Noe Valley Voice October 2012

This SFPD mug shot of Dennis McGuire was taken Aug. 24, 2011, following his arrest for a “brazen” theft of copper wiring from an underground electrical vault at 30th Avenue and California Street.   Photo courtesy San Francisco Police Department 

A House of Turmoil No Longer—Ex-Con Owner Sells While in Jail

By Corrie M. Anders

Neighbors along a nice section of 24th Street were overjoyed last month after a rundown house—for years the scene of sketchy residents and late-night commotion—was sold.

“Hallelujah,” said one close-by resident. “A decade of vexation has come to an end.” 

The Sept. 13 sale of the house came as the seller, Dennis McGuire, faced a court hearing to determine whether he would have to serve a prison term related to his recent felony convictions for stealing more than $20,000 in copper in two separate heists.

Activities at the house at 4267 24th St. have generated many complaints in recent years. But in September, its notorious owner, Dennis McGuire, sold the property for $1.3 million.    Photo by Corrie M. Anders

McGuire, 53, has been in police custody since July, when he was picked up for violating the terms of his probation in the copper thefts case.

The two-bedroom house at 4267 24th St., which Coldwell Banker real estate agent Nick Johnson described as a “fixer in need of remodel,” was listed at $899,000. Johnson said a contractor paid $1.3 million for the property, located between Diamond and Douglass streets.

The deal pleased nearby residents, even though the property was expected to undergo a lengthy period of renovation or new construction.

“There is tremendous relief,” said Misha Weidman. “It would be fair to say, certainly, that the western half of the 4200 block is feeling very hopeful that the new owners are going to redevelop the property.”

Neighbors said problems began after Ron Bertolozzi’s mother died and he inherited the home. Bertolozzi, a retired steel worker who grew up in Noe Valley, owned and restored a number of antique cars that he kept on nearby streets.

“When Ron was alive, there was everything from suspected drug deals going on at every hour of the evening to his playing bongo drums or vacuuming one of his many cars at all hours of the morning,” Weidman said.

Bertolozzi died in February 2010, and McGuire claimed ownership of the home. Neighbors said they faced a different set of concerns with McGuire, who has had a decades-long history of substance abuse and convictions for gun possession and grand theft.

Local resident Karen Kelly said McGuire’s presence and an entourage of rough personalities disturbed her. “When McGuire moved in, I wouldn’t make eye contact” with him, she said.

Neighbors filed several complaints with the city about physical conditions at the house, including a lack of utilities or running water for toilets or cleaning.

Though the sale of the property garnered a profit, it may be some time before McGuire has the chance to spend his windfall. He is behind bars pending a hearing on his convictions for stealing copper, a valuable commodity that can easily be sold as scrap metal.

McGuire and two other people were arrested Aug. 24, 2011, after police said they discovered the suspects in possession of a large amount of copper wiring taken from an electrical vault near 30th Avenue and California Street.

Police said two of the suspects were wearing white hard hats and orange traffic safety vests while pretending to be electrical workers. The copper was recovered at the scene.

McGuire also was arrested in a theft seven months earlier of copper wire from a U-Haul truck rental location in the Bayview–Hunters Point neighborhood.

In addition, he has been charged in a San Mateo County case involving theft of copper cables from BART tracks in December 2011.

In June of this year, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ordered McGuire to pay $13,208 to Muni and $6,989 to the U-Haul rental firm, and gave him a five-year suspended sentence and three years of probation.

San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian said the DA’s office would now seek to have McGuire serve the full five-year prison term.

“Mr. McGuire has had numerous opportunities to get his life together,” Bastian said. “We are at the point where incarceration is the option we have to take now.”                                                     

The property that caused so much neighborhood anxiety also was the subject of a convoluted legal battle.

Bertolozzi never married, had no siblings or children, and both parents were deceased when he died. Four days after Bertolozzi’s death, McGuire produced a will that showed his buddy left him 60 percent of the estate, with the remaining 40 percent split evenly between Guide Dogs for the Blind and Walden House, a San Francisco organization that treats people with mental health and substance abuse problems.

Several Bertolozzi cousins, who said Bertolozzi and McGuire met in prison, claimed that they were the rightful heirs and filed suit to have the will thrown out. They contended that the will was either fraudulent or made under duress, noting that Bertolozzi “was addicted to heroin for all or most of his adult life, had physical and mental impairment…in particular during the final months of his life,” and also was suffering from AIDS.

A probate court judge rejected the heirs’ claim. The judge said the evidence was “insufficient to prove extrinsic fraud.” 

Another potential heir tried to keep the case alive, however. She alleged that she was too intimidated to complain at first because “there were threats made to the physical safety of some heirs by McGuire.”

On July 26, Judge Peter Bush tossed out the final challenge to the will.

McGuire, through his attorney, refused to discuss the probate litigation. And the attorney, Richard Collier, said he was “under instructions not to talk to the media.”