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Media Coverage
Richmond Aims To Tackle Construction Defects
May 24, 1997



Saturday, May 24, 1997
Section: news
Page: A03

RICHMOND At first, the puddles the rain formed in front of The Beach condominiums at Marina Bay were funny. The residents even gave each little "lake" a name. 

But the subsequent flooding was not so funny. Nor was resident Diane Hedler's collapsed dining room ceiling. Even less humorous, later in the year, was a succession of chimney fires due to a design flaw in the fireplaces. 

Hedler, the president of The Beach homeowners association, said although the homeowners won a settlement of $5 million from the developers, it didn't help much. The money came out to about $40,000 per condo and wasn't enough to fix the substantial construction problems. Soon, people were itching to move but only foreclosures were selling. 

"It was a laughing joke, but now the impact in the community is substantially decreased property values," Hedler said. 

Some City Council members say the attempt would make Richmond the first city in the state to tackle the problem of construction defects in developments before they get to the stage of lawsuits and payoffs. 

An economic subcommittee met Thursday morning and heard testimony from Richmond residents about shoddy construction and designs gone wrong, all of which cost them money in lost property values. 

Councilman Tom Butt, an architect, said he gets frustrated seeing these dilemmas come before the City council. He said he thinks the city should do a better job regulating development and design. 

"In Richmond, the problem is no better or worse than any city," Butt said Thursday. "But if no other city can deal with this, maybe Richmond can show them the way." 

The design errors at Brickyard Landings condominiums in Point Richmond are "salient and egregious," said resident Robert Kish. A $4.5 million settlement from the developer wasn't enough to help homeowners fix faulty sewer lines, water leaks, dying landscaping and miscellaneous other aggravations, Kish said. 

"We've found electrical conduits not sealed properly, and nails driven into plumbing pipes; it's all done to save a nickel here, a nickel there," he said. 

Kish described in lengthy detail what he described as the developer and contractors' poor workmanship, blatant code violation and inappropriate landscaping. He said water intrusion was the most common effect of bad construction. 

"We're down to $300,000 and we still have problems left," he said. 

Butt said he wanted Richmond to be "pioneers," increasing the city's involvement in design, review and construction. Councilwoman Donna Powers was less enthusiastic. 

"You're more optimistic than me," she said to Butt. "I feel like just throwing up my hands. I don't think anything is going to change." 

The subcommittee asked residents to suggest solutions. Most said the city should have its building inspectors be meticulous about plans from the outset. 

Some suggested revamping the city's building codes and doing background checks on developers before approving their plans. 

Building official Fred Clement said one of his goals when he started his job with the city about 10 years ago was to alleviate these type of problems. 

"I don't think these problems cannot be solved," he said. "I intend to attack them head-on." 

Councilman Richard Griffin, chair of the subcommittee, asked Clement to investigate the problem and present an update to the subcommittee in a month. The next scheduled meeting is June 26.