San Francisco’s Antonio Gamero dedicated nearly a year to a transaction
so a group of nuns could continue their mission and feed the hungry.
By Camille Wilson
It was late in the afternoon on St. Patrick’s Day 2016, a Friday, and Antonio Gamero was finishing a long day at RE/MAX Futura in San Francisco. He was ready to leave for the evening when fate revealed a different plan. Two French nuns entered the office.
“I thought, ‘I don’t want to talk about religion right now,’ but I quickly realized this was different. They told me who they were and that they needed a new location for their soup kitchen, which feeds hundreds of homeless people each week,” says Gamero, a relatively new agent who joined RE/MAX in 2015. “I was all-in from the start. We began working on it right away.”
The nuns, part of the Fraternite Notre Dame order, had been faced with eviction from their Tenderloin-area facility earlier in the year, after their landlord increased their rent by more than 50 percent. Their plight had been covered in the newspaper, where it caught the attention of renowned motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Robbins agreed to cover the costs of a new location – initially as a rental and eventually as a purchase, so the nuns would avoid the threat of another eviction down the road.
For the next few weeks, Gamero and JB Lorda, a French-speaking colleague at RE/MAX Futura, helped the sisters look at buildings for sale in San Francisco’s Mission District. Unfortunately, prices in the area were simply too high. Scaling back from the idea of buying an entire building, the agents found a reasonably priced, 1,430-square-foot commercial condo unit, which the sisters thought would be perfect for the soup kitchen.
Gamero, on Robbins’ behalf, made an offer, and the property was soon under contract.
And then the trouble started.
Immediately after the contracts were signed, neighbors began protesting the soup kitchen’s impending arrival. Condo residents and the homeowner’s association feared the facility would attract more homeless people to the area and hurt their property values. They took steps to stop the sale.
The resulting battle lasted nearly a year.
The HOA demanded the offer be rescinded and tried to block the unit’s use as a soup kitchen, claiming it violated the building’s rules and regulations. The seller threatened to pull the deal based on the extended time it was going to require. Politicians weighed in on both sides. And the city got involved, although zoning guidelines provided little clarity.
The team advocating for the sisters refused to back down. The nuns, the Tony Robbins Foundation, Gamero and his colleagues at RE/MAX Futura, a land-use attorney, and a variety of supporters fought a complex, emotional legal dispute.
The matter eventually reached the San Francisco Planning Commission. At a packed-room public hearing at City Hall, it voted 6-0 to approve the soup kitchen’s move into the neighborhood. The transaction officially closed in February 2017.
Gamero was involved for reasons both professional and personal. Growing up, he’d seen his parents’ commitment to outreach programs and helping others, and he respected the value of the work done by the nuns. He also understood his responsibility as the sisters’ agent and, fueled by the collaborative support of his RE/MAX colleagues, was determined to see their interests served.
“My grandfather’s advice to me was, ‘Don’t come home until you get the job done,’” Gamero says. “That’s how I approach everything in my real estate career.”
Many agents would have given up, says Mariola Bak, managing director at RE/MAX Futura, who describes Gamero as committed, patient and determined.
“Antonio stuck with the nuns. I’m proud of his efforts,” Bak says. “The seller even refused to pay commissions, so he did all that work pro bono. It was an incredible thing to watch and be part of.”
Ultimately, Gamero says, the sisters and their faith are the real story.
“The driving force behind all of this was spiritual. The sisters are loving and compassionate, but also very strong in standing up for what’s right,” Gamero says. “It was inspiring just to be in their presence.”