The Empire of an Ocean Beach Land Lord

by on June 10, 2016 · 15 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Ocean Beach


Spray Street apartments couldn’t be in a nicer location.

Originally posted on June 10, 2016

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.

OB Rent rally 6-4-16 sdtu

Renters’ rights rally, June 4, 2016, on the grass at the foot of Newport. (SDTU)

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 the other day to find just a few of his properties.  And what we found initially were four sets of units that Mills either currently owns or has owned in the past – four properties that had a total of 51 units.

At least, then, we found a corner of Mills’ OB Empire, and began documenting them. And we hope to find and document more.


Rear of Spray Street apartments facse the ocean.

Choice Property: the Spray Street Apartments “On the Beach”

You can’t get much closer to the beach and the sand than Mills’ Spray Street apartments, a two-story, 12-unit complex right on the grass and right across from the Pacific Ocean.


A choice piece of property.

They used to be much more dilapidated than they appear now, so perhaps Mills did complete his probation successfully.


Voltaire units – behind a fence that is not up to code.

Voltaire Street Units

Mills owns or has owned 4 units on the 4800 block of Voltaire.


4 units on Voltaire

Two houses are in the front, and two units are in the back, both protected by a high fence that is at least 6 feet high – and against code, by the way.


5 units on Lotus

Lotus Street

Over on Lotus, just around the corner from “Mother’s” on Bacon Street, is another Mills’ property. This one contains 5 units joined by a wide concrete drive-way.


Muir Street apartments on corner with Ebers.

La Creme de la Creme – Half a Block on Muir

What is or must have been for decades Mills’ flagship property, his creme de la creme, is nearly half a block on the 4600 block of Muir Street.


Mills’ property extends for nearly half a block.

On that block – and facing Ebers – is a series of five pastel-painted, two-story apartment buildings all in a row, with courtyards between them. Here are 30 units with alley garages.


Court yard

Of note, when the TV series, “Terriers” was being filmed in OB a number of years ago, one of the apartments was used for interior shots. And right around that time, Mills had all the buildings repainted in their current pastel hues.


The alley line up.

OB rent rally 6-4-16 sdtu 2

Mills sent two of his property managers to the rally for rent control to check out who was participating and defend their boss. It was clear that some tenants felt intimidated by their presence. One of Mills’ paid staff even interrupted a speaker.

If you or a friend is a tenant of Michael Mills, please contact the OB Rag confidentially at .  We plan on continuing the documentation of the Empire of an OB Land Lord.


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Oh jeez... June 10, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Great Job Frank!!!


CliffHanger June 10, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Go Frank!
Name the names so they own the shame.
Who are the two property managers spying on who was protesting? They were certainly taking names…


Lennay Kekua June 14, 2016 at 2:36 am

I’m pretty sure that was Cheryl and George of so called Beach Homes property managers. They’re Mills’s people.


Janet June 10, 2016 at 2:00 pm

I’ve often wondered who owns all the apartments! Great reporting. Just curious–what makes that fence against code? Is it the height and/or placement?


Frank Gormlie June 11, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Ya can’t have a solid fence 6 feet high in the front – unless I’m not aware of some exceptions (grand-parented in?) that apply here.


M June 12, 2016 at 2:38 pm

There are exceptions to allow 6′ fences on “major streets, primary arterials, and freeways”. According to the map, this may be perfectly legal depending on the location on Voltaire.

Fence section:

Land Use map:


Frank Gormlie June 13, 2016 at 10:21 pm

Thanks M whoever you are


Frank Gormlie June 13, 2016 at 10:21 pm

Ch.14 Art.2 Div.33 San Diego Municipal Code Chapter 14: General Regulations (1-2016)
General Fence Regulations for All Zones Fence Height in Required Front Yards and Required Street Side Yards
(1) Solid Fences
(A) Solid fences located on the front or street side property line shall not exceed 3 feet in height except as provided in Section 142.0310(c)(1)(C).


OB Mercy June 10, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Rumor has it he pays cash for the bldgs he buys. I’ve heard he owns over 200 units here. And our building is in escrow…we’re just hoping he isn’t the buyer.

What about the rumors he ran a brothel here in the 70’s??


Lennay Kekua June 13, 2016 at 10:33 pm

This story runs much deeper, and Mills have many more properties…any way to send you an email directly frank? I am working on a story.


Frank Gormlie June 14, 2016 at 9:19 am

Lennay – sure, any email sent to us is confidential:


SD Tenants United June 17, 2016 at 12:30 am

Great article! Thanks for gathering this information. We are trying to organize a tenants rights organization in Ocean Beach. If you are interested in joining or more info email us at or
Keep up the great journalism!


Juju October 12, 2016 at 1:09 pm

He just bought our complex! 4865 Brighton Avenue is OB. The PM is Ocean Beach Apartment Homes.


Tenant March 8, 2017 at 8:58 pm

One of his properties has been without a washing machine for over a month, takes forever to get ANYTHING fixed. No one ever seems to know what’s going on, and there is a hole in the roof that has lead to mold. I’ve called several times with no response after they said they would fix it asap. Finally someone came to “fix” the inside of my closet. I like where I live and don’t want to move, but I am starting to feel like I have no choice as “ocean beach apartment homes'”negligence has resulted in me getting sick. Cheryl says “call if you ever need anything” yet doesn’t answer the phone and never returns your call.


editordude May 24, 2018 at 11:24 am

Dear reader: please be aware this post is nearly 2 years old. We reposted it because – for some reason – it became very popular and lots of hits.


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