Debris at 1068 Florida St. Photo by Nancy Kaufmann

Building owner Matthew Miller, who owns a Florida Street home that was last year partially demolished without any notice to the neighbors — or city permits to do so — was put in the hot seat at a Department of Building Inspection hearing Tuesday morning. 

Miller, seated alongside his architect Greg Smith, addressed Deputy Director of Inspections Edward Sweeney about the unpermitted demolition that occurred last summer at 1068 Florida St. 

Miller said he purchased the property several years prior with the intention of building a structure on it. He did not address previous claims made by his Contractor Joe O’Briain that subcontractors were supposed to be demolishing a different house on 28th Street when, instead, they haphazardly tore off the second  floor of the 1068 Florida St. property, between 22nd and 23rd. 

Since that time, Miller said, “we’ve been waiting for direction on what to exactly do.”

“Direction from whom?” Sweeney queried. “We gave you direction on the notice of violation. We talked to your Contractor Joe O’Briain a few times, who did cop to it.” 

Sweeney asked whether Miller had talked to his neighbors about the site issues. “No!” exclaimed a neighbor present at the meeting. 

“You don’t talk to your neighbors and that’s why you’re at the director’s hearing,” Sweeney said.

He made it clear that Miller would be receiving an order of abatement today, and will need to clean up the pile of debris that’s been sitting on the property since the surprise demolition last summer. 

1068 Florida St. Photo by Tammy Bickel.

Sweeney then opened the forum for public comment and asked if anyone would like to address this demolition fiasco. Three residents who live close to the property quickly raised their hands. 

Nancy Kaufmann, who lives two doors down from 1068 Florida St. and is a property manager for another home on the street, said she witnessed the “shocking sight of workers with zero protective coverage haphazardly and rapidly hand-demolishing 1068 Florida.” 

Kaufmann gathered 47 signatures from frustrated neighbors demanding that Miller clean up the debris. She showed several pictures of the site and said raccoons living there had torn holes through the tarp; Kaufmann held up a bag of torn strands of tarp. 

Another neighbor, Lois Alpert, looked Miller in the eye and expressed her discontent. “If you cared one iota, you would have paid attention a long time ago; I want you to feel guilty, I really do,” Alpert said. 

If Miller fails to remove the rubble and re-tarp the property within 15 days, Sweeney said, he risks receiving another  “Notice of Work Without Permit” violation, and be cited for “Demolition Without Permit.” 

“If you think it’s hard to get a demolition permit right now, wait until you get one of those,” Sweeney said. “It’s going to get a lot worse.”  

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  1. I think it is disgusting that in this country landlords never go to jail, no matter how egregious their offenses. Money rules America.

    1. Landlords DO go to jail in America, you need only google to find examples.
      You are conflating two separate issue – Miller is not a landlord on this property – there were no tenants living there.
      The city should have issued permits to demolish this property, it should have been with all safety precautions and Miller should be able to build new housing (with more units to address our shortage of housing).
      These are not excuses for Miller acting illegally – if it wasn’t an “accident.” Regardless of intent, he should be fined at least 50% value of the property (he can sue the contractor it was his fault) as a deterrent to other developers, but NIMBY’s have contributed to our housing shortage and high rents as much as any landlord.

  2. An unaccountable, corrupt and incompetent bureaucracy is one of the stepping stones towards authoritarianism.

  3. It’s fascinating and depressing how the City bureaucracy and its public facing information infrastructure works (or doesn’t).

    Go to and search for 1369 Sanchez Street. Then click on COMPLAINTS, then MORE DETAILS for the Active Complaint 2018-011345ENF and then on RELATED DOCUMENTS. You’ll see a bunch of notices and details of enforcement actions.

    Now do the same for 1068 Florida St. There are no Active Complaints, and no copies of notices.

    Maybe it’s because Sanchez had a permit but grossly exceeded the scope of work, while Florida had only FILED for a permit but not received one, so they’ve gone through different paths in the bureaucracy. Maybe it’s because different workers handled each one.

    As a City resident who likes to study the paper trail, the inconsistencies come off as either Byzantine or Kafkaesque.

  4. Really dislike sounding sarcastic here BUT, these bozos rarely get more than ‘slap on the wrist’ fines. What: 800.? Couple of thousand? It’s a screaming joke.

  5. If only there was a way for the government to provide affordable housing which didn’t rely on the patience of private individuals whose estates were slowly being transferred away from them via below-inflation rent control. Jerks like this guy would have little scope for profit.

  6. > Since that time, Miller said, “we’ve been waiting for direction on what to exactly do.”

    > “Direction from whom?” Sweeney queried. “We gave you direction on the notice of violation….”

    Any idea what that direction on the notice of violation was?

    If you illegally demolish a building, are you supposed to finish demolishing it? The direction on the notice of violation would clarify that, but it isn’t included in the article.