Board of Appeals Grants Re-Hearing on Berkeley Farms Demolition Plans
The San Francisco Board of Appeals voted four to nothing to grant a rehearing to a community group that wants to reverse a decision on a building permit granted to 2065 Oakdale Avenue, which used to house a Berkeley Farms facility. Commissioner Hurtado, the fifth member of the board, was absent. “This evidence demands a rehearing,” said Michael Hamman, an India Basin resident and general contractor, who supported advocacy group Bayview Office for Community Planning’s request for a rehearing.
“You’ve been misled. As have we.” said Dan Dodt, BVOC’s director told the board. “The property owner [of 2065 Oakdale Avenue] promised to act one way and has acted in the opposite way.”
The owner, Jack Tseng, has been tagged with multiple violation notices. One was issued for doing work without a permit; another for failing to follow proper procedures when power-washing the exterior of a warehouse located on the site. Residents claim that the paint on the building’s exterior, or what’s left of it after it was partially demolished last year, has lead in it, which can be harmful to humans, especially children.
In addition to the violations, San Francisco police were called to the site when a building inspector felt threatened as he tried to enter the premises. One or more of Tseng’s workers allegedly intimidated the inspector, who was investigating complaints of non-permitted work, according to Bayview Police Captain Robert O’Sullivan. The workers departed the scene after the police were called.
According to senior building inspector, Joseph Duffy, in his experience police are called to assist an inspection perhaps once every ten years. During Duffy’s 14 years with the Department of Building Inspection the police have been called maybe two or three times. “It hasn’t been a pleasant project,” Duffy said during his testimony to the board. Before the commission took its vote, commissioner Honda said that Tseng is risking the public’s health and safety; commission board president Chris Hwang concurred.
For months BVOCP has been calling on the City to revoke the alteration permit issued for work at 2065 Oakdale Avenue, and replace it with a demolition permit. In January the BOA ruled that the City granted the correct permit. With last month’s vote that decision has been set aside.
According to Dodt, BVOCP will repeat its request that the Board of Appeals reconsider revoking the alteration permit issued to Tseng, and instead require a demolition permit. A demolition permit would force Tseng to get approvals from a number of City departments or organizations, costing money and time.
Tseng, his attorney, David Silverman, and City code expert Pat Buscovich, declined to comment after the vote. During the hearing, Silverman said that Tseng’s renovation of the site will result in jobs and improved neighborhood safety, and that BVOCP’s request doesn’t satisfy the requirements for a rehearing. Buscovitch told the board that Tseng’s contractor fired the person responsible for the alleged threatening of the building inspector.
Dodt said it appears that Tseng is demolishing the remaining building as well, including interior walls and slab areas. “This new work is in direct violation of the requirements issued by the Board of Permit Appeals for 311/312 notices and applications for work unrelated to the existing” notices of violation, the BVOCP wrote in its letter requesting the rehearing.
District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen has been working on legislation to require property owners to notify neighbors when they tear down large sections of a building under an alteration permit, such as occurred at 2065 Oakdale Avenue. “We have been refining the structure [of the legislation] with the City Attorney’s Office, DBI and Planning,” said Andrea Bruss, a representative with the supervisor’s office.
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