Building Inspection Commission - January 15, 2020 - Minutes

Meeting Date: 
January 15, 2020 - 10:00am

PDF icon BIC Minutes 01-15-20.pdf

Department of Building Inspection (DBI)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.
City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 416
Aired Live on SFGTV Channel 78
ADOPTED February 19, 2020

The regular meeting of the Building Inspection Commission was called to order at 10:10 a.m.
1. Call to Order and Roll Call - Roll call was taken and a quorum was certified.
Angus McCarthy, President Alysabeth Alexander-Tut, Commissioner
Kevin Clinch, Vice-President Jon Jacobo, Commissioner
Frank Lee, Commissioner Jason Tam, Commissioner
Sam Moss, Commissioner, Left 11:31 a.m.
Sonya Harris,. Secretary

Tom Hui, Director
Edward Sweeney, Deputy Director, Inspection Services
Taras Madison, Chief Financial Officer
John Murray, Legislative and Public Affairs

Robb Kapla, Deputy City Attorney

2. President's Announcements.
President McCarthy made the following announcements:
• Good Morning and Welcome to the Building Inspection Commission meeting for January, 2020, and a very New Year to all.
• Kudos to our Technical Services Division, who successfully completed the triennial code update. This was a huge undertaking, involving a lot of difficult coordination and tight deadlines. A special thanks to the all the DBI staff who worked so hard to make it happen. Well done!
• With the new year, we are welcoming three new colleagues to the Building Inspection Commission, who were all sworn in on Wednesday, January 8:
o Jonathan Jacobo in the General Public Seat.
o Alysabeth Alexander-Tut in the Tenant Seat
o And Jason Tam is occupying the Residential Landlord Seat
We will have a chance to hear from you in a few minutes, but on behalf of the Commission you are very welcome and we look forward to working with you.
• And finally, I'd like to recognize Bill Strawn, who retired on January 3rd, after 13 years with the Department of Building inspection. During his time here he always impressed us with his knowledge, professionalism, and attention to detail. I know I speak for my colleagues as well when I see we will miss him and wish him the best of luck.

President McCarthy joked that in Bill's 13 years at DBI he tried to upset him, but couldn't. He said that his experience goes all the way back to Senator Feinstein, and Mr. Strawn was professional, clear, did his research, knew the facts. He dealt with a lot of legislation over the years, and had the unique ability to make it simple for the Commission to understand.

Commissioner Lee mentioned that during his time on the Commission, they created the position of Public Affairs Officer, and Bill Strawn was one of DBI's first Communications Officers, and did a fantastic job of doing a lot of public outreach.
• That concludes my announcements- and, again, a very happy new year to all.

3. Welcome and introduction of new Commissioners.

Commissioner Jon Jacobo said that it was an honor to be present serving on the Building Inspection Commission. It is also an honor as a San Franciscan, and he hopes to carry on some of the work that Commissioner Walker did for numerous years. Commissioner Jacobo said he was excited to get his feet wet working with the Department and learning a lot of new things.

Commissioner Jason Tam said that he is a San Francisco native, and very excited to serve the city that raised him and he has already met a lot of wonderful people. He is looking forward to doing a good job and carrying out the integrity of the Commission.

Commissioner Alysabeth Alexander-Tut said that she holds the Commission and Department in her heart. Right out of college she started working as a tenant organizer in the Tenderloin with the Code Enforcement Outreach Program (CEOP). She said that she worked with tenants in SROs and apartment buildings, and she has continued that work throughout her life. The Code is important to keep the city's housing healthy and safe for the people of San Francisco. Commissioner

Alexander-Tut said that she was looking forward to working with everyone, and she thanked Commissioner Walker for the legacy that she has left.

4. Acknowledgement and appreciation of retired Commissioners.
President McCarthy presented the following comments regarding the acknowledgement and appreciation of retired Commissioners.
• I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize our three outgoing commissioners, James Warshell, John Konstin, and Debra Walker.
• Jim W arshell was first appointed to the Commission in 2016, occupying the general public seat. He was a valuable voice for the preservation of San Francisco's historic buildings. And he always impressed me with his thoughtful analysis of the items brought before this Commission.
• John Konstin, who was also appointed in 2016 to the residential landlord seat. As a successful restaurateur and small business owner, John brought an important perspective to this Commission. His steady and sensible manner were greatly appreciated.
• And last but certainly not least, we say goodbye to Debra Walker, who has been one of our longest serving members, with 20 years sitting on this Commission. She has brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the BIC which was truly unique. I always appreciated her gift for helping me and my other fellow commissioners properly word our motions. And while we may have had some disagreements, Debra always handled them amicably and made an effort to come to a fair resolution for all involved.
• It has been a pleasure to serve with all three of you. On behalf of this Building Inspection Commission and the Department of Building Inspection, your service to the people of San Francisco is greatly appreciated, and we wish you all of the best in your future endeavors.

President McCarthy said that Commissioner Walker was fair and an advocate for transparency, and she is taking time off to do what she loves best which is paint. Commissioner Moss said that Commissioner Walker made him feel welcome when he joined the BIC last year. He has never had a litmus test for enthusiasm and it is hard to get excited about certain items, but Commissioner Walker encouraged that excitement. People need to put in work to help the neighborhoods in San Francisco, and the Building Code has been used to negatively
affect people at times, so the BIC is working to make that stop and he is glad he had a mentor like Commissioner Walker.

Commissioner Clinch said that he was going to miss Commissioner Walker, and he seconded everything that President McCarthy and the other Commissioners have said.

Commissioner Lee said that when Commissioner Walker returned to the BIC she solidified the

Commission, kept things on a steady keel, and kept the Department moving forward. He counts her as a friend, and is going to miss her.

Secretary Harris said that she appreciated Commissioner Walker for always being supportive of her, former Commission Secretary Ann Aherne, and Assistant Commission Secretary Shirley Wong. She did not treat them like secretaries, but as equal partners.

Commissioner Lee, President McCarthy, and Director Hui presented Commissioner Debra Walker with Certificates of Appreciation from the Building Inspection Commission and the Department of Building Inspection. She was also presented with a retired badge from the BIC, and there was a group photo taken.

Director Tom Hui said that he was going to miss Commissioner Walker, and that she was his mentor for years. She has offered guidance since he was appointed as Director of the Department of Building Inspection. There are challenges with the upcoming 49 SVN move, and he mentioned that he would continue working on a new computer system, and hopefully she would be around to assist him and the Department since he was not a computer expert.

Commissioner Debra Walker stated that it has truly been the honor of her life to serve as a member of the Building Inspection Commission. The work the Commission does is so important to people's lives and their homes and livelihood in many cases. The importance of coming together for real solutions is vital, so she welcomed the new Commissioners. She said that she was proud to have worked with Commissioner Alexander-Tut for so many years. As much as she loved the Commission, she has wanted to retire for a while. It is really important to have people on the Commission that understand what tenants go through in the city. She mentioned it was good that Commissioner Alexander-Tut was willing to serve, because she knows about tenant issues through personal experience and also knows where the solutions can lie. She leaves the Commission in really good hands, and she will be around as well. She thanked Secretary Harris and joked that she ran the department, but definitely runs the Commissioners. She also said that Secretary Harris has been stellar in getting the BIC items to the Commissioners in a timely manner in order to make the decisions that they make. She is the outreach person between the Commission and the Department and does things to bring the divisions together and keep the workers happy and healthy. To the staff of DBI, you do amazing work and it is a thankless task. She knows some high power attorneys who are not afraid of anything, but once an Inspector shows up at their door they are nervous and have called her and she just advised them to just listen to the Inspectors since it is their job to solve problems. She appreciated that Director Hui put on record the computer program commitment, since she has been focused on that for many years. It is important that DBI's business systems work and do not become a problem, so she would be happy to help with that.
She thanked each of the Board Presidents that have appointed her to serve on the BIC: Tom Ammiano, Aaron Peskin, David Chiu, and current Mayor London Breed. It has truly been an honor and she thanked the City Attorneys for their presence. It is DBI's commitment to help the
public solve problems, and when they are not then the City's Code Enforcement team helps. She quipped that she was going to reserve the seat next to Jerry Dratler, so watch out. She and other members in the public sector are willing to help. Commissioner Walker thanked all of the existing Commissioners for serving, and she is sure the city does too.

5. General Public Comment: The BIC will take public comment on matters within the Commission's jurisdiction that are not part of this agenda.

Mr. Jerry Dratler, resident, submitted handouts for the Commissioners. Mr. Dratler said that he was concerned about the frequency and number of Building Code violations in San Francisco.

Mr. Dratler mentioned the following items:
4,000+ complaints DBI received in 2018/2019.
Complaints resulted in NOV s and penalties.
Penalty vs. home values does not detract contractors from violating the Building Code.
He sent a Sunshine Request to DBI for an electronic file of all NOV s issued over the last 4 years with a financial penalty.
Data was easily accessible through the DBI Permit Tracking System (PTS). There were 1,000+ NOVs in the Excel file that he received.
Consistent with the department's commitment to transparency and accountability DBI charged him $1,900+ for the data and he would like a refund, because he needed the data to prepare the report for the BIC.
Property owner NOV monitoring fees, stratified data, merged into 2 groups.
Further details, including property addresses were discussed based on the handout that was submitted.
• Systems need an overhaul and there are 3 new commissioners and a great place to jump in.
Chief Housing Inspector Jamie Sanbonmatsu welcomed the new Commissioners on behalf of Housing Inspection Services (HIS). Senior Housing Inspector David Herring retired after 17 years and he was a giant of integrity, not just because he was very tall, 6'4". A landlord who had bought a building on Clementina Alley was involved in one of Inspector Herring's most notable cases.

They were trying to move the tenants out, and had cut the floor joist. Inspector David Herring discovered that, and said so on the witness stand. David enjoyed swimming, skiing, baseball, and Peter Frampton. Yesterday staff learned that he had passed away from ALS, and Mr. Sanbonmatsu showed a very nice picture of David. He asked for a moment of silence in David's honor, and said that the HIS staff would continue to go forward and do the best work that they could.

6. Discussion and possible action to nominate candidates for BIC President and VicePresident
(Vote to take place at February meeting).

Commissioner Moss made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Clinch to nominate

Commissioner Angus McCarthy as President of the Building Inspection Commission.


Commissioner Clinch made a motion, seconded by Commissioner McCarthy to nominate Commissioner Sam Moss as Vice-President of the Building Inspection Commission.


Secretary Harris called for public comment.

Commissioner Debra Walker said that while she was on the BIC the Officers were representative of one Mayor's member and one Board of Supervisors' member. She believed this was why the Commission worked so well together.

7. Discussion and possible action to appoint Commissioners to serve on the Litigation SubCommittee.
Commissioner Clinch made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Moss to nominate

Commissioners Angus McCarthy, Alysabeth Alexander-Tut, and Jon Jacobo as members of the Litigation Sub-Committee.

Secretary Harris called for a roll call vote:
President McCarthy YES
Commissioner Clinch  YES
Commissioner Lee  YES
Commissioner Tam  YES

The motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Alexander-Tut  YES
Commissioner Jacobo  YES
Commissioner Moss  YES

8. Discussion and possible action to appoint Commissioners to serve on the Nominations Sub-Committee.

Secretary Harris described the general function of the Nominations Sub-Committee, and Commissioner Lee added further information.

President McCarthy made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Clinch, to nominate

Commissioners Frank Lee, Sam Moss, and Jason Tam as members of the Nominations SubCommittee.


9. Commissioner's Questions and Matters.
a. Inquiries to Staff. At this time, Commissioners may make inquiries to staff regarding various documents, policies, practices, and procedures, which are of interest to the Commission.

There were no inquiries to staff.
b. Future Meetings/Agendas. At this time, the Commission may discuss and take action to set the date of a Special Meeting and/or determine those items that could be placed on the agenda of the next meeting and other future meetings of the Building Inspection Commission.

Secretary Harris stated that the next Regular Meeting would be on February 19, 2020, and there would be a Special Meeting on January 29, 2020.

10. Discussion and possible action regarding changing the BIC start time.

Commissioner Moss said that he would like to consider starting the BIC meeting in the afternoon, similar to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, so that members of the public would be able to attend and give public comment.

President McCarthy said that he was open to a discussion about this.

Commissioner Lee said that the public watches the BIC meeting on TV, either live or on re-runs.

The ability to broadcast is important. He said that the Commission may want to hold Special meetings in the evening to allow for public that are interested in attending.

Commissioner Moss stated that part of the Commissioner's job is to encourage participation, and there is not a mechanism for people to participate. Constituents get letters in the mail, and most people throw them away and go eat dinner. As a result, the small group of people that can be the loudest and publicly go to a meeting on a weekday "get the cake".

Commissioner Jacobo said that equitable accessibility is important. City government is at times prohibitive for the working class and families. He is open to moving the meeting, but an entire department revolves around it also. The Abatement Appeals Board (AAB) and Building
Inspection Commission (BIC) start times would change. Holding Special meetings maybe difficult and inconsistent.

Commissioner Alexander-Tut said that 1:00 to 3 :00 p.m. is also the pickup time after kids get out of school.

Deputy City Attorney Robb Kapla mentioned that the BIC may want to set up an exploratory committee to discuss the idea of changing the meeting time.

Commissioner Moss made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Jacobo to set up an exploratory committee to discuss possibly changing the BIC and AAB meeting start times.

Secretary Harris called for a roll call vote:
President McCarthy  YES
Commissioner Clinch  YES
Commissioner Lee  YES
Commissioner Tam  YES
Commissioner Alexander-Tut  YES
Commissioner Jacobo  YES
Commissioner Moss  YES

The motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Moss made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Jacobo to nominate Commissioners Sam Moss, Alysabeth Alexander-Tut, and Jon Jacobo as members of the exploratory committee.

Secretary Harris called for public comment.

Mr. Jerry Dratler said that for three young Commissioners he was surprised that they were addressing this from a physical presence view. He stated that materials could be available earlier online, and members of the public could submit written comments. Mr. Dratler said that they should not think about people being physically at the meetings.

Secretary Harris called for a roll call vote:
President McCarthy  YES
Commissioner Clinch  YES
Commissioner Lee  YES
Commissioner Tam  YES
Commissioner Alexander-Tut  YES
Commissioner Jacobo  YES
Commissioner Moss  YES

The motion carried unanimously.


11. Update regarding the cannabis business permitting process.

Director Marisa Rodriguez from the Office of Cannabis said that she would be joined by Jeremy Schwartz, Permit Analyst, and Mr. Eugene Hillsman, Deputy Director of Office of Cannabis, and Ray Law of the Department of Public Health.

Director Rodriguez and staff gave a presentation and discussed the following items:
• Historical Perspective
• SF Office of Cannabis
• Organization Chart
• Office of Cannabis: Core Functions
• State Licensing Authorities
• Priority Processing
• Equity Program & Existing Industry
• Permitting Process Flow
• Requirements for All Applicants
• Existing Retail by District
• Global Application Pipeline
• Retail by District Map
• Where to Consume?
• Cannabis Consumption Safety
• Cannabis Events

Commissioner's & Staff Question & Answer Discussion:
• President McCarthy said that everyone kind of panicked at first, but he was wondering how community outreach was going.
• Director Rodgriguez said there was a lot of hysteria and it took time for the community to get used to things. Community surprised that dispensaries are quiet, peaceful, and no problem. Would be nice to have a vacant storefront be a business, and more discreet.
• President McCarthy asked about the location statistics Where potential new cannabis would not go.
• Ms. Rodriguez said the older model had 15 dispensaries in one area. Certain part of the city is zoned for certain types of businesses.
• President McCarthy asked if she saw S .F. being manufacturer or a different location.
• Ms. Rodriguez said it was hard to do business in S.F., and manufacturers in the past have left the city. Question is if community would be supportive. Problem to rent out space/warehouses, even in the Bayview. This could provide union based jobs. Cultivation is different, since a huge footprint is needed.
• President McCarthy asked if power was an issue.
• Ms. Rodriguez said yes power is an issue, including transformers, etc.
• Commissioner Jacobo thanked Dr. Rodriguez for the presentation. He lives in the Mission district and pre-conceived notion in the past about the liquor business, etc. This is a journey for people, and folks were arrested in the past.
• Ms. Rodriguez said if the Commissioners hear of places that want to hear their presentation to let them know. She left the District Attorney's Office for the position as Director of the Office of Cannabis. The cannabis community gives back in a meaningful way.
• Commissioner Alexander-Tut said that she was excited to hear the report, and said to call on the BIC if they could be supportive.

12. Director's Report.
a. Update on DBl's finances.
Deputy Director of Finance Services, Taras Madison, presented the following update on DBI' s finances:
Ms. Madison presented the monthly 2019 financial report (July - December 2019).
(Clarified information for the new Commissioners regarding the financial report):
• 1st page gives Actuals and projections, and projections are preliminary.
• 2nd page behind memo are the details, and the Department collects different types of revenue (First two pages has the monthly for each of those types of revenues and the final three pages has a summary and projections, and the last page is a comparison of the last fiscal year compared to this fiscal year.) Basically this is what is included every month.

DBI collected $41.2M compared to $40.3M during the same period in 2018
Slight increase of total revenue, based on an increase in plan checking and premium plan review. This was offset last year by the Controller's Office putting $2M in DBI's account, which is not there yet.
When the interest is taken out of consideration, December has been a good month. $4.3M was collected in December as a monthly revenue, which normally does not happen.
Plan checking and premium plan checking revenues were a lot in December.
Above may be an anomaly, because the Code changed in January so more people came in December to pull permits.

• $3 l .3M was collected this year compared to $30M last year, due to grants to Community Based Organizations (CBOs).
• CBOs submitted their invoices in a timely manner.
• One place DBI expects to see more activity is in services to other departments. (Work orders that are paid to other departments who provide work to DBL
• Projecting an $8.2M surplus in revenues, but that is preliminary and will be adjusted later as the Department sees more billings from vendors, other departments, etc.

Ms. Madison gave a summary of the information provided on the memo that was enclosed.

Commissioner Lee asked a question about revenue this fiscal year. You mentioned the year to date, which is 6 months is $41M or so, why is the projected revenue for the next 6 months so much more? Last year in December, the YTD was almost the same as the YTD this year so, but the actual for FY 18/19 was $84M- Why is the Department's projection for FY 19/20 so high at $99M?

Deputy Director Madison stated that the first section of revenues are those that DBI is bringing in now, for example: Charges for services (4 pages of all revenues DBI collects). She also explained that expenditure recoveries are things DBI does for other departments, just as other departments do for DBI. The $99M is basically the Department using fund balance. The first section is on the operating side, and what DBI really tracks.

Commissioner Lee clarified that the projected revenue, excluding the fund balance, is actually less than last year and Ms. Madison confirmed this statement.

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

Mr. John Murray, Legislative and Public Affairs, gave an update on proposed or recently enacted State or local legislation, and addressed the following points:
• File No. 190959-190964-Triennial Building Code Update. The 6 ordinances updating the SF Building Code were introduced at the Board of Supervisors on October 1, and signed by the Mayor on November 21st• -2019 Building Code went into effect January 1, 2020. This is done every 3 years, and the SF Amendments were non-substantive but quite a bit of work getting everything through.
• Mr. Murray thanked the Technical Services Division (TSD) for their effort during the Code cycle.
• File No. 180969/Plumbing Code Cross-Connection Controls - Ordinance sponsored by DPH and the SFPUC. There was a little discrepancy between the Plumbing Code and their regulations. RE: Backflow prevention, carbonated water and copper pipes, preventing copper poisoning.
• File No. 190974 - Supervisor Mandelman's ordinance proposing new buildings to be required to meet stricter energy standards if plumbed to use natural gas. Legislation passed by BOS, and on the Mayor's desk for approval. There was discussion from the Board members about retrofitting existing buildings, and making them all electric and that is going to be a big issue going forward.
• File No. 191005 (Proposition D) Ordinance proposed by Supervisor Peskin to impose an excise tax on property owners that are keeping commercial properties vacant.
Proposition D will be on the March 2020 ballot. DBI' s role will be to provide information to the city, and there is a database of vacant storefronts. Only applies to properties in commercial districts, not citywide.

c. Update on major projects.

Director Tom Hui gave an update on major projects and stated that the Code change was effective in January, so there were more customers who came in to apply for permits. Director Hui stated there was a 9.7% increase in major projects.

d. Update on Code Enforcement.
Deputy Director of Inspection Services, Edward Sweeney, presented the following Building Inspection Division Performance Measures for December 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019:
• Building Inspections Performed  4,828
• Complaints Received  408
• Complaint Response within 24-72 hours  465
• Complaints with 1st Notice of Violation sent  48
• Complaints Received & Abated without NOV  220
• Abated Complaints with Notice of Violations  31
• 2nd Notice of Violations Referred to Code Enforcement  42

Deputy Director Sweeney presented the following Housing Inspection Services Performance Measures for December 1, 2019 to December 30, 2019:
• Housing Inspections Performed  827
• Complaints Received  384
• Complaint Response within 24-72 hours  350
• Complaints with Notice of Violations issued  141
• Abated Complaints with NOVs  325
• # of Cases Sent to Director's Hearing  32
• Routine Inspections  110
Deputy Director Sweeney presented the following Code Enforcement Services Performance Measures for December 1, 2019 to December 30, 2019:
• # Housing of Cases Sent to Director's Hearing  101
• # Complaints of Order of Abatements Issues  14
• # Complaint of Cases Under Advisement  10
• # Complaints of Cases Abated  109
• Code Enforcement Inspections Performed   233
• # of Cases Referred to BIC-LC
• # of Case Referred to City Attorney  2

Deputy Director Sweeney said Code Enforcement Outreach Programs are updated on a quarterly basis, so there is no change in data until next quarter:
• # Total people reached out to  *16,636
• # Counseling cases  *1,050
• # Community Program Participants  *2,502
• # Cases Resolved  *313

Commission Secretary Harris called for public comment and there was none.

13. Review and approval of the minutes of the Regular Meeting of December 18, 2019.

Commissioner Clinch made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Tam to approve the minutes of the Regular meeting of December 18, 2019. The motion carried unanimously.


14. Discussion and possible action on the annual performance evaluation for the Director.
(Continued from the December 18, 2019 BIC Meeting)

a. Public Comment on all matters pertaining to the Closed Session.
Secretary Harris called for public comment, and there was none.

b. Possible action to convene a Closed Session.
Commissioner Lee made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Clinch to convene a Closed Session. The motion carried unanimously.


The Building Inspection Commission convened a Closed Session at 12:02 p.m.

c. CLOSED SESSION: Pursuant to Government Code Section 54957(b) and the San Francisco Administrative Code Section 67.10(b).

Director of the Department of Building Inspection - Mr. Tom C. Hui

d. Reconvene in Open Session to vote on whether to disclose any or all discussions held in Closed Session (Administrative Code Section 67.10(b ).

Commissioner Lee made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Tam to reconvene in Open Session, and not disclose items discussed in Closed Session. The motion carried unanimously.


The Building Inspection Commission reconvened in Open Session at 12:12 p.m.

15. Adjournment.

Commissioner McCarthy made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Tam, to adjourn the Meeting.

President McCarthy closed the meeting in honor of Senior Housing Inspector David Herring, who was a great DBI employee for 17 years and he recently passed away. In addition, he closed the meeting in honor of Mr. Patrick Aheme. Ann Aheme was his wife, and a huge fixture at DBI who was the former Building Inspection Commission Secretary for over 13 years. Condolences to Ann and her family on the loss of Patrick who was quite a power house in the Irish community, and very well respected. In conclusion, the meeting was closed in honor of these two great gentlemen.


The meeting was adjourned at 12:14 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Sonya Harris, BIC Secretary