Early on a Saturday morning last summer, residents on Florida Street between 22nd and 23rd streets woke up to the sound of a construction crew unexpectedly destroying a house on their block. Neighbors said the demolition appeared chaotic. Workers had no safety gear on, and dust and other materials from the site was drifting into their windows. The contractors, who did not have a permit for the demolition, stopped halfway through when they saw neighbors taking photos and videos, one neighbor said. 

More than a year later, a plywood fence protects what is left of the house.  The huge piles of debris produced by the demolition are covered by a ripped tarp. A family of raccoons appears to be the only tenant. 

“It’s a health hazard, it’s a fire hazard, it’s demoralizing, it’s disturbing, it’s an eyesore, it’s dangerous,” said Nancy Kaufmann, who lives two doors down from 1068 Florida St.

A public hearing will be held Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Room 2001 of the Department of Building Inspection at 1660 Mission St. to determine why the demolition happened in the first place — and to assess penalties. According to the notice, the owner, Matthew Miller, could be ordered to fix the unsafe property within a specific time period and will be billed for the cost of code enforcement.

The front yard at 1068 Florida St. Photo by Nancy Kaufmann.

The saga that landed Miller at Tuesday’s hearing began in November 2016, when he filed for a permit to demolish the house at 1068 Florida St. and build a four-story, two-unit building on the lot. That permit, however, had not been issued by the department when the demolition began, according to Department of Building Inspection records. 

The Monday after the partial demolition, the Department of Building Inspection issued a Notice of Violation that found the building unsafe and ordered a stop to work being done at the property. 

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Miller’s contractor, Joe O’Briain, wrote a letter delivered to neighbors two days later saying the demolition had been a result of a “miscommunication” between him and subcontractors. Instead of the property at 1068 Florida St., the subcontractors were supposed to be demolishing a different property on 28th Street, he wrote in the letter.

On July 18 of this year, the Department of Building Inspection issued a final warning notice to Miller and referred the case to the Code Enforcement Division.

For their part, neighbors want the site cleaned up. 

“It’s hard for me to understand why he doesn’t care about us,” said Kaufmann, referring to the property owner Miller. “Why does he not see our lives as equally valuable to his, that he doesn’t feel bad about doing this to our neighborhood?”

She says she hopes the city will hold Miller accountable at the hearing and force him to clean up the property. 

1068 Florida St. Photo by Tammy Bickel.

Kaufmann and other neighbors worry about the health effects of the initial demolition and the lingering effects of the debris piles. On windy days, Kaufmann says she still finds bits of tarp and other materials blowing around in her yard or the one next door.

Miller became well known in housing circles in 2013 when he used the Ellis Act to evict an elderly Chinese couple and their disabled daughter from a home on Jackson Street that the family had been living in for 34 years. That eviction was widely chronicled in the press. 

It wasn’t his first. The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project found that Miller also used the Ellis Act on a property in the Mission a few blocks away from Florida Street near Treat and 23rd Streets, as well as another property in North Beach. He was previously a member of senior management at eBay, PayPal, and Wells Fargo.

Miller did not evict any residents on Florida Street.

Read the results of the Aug. 20 hearing on 1068 Florida St.