Building Inspection Commission - August 19, 2015 - Minutes

Meeting Date: 
August 19, 2015 - 10:00am
City Hall, Room 416

BIC Minutes 08-19-15.pdf

  Department of Building Inspection (DBI)

  Wednesday, August 19, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.
  City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 416
  Aired Live on SFGTV Channel 78
  Adopted March 16, 2016
The regular meeting of the Building Inspection Commission was called to order at 10:12 a.m. by President McCarthy.

1. Call to Order and Roll Call – Roll call was taken and a quorum was certified.

        Angus McCarthy, President            Warren Mar, Vice-President
        Frank Lee, Commissioner                Kevin Clinch, Commissioner
        James McCray, Jr. Commissioner         Myrna Melgar, Commissioner, excused
        Debra Walker, Commissioner, excused
        Sonya Harris, Secretary

        Tom Hui, Director
        Ron Tom, Assistant Director
        Edward Sweeney, Deputy Director, Permit Services
        Dan Lowrey, Deputy Director, Inspection Services
        Taras Madison, Chief Financial Officer
        William Strawn, Legislative and Public Affairs Manager
        Lily Madjus, Communications Director
        Rosemary Bosque, Chief Housing Inspector
        Marlena Byrne, Deputy City Attorney
        Francesca Gessner, Deputy City Attorney

2. President’s Announcements

President McCarthy made the following announcements.

* Congratulations to Director Hui, and to the DBI Exec Team, which is finalizing the Department’s new Strategic Plan – setting goals, objectives and metrics to achieve during the current and coming fiscal years.  The Strategic Plan will be posted on DBI’s Intranet as a standing guide for all staff, and will help us improve our efficiencies and effectiveness.

* Thanks to Director Hui and members of the DBI Exec Team who are part of the Mayor’s City-wide effort to prepare for impacts from the celebrations tied to Super Bowl Fifty, which takes place in late January-early February 2016.  DBI’s role is to alert developers and contractors whose building projects may be affected by any Super Bowl Fifty street closures and other activities that could disrupt building supply deliveries and require schedule modifications.

* Thank you to Inspector Albert Leong of the Electrical Inspection Division who was very helpful in assisting a customer resolve a violation related to some electrical work.  He gave the customer a clear path to follow to help close out the case.

* Another job well done was by Inspector Christopher Grady of Housing Inspection Services who received a letter from a customer thanking him for his assistance and professionalism.

* Kudos to Building Inspectors Raymond Berrios and William Walsh who also received a letter of appreciation for their good work and excellent service out in the field.  

* Finally, special thanks to Assistant Director Ron Tom and the DBI Emergency Response Coordination Team, who are preparing for a rehearsal activation this October of DBI’s Departmental Operations Center (DOC) to enable staff to train and improve preparation and response skills so that we are ready for the next major earthquake.

* DBI Employee Recognition Committee members met, reviewed three nominations for DBI’s Employee of the Quarter for Quarter Two, 2015, and selected unanimously Permit Technician One, Code Enforcement, Danielle Hendricks.  Danielle was nominated by two different DBI staffers for her outstanding customer service skills, her warm personal interactions with customers on a daily basis, and for her impressive skill-sets and understanding of the code enforcement process.  Congratulations to Danielle, to those who nominated her, and to DBI’s excellent Code Enforcement team.
3. General Public Comment:  The BIC will take public comment on matters within the Commission’s jurisdiction that are not part of this agenda.  

There was no general public comment.  

4. Discussion & possible action to approve and swear in a member of the Code Advisory Committee, Member-At-Large Seat, Jonathan Rodriguez.

Commissioner Lee stated that the Code Advisory’s Nomination Committee held a meeting in which they interviewed three candidates for the Member-At-Large position.  The Committee was impressed with all of the applicants that expressed an interest to volunteer their time to be on the Committee.  They expressed that each candidate had their own strengths and they appreciated all of the applicant’s efforts to be a part of the Committee.  The person they selected to fill the position is Jonathan Rodriguez.  The reasons they selected Mr. Rodriguez was because they felt that both his resume and background were unique, due to the fact that he is an attorney and has worked with people in the industry.  They also felt that characteristic was not present on the Committee and they believed it would be a good thing to have on the Committee, which is why they nominated Jonathan Rodriguez to the Code Advisory Committee, Member-At-Large seat.  

Commissioner Lee stated they were excited to have Mr. Rodriguez sit on the Committee due to the fact that he had great qualifications.  

Commissioner Lee made a motion, seconded by Commissioner McCray to approve the appointment of Jonathan Rodriguez, to the Code Advisory Committee, Member-At-Large seat.  
Secretary Harris asked if there was any public comment on this item and there was none. 

Secretary Harris called for a roll call vote:

    President McCarthy        YES        Vice-President Mar        YES
    Commissioner Lee        YES        Commissioner McCray    YES
    Commissioner Clinch        YES    

The motion carried unanimously.  


President McCarthy invited Mr. Rodriguez to say a few words.  

Mr. Rodriguez stated he was very excited about being appointed and he thanked the Commissioners, and also said he wanted to do everything he could to help out with code development in San Francisco.  Mr. Rodriguez has been a resident of San Francisco since 1992 and lives with his family in the city.  Mr. Rodriguez has been in and out of the Department of Building Inspection for various reasons and because of that he has become familiar with a lot of the staff.  He said that he was very eager and excited about actually being a part of the code development that is unique to San Francisco, which is a leader in code development.  It not only benefits the city but also makes an impact within the state and the country.  For example, the destination based elevator systems and all the hard work that they did.  Mr. Rodriguez wrote the first draft thinking it would only take a few months; however there were a lot of stakeholders. Since then, it has become a part of the Building Code for the State of California and the rest of the country is looking at it as a platform for their own code development.  He feels that San Francisco could be a leader in code development and is very excited to be a part of the Code Advisory Committee and appreciates his appointment.  

Secretary Harris thanked the committee and asked Mr. Rodriguez to come by her office in order to get his Oath of Office.

5. Discussion & possible action to approve and swear in a member of the Code Advisory Committee Major Projects, Contractor Seat, Michael Chavez.
Commissioner McCray stated that the Nominations subcommittee also interviewed eligible candidates for the Major Projects Contractor Seat.  Mr. Michael Chavez was chosen due to the fact that he has a wealth of experience and background working with high rises and various companies throughout the city.  The subcommittee expressed their excitement about Mr. Chavez’s presentation and the time he spent with them.  

Commissioner McCray made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Lee, to appoint Michael Chavez to the Code Advisory Committee, Major Projects Contractor Seat. 

Secretary Harris asked if there was any public comment on this item and there was none. 

Secretary Harris called for a roll call vote:

President McCarthy        YES        Vice-President Mar        YES
Commissioner Lee        YES        Commissioner McCray    YES
Commissioner Clinch        YES        

The motion carried unanimously.  


President McCarthy asked if Mr. Chavez wanted to say a few words.  

Mr. Chavez thanked the Commission and the Department of Building Inspection for “throwing his name in the hat”.  He has lived in San Francisco for 21 years.  He met his wife in San Francisco, and the first day he worked in the city he fell in love with it and wanted to call it his home.  The San Francisco Main Library was the first project he built, his second was the Asian Art Museum and while working for Webcor he built several high rises in the city.  He also mentioned that after being on the other side of code changes and the challenges they present, he is excited to now be a part of the reviewing process of the building codes.  He is also looking forward to sharing his wealth of information with the newer talent of project engineers and superintendents that live and work in San Francisco.  

Secretary Harris said that she would be getting in touch with him about getting sworn in.  

Appeal by Working Dirt R2, LLC, represented by Zacks & Freedman, P.C., regarding property located at 938-940 Hampshire Street, and Director Tom Hui’s April 24, 2105 determination of tenant relocation benefits pursuant to Section 17975 et seq. of the California Health & Safety Code. 

Discussion and possible action to adopt written Notice of Decision and Findings for appeal filed by Working Dirt R2, LLC regarding 938-940 Hampshire Street. 

    Note: This item was first heard by the Building Inspection Commission at its July 15, 2015 meeting.  At that meeting, the Commission voted unanimously to deny the appeal, uphold the Director's determination of tenant relocation benefits, and adopt written findings at a subsequent meeting. 

Mr. Scott Freedman, Attorney for the Appellant, presented the following information:
* Discussed findings – This matter results from deferred maintenance, but these are conditions that occurred sometime ago.  Per the Department’s records these conditions have existed for over 20 years.
* The order issued on April 3 or 4 with the relocation amounts did not contain the necessary information for the landlord and the tenants to meaningfully depart from the property.
* Questions that he and the owner have is how come nothing was done sooner, and why did DBI not plan for this.  Why were the amounts not stated in the Order that was issued?
* The problems that the Commission heard about and the unfortunate situation the tenants were put in all resulted from the three week lag between the Order being issued, and the statement offered by the Department about the relocation benefits they were entitled to.
* The landlord paid the amounts that he believed were owed.  The tenants believed they were entitled to more, and as a result a dispute arose.
* Within hours of issuing the checks the payments were stopped, but now all of the tenants have been issued new checks in the amounts that the Department ordered they be paid.
* Current owner bought the property in January and immediately applied for permits.
* The owner noticed the tenants and relocated them before the Department requested it.
* The owner did everything that he could, but lacked direction from the Department.
* Non-compliance with the Health and Safety Code could have been avoided if clear direction was given.
* Mr. Freedman asked that in the future the Department or the City consider some regulations, so that landlords and tenants would be better off in these situations.

Chief Housing Inspector Rosemary Bosque presented the following information:
* Commended the Commission on the extensive hearing on this item at its last meeting.
* In early February Inspectors met with the property owner to answer any questions he might have, and everyone was aware of the Notices of Violation and what was going on.
* With the testimony that the BIC received and the staff reports that were submitted, she believes that the Commission should support the findings as they have been indicated.

President McCarthy stated that he concurred with the findings.  Procedurally he felt DBI could have handled it better, and the lapse in time kind of bothered him, and he asked Director Hui if DBI had a better way to itemize or quantify expenses that a property owner may incur.  

Director Hui said this was the first case the Department had and he would work with the City Attorney to come up with a better procedure.

President McCarthy said that the Commission learned a lot from this, but personally he would not be as lenient with the Department next time.  It would be good to have clear procedures and directions. President McCarthy thanked the City Attorney’s office for their help.

Vice-President Mar said that he concurred with President McCarthy’s remarks, and this was not the first time DBI has dealt with a long standing NOV problem.  Previous landlord chose to deal with this by selling the property.  There is nothing to stop an owner from selling a property in any condition, but when the owner bought the property he also “bought” the NOVs and inherited the tenant’s problems.

Commissioner Lee made a motion, seconded by Vice-President Mar, to adopt the findings.

Secretary Harris called for public comment.

Mr. Jerry Dratler, a former member of the Civil Grand Jury in 2012/2013, said that one finding is some DBI divisions did not collect the fee when NOVs ran past the allotted time period, and he would like to know if this had been remedied.  This is something that would address the problem.  Mr. Dratler said that ACCELA was the solution.  Progress is important, but short term goal.

President McCarthy said that he would argue that DBI is doing a lot better in that area.

Mr. Dratler said he thought Accela would be the answer to the problem once it is ready.

Secretary Harris called for a roll call vote:

President McCarthy        YES        Vice-President Mar        YES
Commissioner Lee        YES        Commissioner McCray    YES
Commissioner Clinch        YES    
The motion carried unanimously.  


7. Update on DBI’s Policy Regarding Decks and Balconies. 

Ron Tom, Assistant Director, gave an update and discussed the following items: 
* Balcony/Deck Safety Overview
* Existing Codes 
o Projections and Appendages – SF Building Code Section 1403.8
o Structural Maintenance – SF Housing Code Section 604
* Outreach Efforts
o Media (radio/television news interviews, press release)
o Information sharing
o Outreach to building owners, realtors, property owners and community organizations
o Feature stories with SF Apartment Association
o Housing Inspections Services including Section 604 materials in routine and complaint-related inspections and services

* Next Steps
o Assessment of Plan Review and Inspection Services processes – emphasis on balcony/deck safety review
o Discussion with Code Advisory Committee and other subcommittees for code change recommendations
o Include affidavit in physical inspection for Condo Conversions
o Expand use of SFHC Section 604 Affidavit
o Keep track of property characteristics through Accela building profile such as balcony, decks, exterior stairs
* Outreach Next Steps
o Continued outreach to DBI customers (property owners, contractors) and stakeholders
* Any Questions?

Commissioner’s & Staff Question & Answer Discussion:
* V.P. Mar said there was a case regarding an illegal deck and balcony that was dealt with at the Litigation Committee.  
* Neighbors called him and complained about the illegal deck and DBI did everything right by issuing the NOV, moving it to a Director’s Hearing, and finally sent it to the City Attorney’s Office.
* Apartment building was rented to college students and clearly an illegal deck that they made into “party central”.  V.P. Mar put heat on the Code Enforcement Division and they put heat on the property owner, but the deck is still there.
* Mr. Tom said he appreciated the Commissioner’s concerns and they have made decks and balconies a priority because people are at risk for injury or death.
* Commissioner Clinch said that the balcony collapse in Berkeley was a fairly new structure, but there was water damage and problems with the fasteners.
* Director Hui stated that he reviewed the case and there was a hole and water damage.  Water proofing with concrete on top.  Composite deteriorated faster.  Overcrowding was an issue too.
* Commissioner Clinch said maybe DBI could require special inspection of water proofing assembly.  Director Hui said he would have Inspectors get more training, but they are not experts on it.
* President McCarthy said the Department’s scope is to make sure work is done correctly.
* Commissioner Lee asked what programs are in place for two-unit buildings or single family homes?  Mr. Tom said single family dwellings are dealt with by BID and multiple units are covered by HIS.  Mentioned Accela will allow system to have more detail and add features like decks, balconies, fire escapes, etc.
* Director Hui said DBI is concentrating on R2 and commercial buildings.  Mentioned cantilever decks are dangerous. 

Secretary Harris called for public comment and there was none.

a. Update on DBI’s finances.
Chief Financial Officer Taras Madison gave an update on DBI’s finances and discussed the following items:
* July is the first month of the fiscal year.
* Revenue – There was a 1% fee reduction in revenue.
* Expenditures – Department expended slightly more and staff is setting up for the fiscal year.
* July/August – Used these months to close out 2014/2015 fiscal year.

    President McCarthy asked if the reduced fees were in progress?  Ms. Madison said not yet.  Fees will be approved at the July Board of Supervisors meeting, and will be effective in October.

b. Update on proposed or recently enacted State or local legislation.

Mr. Bill Strawn, Legislative and Public Affairs Manager, gave an update on the following legislation:
* Mayor’s legislation passed for the budget.
* One reading took place and the second reading at the BOS will be in September and the Mayor would sign it on October 6 or 7.
* In October the new fee table will be in full effect (10% reduction), a little higher than 7% now.
* Building safety issue in Berkeley – Mr. Strawn had a few conversations with their staff.
* Berkeley did not have requirement DBI had since 2002.
* New ordinance is fashioned on Housing Code 604 and Chief Bosque and Mr. Strawn sent it to them.
* Berkeley added a couple of elements regarding pressure treated wood.
* Mayor’s legislation regarding in law units passed and takes effect early September.
* Issued 61/62 permits regarding legalizing in law units.
* Voluntary program so staff needs to wait for people to come to DBI.
* Supervisors Wiener & Christensen added additional dwelling units within the envelope of the building.
* Seismic retrofit program – Supervisor Wiener’s legislation.  If doing seismic retrofit additional dwelling unit.  Six permits applied for, but none issued.
* State legislation AB 1236.  Supervisor Chiu’s legislation requires immediate priority regarding electrical vehicle charging stations.
* S.F. is already “gold standard” for the state.

c. Update on major projects. 

Director Hui said that there was an increase of 9% in major projects since last month.

d. Update on code enforcement.

    Dan Lowrey, Deputy Director of Inspection Services, gave an update on code enforcement and presented the following statistics.

Deputy Director Lowrey presented the following Building Inspection Division Performance Measures for July 1, 2015 to July 31, 2015:

* Building Inspections Performed                5,625
* Complaints Received                           348
* Complaint Response within 24-72 hours               347
* Complaints with 1st Notice of Violation sent               34
* Complaints Received & Abated without NOV           185
* Abated Complaints with Notice of Violations              54
* 2nd Notice of Violations Referred to Code Enforcement         14

Deputy Director Lowrey presented the following Housing Inspection Services Performance Measures for July 1, 2015 to July 31, 2015: 

* Housing Inspections Performed                     947    
* Complaints Received                     355        
* Complaint Response in 24-72 hours             353    
* Complaints with NOVs issued             110
* Abated Complaints with NOVs                   392    
* # of Cases Sent to Director’s Hearing                 17
* Routine Inspections                       145    

Deputy Director Lowrey presented the following Code Enforcement Services Performance Measures for July 1, 2015 to July 31, 2015:                           
* # of Cases Sent to Director’s Hearing                   48
* # of Order of Abatements Issued                       13
* # of Cases Under Advisement                                 4
* # of Cases Abated                                       72
* Code Enforcement Inspections Performed             159
* # of Cases Referred to BIC-LC                         2
* # of Cases Referred to City Attorney             -

Mr. Lowrey said July was a busy month at DBI and there have been masses of people.  Inspectors and clerks were busy.

Secretary Harris called for public comment.

Mr. Jerry Dratler said that historically NOVs have been a problem.  His suggestion is that during the Director’s Report the revenue section should show NOVs outstanding from last year through this year.  NOVs are 12 months old.  Revenue requires collection.  If an NOV is shown as revenue, then see if it was substantial.  Mentioned activity vs. outcome:  Children go to school and learn information, then graduate.  Outcomes need to be reported.

Ms. Madison said regarding the revenue report, DBI uses specific account codes.  Specify each specific case.

Mr. Dratler stated that some divisions are not collecting, so the total aggregate amount of money collected, possibly a monthly fee.

Commissioners had additional comments regarding Mr. Dratler’s testimony.

9. Discussion on Accela Permit and Project Tracking System.

Mr. Henry Bartley gave an update on the Accela Permit and Project Tracking System and discussed the following items:
* There was a simulation done regarding plumbing permits, Planning Department site permits to the end of the Certificate of Final Completion (CFC).
* System started having problems, and they could not access the platform for 2 hours.  Accela staff said it was a router and firewall issue.
* They are trying to build confidence in users and show them a test.
* Meeting with Accela Chief Technology Officer and the head of Customer Service.
* They talked about various issues.  The City needs to get what they deserve for the money spent.
* V.P. Mar asked about a launch date and Mr. Bartley basically said they do not want to give one yet and not have it be met.

Secretary Harris called for public comment.

Mr. Dratler said that he commended Henry and his team for their professional management of the project.  They should make sure that the team is properly resumed and funded.  Whatever the go live date is, that should be a focus shift.

10. Review and approval of the minutes of the Regular Meeting of September 16, 2015.

Commissioner Lee made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Clinch, to approve the September 16, 2015 minutes of the Regular meeting.

Secretary Harris called for public comment and there was none.

The motion carried unanimously.


11. Commissioner’s questions and Matters.
a. Inquiries to Staff

Commissioner McCray said that next month he would like a report regarding Accela.  He posed questions such as: How close is the Department to Accela being complete – Is it 90% there now?  There was a 2 ½ hour breakdown, is that ongoing and has it happened before? How close is the project to completion after doing this for 5 years?

Vice-President Mar said he would like to review the Over the Counter 5th floor permitting process.  He also mentioned that some of this is related to Accela, and he wants to spend more time with the Director to let him know the Commission should be discussing in terms of Over the Counter versus submittal permits.

b. Future Meetings/Agendas.

Secretary Harris stated the next Regular meeting would be held on September 16, 2015.

12. Adjournment. 

Commissioner Clinch made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Lee to adjourn the meeting.
The motion carried unanimously.


   The meeting was adjourned at 11:55 a.m.

                                  Respectfully submitted,


                            Sandra Funes, Assistant Secretary


                            Edited by:  Sonya Harris, BIC Secretary


Report regarding Accela to include percentage of completion and number of breakdowns. – McCray 
Page 10
Discussion of Over the Counter (OTC) versus submittal permits. – Mar 
Page 11