City Sues Alleged Illegal Automobile Repair Shop
By Keith Burbank
The City and County of San Francisco filed suit against Bayview resident Raul Amilcar Vasquez in San Francisco Superior Court late last year. The City Attorney’s office alleges that Vasquez has been running an illegal automobile repair shop, doing unpermitted construction to his home, perpetrating public nuisances, and “illegally leasing unsafe and uninspected residential housing units to tenants at 1278 Thomas Avenue, violating San Francisco’s Housing Code, Building Code, Planning Code; and California’s State Housing Law, General Public Nuisance Statute, and Unfair Competition Law.”
A press release from City Attorney and Dogpatch resident Dennis Herrera called Vasquez “a scofflaw business owner and landlord,” who perpetrated “an astonishing array of legal violations and public nuisances” that “…center on the operation of Brother’s Auto Body, an illegal and unlicensed automotive repair shop…” According to Herrera, Vasquez’s violations took place over a period of more than eight years, and the repair shop “…was extended every reasonable opportunity to address its legal violations….”
A metal fence fronts Vasquez’s Thomas Avenue compound, which includes a two-story home, and a roughly 30 feet wide area covered by a corrugated metal roof. On the left side of the house at least a half-dozen vehicles are visible.
According to deputy city attorney Nicholas S. Colla, who has been assigned the case, the City Attorney’s office is asking for a court order that requires Vasquez to comply with municipal codes and other statutes while the lawsuit is litigated, enjoins Vasquez from any future violations, and assesses penalties for past violations. Vasquez’s attorneys, M C Hall & Associates, did not return the View’s calls.
The suit filed by the City Attorney states that Vasquez, and possibly others, “have and continue to maintain an automotive repair business” at 1266–1278 Thomas Avenue “without requisite permits. The operation of an automotive repair business at the Property violates municipal and state laws and constitutes a public nuisance.” In addition to the alleged illegal repair business, the suit asserts that the defendants “have converted a single family residence into multi-unit housing without requisite permits or approvals, have erected unsafe and unpermitted additions…and have also begun leasing these unsafe and illegal additions to tenants.”
In August of 2004, the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) issued a Notice of Violation to Vasquez “for an alleged unpermitted change of occupancy at the Property from a residential property to a commercial auto repair shop.” DBI issued a second violation notice later that year, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the department scheduled a Notice of a Director’s Hearing, at which Vasquez was supposed to appear to explain why he didn’t address the alleged violations. Vazquez didn’t attend that hearing, prompting DBI to issue an Order of Abatement No. 102164-A, declaring the property a public nuisance and ordering the “defendants to complete all work within 30 days.” It is unclear whether DBI conducted any follow-up inspections.
The City Attorney’s suit details a number of incidents involving the San Francisco Police, Fire and Planning departments. In one alleged incident, a Department of Parking and Traffic “employee requested police presence while he cited 15 to 16 vehicles illegally parked on the sidewalk in front of the Property.” In another alleged incident, Vasquez was a victim of battery. In three alleged incidents involving the police, Vasquez was accused of not returning a vehicle under repair to the car’s owner. One of these incidents was resolved amicably, according to the suit. In the sixth of seven alleged police incidents, SFPD “conducted an undercover detail targeting Defendants’ unpermitted vehicle repair garage.” According to the suit, Vasquez told an undercover officer that he’d perform transmission work on a vehicle on the property at 1266 – 1278 Thomas Avenue.
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