council, a lobbying group.
The corporate group also operates single-family homes, student housing and senior-living communities. Its typical units are market-rate or above, and it operates in 161 U.S.  market regions. Greystar doesn’t just manage multifamily housing — it’s also a major owner, investor and developer. The NMHC says Greystar owns 80,000 units of multifamily housing, making it the fifth-largest owner nationally.
Greystar and its subsidiaries manage at least 155 multifamily buildings in the Bay Area, according to its website. Its network owned at least 25 of them as of mid-2021, according to The Chronicle’s analysis of assessor data.
The firm often partners with other large companies to develop and manage buildings, such as its partnership with Intel to build the Freedom Circle project, a 1,075-unit project in development spanning more than 13 acres in Santa Clara that will also include retail and a public park.
The company and its subsidiaries have been defendants in more than 200 federal lawsuits over the past 26 years, according to federal court databases, along with local actions.
In May 2020, a group of tenants in Los Angeles County sued Greystar for allegedly compiling extensive reports on their “character, general reputation, personal characteristics, and/or mode of living, criminal, employment, and rental history” without disclosing the nature of the reports or giving copies to the tenants — alleging they violated California’s Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act. The case was transferred to federal court, where the parties settled in November 2020.
Greystar Real Estate Partners has recently settled at least two large class-action lawsuits for a combined $7.2 million; the first, in Washington state, alleged that the company had been charging tenants screening fees without disclosing them in advance, while the second alleged that the company had been collecting numerous illegal fees, including eviction fees, in North Carolina. Greystar denied any wrongdoing in both cases.
In 2016, Greystar was involved in what local housing advocates suggested was the “largest-ever” mass eviction in Silicon Valley after demolishing a rent-controlled 216-unit complex to develop the Lynhaven Apartments, a 636-unit market-rate development it manages where one-bedrooms start at $3,299 a month. The San Jose City Council approved the new project, which required demolition of the existing building and evictions of tenants, and denied the tenants’ appeal to rescind the permit, after tenants alleged the environmental review didn’t adequately consider the evictions.
Greystar and its subsidiaries also filed numerous eviction cases after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium was announced in early September 2020, in apparent violation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, according to the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a nonprofit organization focused on accountability in the private equity sphere.
Representatives for Greystar did not respond to The Chronicle’s emailed request for comment by publication time.
Property Type:
Multifamily apartments, townhomes
Tenant Type:
Market rate
Woodmont Cos. is a Belmont-based “diversified real estate investment and management organization.” Its chairman and founder, Thaddeus “Tad” Taube, is also head or agent of multiple real estate-owning companies registered at the company’s Belmont address, 1050 Ralston Ave.
Companies tied to Taube and the 1050 Ralston mailing address, including Value Center Ventures LTD. and TFT Investors LP, are listed as owners on at least 345 assessor-defined properties across the nine-county Bay Area, including individual condos in large complexes, apartment buildings and some commercial properties. Properties registered at Woodmont Cos.’ mailing address include large residential complexes in San Jose (Livorno Square) and Santa Rosa (the Villages). These market-rate complexes offer amenities including pools and gyms.
One of the companies registered at 1050 Ralston Ave., property-management group Woodmont Real Estate Services, doesn’t appear to own any buildings itself but manages more than 12,000 multifamily units in the Bay Area, according to its website. It’s listed as the manager on 74 residential properties in the Bay Area; at least 32 of these are owned by LLCs registered at Woodmont’s mailing address. Woodmont Real Estate Service’s motto on its website is “Managing Properties. And expectations.”
Woodmont Real Estate Services spokesperson Gary Marsh said that Woodmont Real Estate Services is now “unaffiliated” with Taube and Woodmont Apartment Cos., except that Woodmont Cos. is “one of many clients” the management company serves.
Taube, the founder of Woodmont and its associated entities, is a conservative 91-year-old philanthropist and Holocaust survivor. He is known for donating generously to organizations that promote his political views, educational opportunities and relations between the U.S. and Poland, his country of origin, through his own charitable foundation, Taube Philanthropies, along with the Koret Foundation, of which he was previously president.
Taube has recently attracted controversy for donating $70,000 to the Tea Party Patriots Foundation, an organization that later helped organize the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Shana Penn, a spokesperson for Taube and executive director of Taube Philanthropies, told The Chronicle that Taube’s foundation donated to the Tea Party Patriots Foundation because “the Foundation supports educational endeavors,” and not for political reasons.
“The Taube Family Foundation donated tens of millions of dollars from 2018 to 2020,” Penn wrote. “Other recipients of our funds included organizations working to help children and those suffering from Alzheimer’s and a whole host of diseases afflicting children.”
She added that Taube “sold his interest to Woodmont Real Estate Services more than 25 years ago.”
Woodmont Real Estate Services has spent heavily in opposition to rent-control measures. In 2020, for instance, it contributed over $325,000 to combat Proposition 21, a statewide initiative to expand rent control and reform the controversial Costa-Hawkins bill passed in 1995, which prevents local governments from enacting rent-control measures on single-family homes, townhomes and new buildings.
Woodmont Real Estate Services also attracted controversy for its role in a 2015 mass eviction of the Park Royal Apartments, a 73-unit complex it managed in San Mateo following months of steep rent increases. Tenants and organizers claimed Woodmont and the building’s owner, G.W. Williams Co., were trying to empty the building of current residents and renovate and re-rent their units at much higher monthly rates. Woodmont spokesperson Gary Marsh told the San Francisco Examiner that the company had to renovate the apartments because their advanced age made them “difficult to market,” and it then had to raise rents to recoup the costs of renovation.
Property Type:
Multifamily
Tenant Type:
Market rate
Equity Residential is a publicly traded real estate firm valued by investors at nearly $30 billion. The Chicago-based company’s website says it “owns or has investments in” more than 80,200 apartments in the Bay Area, Southern California, Boston, New York, Seattle and other regions.
Today, Equity Residential, led by CEO Mark Parrell and chairman Sam Zell (Equity’s billionaire founder who separately founded Blackstone Mortgage Trust, part of the larger Blackstone Group), is the fifth-biggest apartment owner in the U.S., according to advocacy group the National Multifamily Housing Council. The company’s history dates back to 1969, and its dramatic growth underscores a broader trend toward large landlords chasing high rents in job hubs like the Bay Area – and sometimes attracting criticism for contributing to unaffordable housing in the process.
As of June, the company said in financial reports that it owns 11,830 apartment units in the Bay Area renting for an average $3,148 a month. According to The Chronicle’s analysis of the assessor data, those units are spread across at least 44 buildings, plus at least one mobile home park in San Rafael. That footprint is poised to keep rising here and elsewhere, according to the company’s financial reports, thanks to factors like an “affluent resident base,” high home prices shutting renters out of homeownership and what CEO Parrell called “favorable supply-and-demand dynamics.”
Equity Residential was one of San Francisco’s most active developers in the past decade, building projects including the 40-story tower at 340 Fremont St. in Transbay and full-block projects One Henry Adams and Potrero 1010.
The company that would become Equity Residential started out managing apartments for college students. Over the next five decades, the buildings changed, but the philosophy remained the same, according to the company’s website: “invest in properties at the right price.”
It was the early 1990s when Equity’s expansion – along with that of many of its competitors – really accelerated. The company began buying up large portfolios of buildings during a boom in real estate investment trusts, more commonly known as REITs. Among other things, REITs are designed to avoid corporate taxes while still raising large amounts of money to purchase expensive real estate, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.
But being a pioneer among corporate landlords hasn’t come without controversy.
In the Bay Area, Equity Residential has come under fire for its handling of apartment rentals in Silicon Valley’s few remaining working-class enclaves, including cities with high shares of Black and Hispanic residents like East Palo Alto. In Sept. 2014, tenants filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court alleging “excessive” and “unlawful” late fees, including “auto late fees” charged without necessarily notifying tenants for balances of $100 or more.
“In the current climate where housing is so unaffordable for so many people in the Bay Area, when we see big landlords making it even more unaffordable through unlawful means, that makes us very concerned,” plaintiff attorney Megan Ryan told the Silicon Valley Business Journal at the time.
Equity Residential has argued in court filings that tenants knowingly paid the fees, and has sought to limit the number of tenants eligible to participate in the ongoing class-action lawsuit. More hearings are scheduled in coming months for the case now being argued in federal court.
A spokesperson for Equity Residential, Marty McKenna, confirmed that Equity owns and manages 44 apartment buildings in the Bay Area with 11,830 units, but said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.
Property Type:
Multifamily apartments, mobile homes, single-family homes
Tenant Type:
Market rate, affordable/lower-income
In three generations, the Vidovich family has gone from farming to real estate development and back to farming. Along the way, the South Bay family has amassed one of Northern California’s largest real estate empires, building or acquiring 16 apartment communities as well as mobile home parks, fancy subdivisions, shopping centers, and more than 100,000 acres of prime Central Valley farmland; John Vidovich’s ownership network owns at least 308 unique assessor-defined properties in the Bay Area, according to property data.
The family arrived in California from Croatia in 1908, settling in Mountain View. There, on 10 acres of land, they grew cherries and apricots. The next generation, led by Stephen Vidovich, capitalized on the rapid development and urbanization of what is now Silicon Valley, buying up farmland and building single-family homes, condominiums and apartment communities.
Today, the company is run by 66-year-old John Vidovich, a former military intelligence officer and Santa Clara Law School graduate.
One of the companies the family controls, De Anza Properties, owns 16 apartment complexes with more than 1,600 units. It has two in San Francisco, two in Cupertino, two in Los Altos and five in Santa Clara. It owns the 443-unit Fruitdale Station in San Jose, 164-unit Apricot Pit in Sunnyvale, and the 228-unit Catalina Luxury Apartments in Santa Clara. Vidovich developed the upscale Quarry Hills subdivision in Los Altos Hills with 22 multimillion-dollar luxury homes. Vidovich lives there in a 15,000-square-foot house on 10 acres, according to the Mercury News.
The Vidovich family also owns some of the most naturally affordable housing remaining in the high-priced, tech-dominated region: mobile homes. Vidovich owns Trailer Villa RV Park in Redwood City, with 116 hookup sites, which bills itself as the “premier RV park in the San Francisco Bay Area.” In Mountain View, companies affiliated with the family own Santiago Villa, a 358-unit manufactured-home park surrounded by Google office buildings, and Sahara Mobile Village, which has 206 sites.
The privately held family business is not one to shy away from controversy. In Redwood City in Sept. 2017, Vidovich was sued by mobile home tenants who accused him of violating a 2003 law that capped rent increases; the case was dismissed in July 2018 after the parties entered into mediation. In Half Moon Bay, Vidovich is a partner in a contentious plan to develop a 48-acre resort next to Dunes Beach. Called the Dunes at Half Moon Bay, the proposal, still in the planning phase, includes a 212-room luxury hotel and spa, a 15,000-square-foot conference center, a communal bunk house for bikers, a hostel with 10 cabins and 40 beds, and a 177-space RV village.
The plan faces organized opposition from residents. At a 2020 public meeting, resident Kristy Koberna called it “simply too much,” according to a story posted by the San Mateo Daily Journal.
“Its location, its impact on the beach, environment, traffic flow and viewscapes is grossly inappropriate,” she is quoted as saying.  “No amount of hotel occupancy tax can offset the disruption.”
Meanwhile, Vidovich’s biggest fights are on the other side of the Altamont Pass in the Central Valley. There, a company he controls, Sandridge Partners, grows crops on the nearly 125,000 acres he owns in Kings County. He is planning to build a 10-mile pipeline to carry water from its wells in the north to the fields in the south. The project faces opposition from Boswell Co., a rival landowner that owns a canal Vidovich’s proposed pipeline must cross.
“It won’t hurt the canal. It’s my property, and I have a right to cross,” Vidovich told the San Jose Mercury News.
Representatives for Vidovich did not respond to The Chronicle’s emailed request for comment by publication time.
Property Type:
Single-family homes and midsize multifamily buildings
Tenant Type:
Market rate, lower-income/affordable
Neill Sullivan is a California-based real estate entrepreneur. Between 2008 and 2012, after securing tens of millions of dollars from investors, including former Democratic Presidential candidate Tom Steyer, Sullivan and three main companies — REO Homes LLC, REO Homes 2 LLC and REO Homes 3 LLC —  purchased hundreds of properties in foreclosure following the 2008 financial crisis. As of 2021, companies tied to Sullivan were listed as owners on at least 292 properties according to the assessor data, most of which are located in West Oakland. The bulk of these properties were managed through Sullivan’s property management company, called SMC East Bay (formerly SMC LLC). SMC stands for “Sullivan Management Company.”
A 2014 East Bay Express article noted that Sullivan’s properties, which he purchased for an estimated $41 million, were worth about $89 million before the 2008 downturn. If their values grew as fast as average real estate in Oakland according to Zillow data, they would be worth over $160 million today.
Sullivan positions himself as an “Oakland, California, entrepreneur” who “emphasizes quick, responsive service and quality relations with his hundreds of tenants” and is “interested in promoting financial literacy in inner-city communities” and “breaking cycles of poverty.” He has spoken out against proposals to develop a coal shipping corridor in West Oakland, and his website describes a community center that offers martial arts training and other resources to West Oakland residents.
But Google results show the center is “temporarily closed.” The Chronicle’s call to the center was answered by an SMC employee, who didn’t answer whether it was currently offering services to community members or not.
In an emailed statement to The Chronicle, an unnamed representative for SMC said the center “remains very active,” with a mentoring program and free food drives, though their martial arts classes have been canceled due to COVID.
Tenant advocates and organizers have called Sullivan’s community engagement efforts “shallow gimmicks” that obscure his role in displacing longtime residents and profiting from mass foreclosures.
A tenant who wished not to share their legal name provided copies of “notice to pay” letters sent to them by SMC and to at least one other tenant in August and September. These notices look similar to the “three-day notice to pay or quit” notice that is the traditional first step in a nonpayment eviction proceeding. But because of Oakland’s eviction moratorium, SMC can’t legally initiate eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent.
Landlords are required to provide certain forms “prior to commencing repayment negotiations for Delayed Rent,” such as the “notice to pay” letter SMC sent, according to Oakland’s emergency eviction moratorium passed in July 2020. These forms must include a statement that the tenant has a “right to refuse to … engage in repayment negotiations,” a statement that the landlord may not retaliate against the tenant for refusing to enter into repayment and information about mediation services available through the city.
According to the SMC tenant, SMC did not provide them with any of this information. The tenant said they believe that SMC is trying to “scare” tenants into paying past-due rent.
In their statement to The Chronicle, the SMC representative pushed back on the tenant’s characterization of the notices.
“SMC is not demanding any tenants to pay while the Eviction Moratorium is in place. The notice is to update the tenant of their account balance,” the representative said, adding: “We believe this is an attempt by an activist group to intentionally mislead and defame our organization.”
In 2020, Buzzfeed News reported that SMC sent at least 100 tenants eviction warnings for nonpayment of rent in the pandemic’s early months, despite local and state eviction moratoriums at the time, according to the SMC Tenants Council. Following pressure from the Council, the company rescinded the notices.
Sullivan has also donated to anti-rent-control measures including by spending $15,000 to combat Proposition 21, a 2020 statewide initiative to expand rent control and reform the controversial Costa-Hawkins bill passed in 1995.
Property Type:
Multifamily apartments
Tenant Type:
Market rate
Essex Property Trust is a San Mateo-based, publicly owned real estate investment trust. The company and its 240-plus subsidiaries own and operate more than 62,000 units spread across over 250 apartment buildings and complexes in California and Washington state — including more than 19,000 within at least 84 apartment buildings in the Bay Area.
Nationwide, Essex is the 13th-biggest corporate owner of multifamily housing, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. But it has an even more outsized presence in the Bay Area and in California, as three-quarters of its apartment units are in the state.
Essex’s chairman, George Marcus, is also the founder and chairman of Marcus & Millichap, a large brokerage firm that owns SummerHill Apartment Communities and Pacific Urban Investors, both multifamily rental developer companies with big presences in the Bay Area. Essex CEO Michael Schall also worked at Marcus & Millichap in the 1980s.
Average monthly rent in any Essex-owned apartment was $2,432 as of June 2022, according to its corporate filings, and Bay Area rents start between $2,000-$4,400 for its various complexes. The company’s Bay Area apartments are concentrated in San Jose and around the South Bay, but it also has properties in the East Bay, San Francisco and Marin County.
Essex has spent heavily against California rent control proposals in recent years, including at least $2.4 million against Prop. 10, a November 2018 ballot measure that would have repealed the state’s controversial Costa-Hawkins law.
The company has been sued numerous times in federal and local courts. In 2016, it settled a class-action lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court where tenants at multiple Fremont apartment complexes alleged they were subject to improper rent increases. Essex denied any wrongdoing.
Representatives for Essex did not respond to The Chronicle’s emailed request for comment by publication time.
Property Type:
Multifamily
Tenant Type:
Luxury
In early 2008, just before the collapse of Bear Stearns and the onset of the Great Recession, the apartment real estate investment trust UDR initiated a massive rebalancing of its portfolio.
The Colorado-based group unloaded thousands of apartment units in the American financial crisis, most of which were located in South Carolina and Arkansas, generating $1.7 billion in cash.
“The price we could sell them for was higher than what we could build them (for),” UDR CEO Thomas Toomey told an industry magazine published by the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts. “2008 was definitely a prime window for selling those assets.”
It wasn’t obvious at the time, but those deals set the stage for UDR to become a power player in Bay Area luxury real estate.
Proceeds from the sales were used to reduce debt and buy up property in tech-savvy cities like San Francisco that were still attracting entrepreneurs and venture-capital investors.
In May 2008, two months after the Bear Stearns collapse, UDR paid $115 million, or nearly $600,000 a unit, for an apartment building that had just been completed at 355 Berry St. in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, a neighborhood that was, at the time, mostly undeveloped dirt.
It would prove to be just the beginning. About 18 months after that deal closed, UDR doubled down in Mission Bay, paying $23.6 million for 2 acres at 185 Channel St. that was approved for 315 units.
UDR then bought a 4-acre development site at 3204 Casa de Campo in San Mateo, which became the two-story, 120-unit Bay Terrace Apartments. The company also grabbed 399 Fremont St., a downtown San Francisco parcel where a 42-story tower with 447 luxury apartments was planned. Other deals followed on the Peninsula and in the East Bay and Marin as UDR raced to build high-end apartment complexes that would meet the needs of the tech workers flooding the region.
“Right now the best markets are probably San Francisco and Seattle, primarily driven by the tech jobs re-emergence, followed by D.C. and Boston, and then New York,” Toomey told the New York Times in 2011.
Today UDR owns about 57,000 units, of which at least 3,366 are in the Bay Area, according to the company’s website and business documents. This includes at least 14 apartment communities in San Rafael, Dublin, Mountain View, San Mateo and Santa Clara.
While UDR has largely stayed out of the spotlight in the Bay Area’s housing battles — mostly buying apartment complexes after they were completed or approved — the company’s big Northern California bet was part of a larger trend of REITs chasing the upper echelons of the region’s rental market.
With swimming pools and dog grooming stations, private movie theaters and rooftop dining quarters, UDR was at the forefront of a wave of luxury housing that both brought vitality to neighborhoods like Rincon Hill and Mission Bay and raised questions about inequality and whether the sort of housing being produced was for the average San Franciscan or only high-income earners.
To be sure, UDR’s Bay Area portfolio isn’t geared toward the working class. The average household income of renters in the 13 buildings is $225,000, according to a recent company presentation, about 200% of median income for a two-person household in the metropolitan area. In real numbers, that spells high rents:  A one-bedroom at 399 Fremont starts at $4,387 and a three-bedroom at over $11,000. At Channel Mission Bay, the 185 Channel building, one-bedrooms start at over $3,800 and two-bedrooms at over $5,000.
Property Type:
Single-family homes
Tenant Type:
Market rate, affordable/lower-income
Tricon Residential (formerly known as Tricon American Homes) is one of the oldest industrial-scale home-rental companies operating in the U.S. Founded in 1988, the Toronto-based company owns more than 41,000 homes across North America collectively worth nearly $14 billion. While its company reports say its U.S. business focuses on the Sunbelt, extending from the Southeastern Coast to Southern California, Tricon also has a significant Bay Area presence, with at least 543 properties in the region owned by at least eight separate subsidiaries with names like TAH 2017 1 Borrower LLC.
The company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange as TCN, entered the U.S. single-family rental business in 2012. It held its U.S. initial public offering in 2021, which it called a “breakout year” as pandemic-era trends enabled it to scale up its business model. The hedge fund giant Blackstone also recently invested $300 million in Tricon through its real estate investment trust, BREIT.
“De-urbanization, de-densification and work-from-home trends accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic …ushered in what may be a ‘golden decade’ for residential assets,” particularly for single-family homes, the company’s 2021 annual report says, leading its market capitalization to “more than double” to $4.2 billion.
In July 2021, the company averaged a 21% increase in rent on new leases, with a 5% increase for existing tenants (According to the Wall Street Journal, CEO Gary Berman claimed the company could have increased rent for existing tenants by nearly 10% if it didn’t intentionally “hold back”). It also launched a $5 billion fund in summer of 2021 to purchase and lease out 18,000 new homes; it has also begun to pursue “build-to-rent” construction projects.
Tricon acquired an additional $1 billion worth of assets in the rental property market from the beginning of January through March 2022, according to its first-quarter 2022 report.
Zef Vataj, a Tricon spokesperson, told The Chronicle that “Tricon Residential is a premier housing provider that is committed to helping families move into high-quality, safe, comfortable homes in great neighborhoods across the country. We’re dedicated to delivering a great living experience for our residents: when we purchase a home in Northern California and surrounding areas, we invest an average of $29,220 in remodeling and upgrades, including new appliances and high-efficiency HVAC systems.”
Property Type:
Multifamily apartments
Tenant Type:
Market rate
AvalonBay Communities Inc. is a Virginia-based real estate company that owns more than 81,000 apartments in a dozen states, including California. Like other large, publicly traded Bay Area landlords, AvalonBay is a real estate investment trust, or REIT, that has profited from favorable tax rules and increasing investor interest in rental housing to grow rapidly since the 1990s. The company is the nation’s fourth-largest apartment owner, according to advocacy group the National Multifamily Housing Council.
It was 1999, at the height of the dot-com boom, when AvalonBay completed its first West Coast apartment tower in downtown San Francisco. Today, the company owns dozens of properties scattered from Silicon Valley to the East Bay suburbs to trendy San Francisco neighborhoods like Hayes Valley and Dogpatch. Advertised rents range from around $2,100 a month to nearly $7,000 a month. AvalonBay has extended its footprint into the Bay Area’s commuter suburbs and now owns at least 36 large apartment buildings in the region, totaling 372 unique property records, its website and property records show.
During the first half of this year, AvalonBay’s Northern California properties generated more than $139 million in profit, SEC filings show, up from $129 million during the same period last year.
In the process of developing, redeveloping, acquiring and managing apartments, AvalonBay says on its website that it is “creating a better way to live and that is always focused on building value for the long term.” But like other REITs and investor-backed landlords, the company has also attracted criticism for a business model that depends on maximizing profits and raising rents, despite growing public concern about unaffordable housing.
That tension hit a boiling point in 2020, when California housing activists highlighted the political efforts of AvalonBay and other large landlords, including Essex and Equity Residential, to defeat ballot measure campaigns to expand rent control, including Prop. 21. René Christian Moya, director of L.A. activist group Housing is a Human Right, criticized the companies for employing tactics “to camouflage the true motive behind their opposition: keeping in place a broken system that’s fueled unfair, excessive rents and the housing affordability crisis.”
Now, after 2½ years of anxiety about pandemic evictions and strong emergency tenant protections in large California cities, AvalonBay executives are among many in the industry trying to reassure investors. Rents are once again rising, Chief Operating Officer Sean Breslin said during a July investor call, and indebted tenants have “started moving out.”
Representatives for AvalonBay did not respond to The Chronicle’s emailed request for comment by publication time.
Property Type:
Condo complexes
Tenant Type:
Market rate/luxury
Ardenbrook, Inc. is a Fremont-based, privately held real estate company registered at 4725 Thornton Ave, in Fremont. It is one of a set of companies founded by the Brooks family, including the late real estate developer and Oakland Raiders co-founder John “Jack” Brooks. Brooks helped found the city of Fremont in the 1950s, and firms under his leadership built one out of every four of the new city’s homes, according to his 2015 San Francisco Chronicle obituary.
Brooks’ son, outdoor enthusiast and pilot William Matthew “Matt” Brooks, has run the company since 1980. Over the company’s tenure, Ardenbrook has owned, managed and/or developed more than 50,000 residential units across nine states, including California, Florida and Texas, according to its website.
In the Bay Area, Ardenbrook’s 1,300-plus properties are concentrated in the East Bay and South Bay, with many units amassed across two large luxury rental condominium complexes; Ardenwood Forest in Fremont (originally developed by John Brooks) and Country Brook Condominiums in San Ramon.
In May of last year, Ardenbrook was subject to an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after an accident at one of its apartment complexes, according to public records. The OSHA inspection yielded two “serious” safety violations, and Ardenbrook received a fine of nearly $25,000. The case is still open, however.
Representatives for Ardenbrook did not respond to The Chronicle’s request for comment by publication time.
The Chronicle acquired data from all nine Bay Area counties’ assessors’ offices that contained address and ownership information for all properties in each county. Each property, or “parcel” as they are technically known, had information on its owner name, registered mailing address and property address.

First, we standardized the owner and mailing address columns, taking out punctuation and looking for spelling mistakes. Many homes are registered to businesses, so we used business registration data from the California Secretary of State to identify the people behind these businesses.

After filtering out all properties that were owned by the government, we grouped the remaining properties by their mailing addresses, selecting the top 100 with the most properties registered to them. Then we examined these addresses manually, selecting the ones that appeared to host mostly residential rental properties. This step took out dozens of home developers and commercial real estate owners.

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