At the end of March, Deanna Borbon and René Felbermayr packed a U-Haul to move to Los Angeles with their two small children and left it parked on Texas Street between 19th and 20th streets. In the early hours the next night, thieves stole the vehicle, which contained all the family’s belongings, as well as the Volkswagen GTI that was attached.
Borbon was already in L.A. with the children, ages four and three months, staying at her mother’s house. Felbermayr notified the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), which advised him to stick around for a few days in case the U-Haul reappeared. He stayed with his former business partners – Tamara Hicks and David Jablons, at Daily Driver – who lived three houses down.
After not hearing anything for a few days Felbermayr rejoined his family in L.A. Within 48 hours the police notified him that they’d found his car and he needed to get it out of police holding.
“Some things are missing,” he was told when he asked if the car was drivable.
More than a few things were missing. The car was taken completely apart; all that was left of the Volkswagen GTI was the frame. The lights were gone, the doors were gone, the engine, transmission, wheels, seats, everything.
“I laugh because I can’t believe this happened,” Felbermayr said. “I’m from Austria and I’ve never heard of anything like this. It was just the body of the car.”
With no reason to transport what was left of the vehicle to L.A., he transferred the title to SFPD, which sent the remaining parts to a junkyard.
Days later, the U-Haul was found. Borbon was notified that it was parked on a Bayview street. She had 72 hours to evaluate it and retrieve her items or U-Haul would seize them. Borbon rented a van and drove from L.A. with her three-month-old and mother, Sofia Romero, hopes high. Those hopes were dashed when she inspected the U-Haul. The thieves left two broken couches, a wrecked dresser, empty boxes, a USB drive containing photos, and one bag of baby toys.
“They took my wedding dress,” Borbon said. “They took everything I had. I feel so violated to have someone even steal the baby’s clothes.”
Nor was the U-Haul drivable. The thieves broke the ignition, the hood, and stole parts.
Between January and April 2023, there were 1,674 car thefts in San Francisco, a 6.4 percent decline from the same period last year when they were 1,788.
Hicks started a GoFundMe to help the family replenish their belongings, raising about $7,600, not enough to cover refurnishing their entire home. Borbon and Felbermayr decided to close the campaign, moved by the amount already received.
“We are thankful for the donations,” Borbon said. “It could have been nothing and we lost everything and that was it but instead the community was so nice to donate to us. We’ve read everything that’s come in and it’s very nice, very heartfelt, and overwhelming.”
Borbon and Felbermayr moved to San Francisco to work for Daily Driver in 2019.
Hicks and Jablons “welcomed us with open arms,” Borbon said. “They felt like family and it’s why it was so hard to move down to L.A. but we wanted to be closer to my family. One hundred million thanks to [Hicks and Jablons]. Because of them, we had a great experience at Daily Driver and they introduced us to Potrero Hill. We’re saddened we had to leave them and the community but they gave us a wonderful experience being in San Francisco.”
Hicks said, “It really seems hard to be living in SF right now, and many share that sentiment. The donations from friends, neighbors, and strangers restored much of the belief that the City is mostly filled with kind-hearted people.”