The Department of Building Inspection has taken the unusual step of revoking nine building permits on a 22nd Street structure partially owned by planning commissioner Dennis Richards — who, in turn, says he is being retaliated against for his criticism of “perceived corruption and unlawful favoritism” within the building department.
At issue is a rebuild of 3426-32 22nd St., near Guerrero, a hulking, four-unit, 18-room, 4,200-square-foot Italianate-style building erected in 1899. It was purchased in June 2018 for $2.7 million by an LLC called “Six Dogs.” It is now listed for $7.5 million.
Richards’ statement of economic interest he must file yearly with the city as an appointed commissioner reveals he owns more than $1 million in interest in Six Dogs, which, in turn, owns this parcel of San Francisco real estate. Richards confirmed to Mission Local that he is a part owner of the building and LLC, but not a majority owner. He declined to list his fellow partners — but did note that, between them, they do own six dogs.
He referred all questions on the matter to his spokeswoman, Julie Edwards, and his attorney, Scott Emblidge. “The evidence is going to support our brief,” Richards said.
That brief — “summary of grounds for appeal,” technically — was filed with the city’s Board of Appeals, where Six Dogs is, on Nov. 13, scheduled to argue against the revocation of its nine permits.
A rebuttal attributed to Six Dogs and penned by Emblidge reads, “No lawful justification exists for the revocation of any of these permits, DBI has never used the remedy of permit revocation for minor violations like those alleged in this case, and the actions of [DBI personnel] were and are motivated by their desire to retaliate against members of Six Dogs LLC who have spoken out against perceived corruption and unlawful favoritism by employees of the Department of Building Inspection.”
DBI spokesman Bill Strawn flatly denied any allegations of bias or wrongdoing.
“Nine total permits were issued to remodel the four-unit building, repair rear stairs, front facade and soft-story seismic work,” reads a DBI letter from director Tom Hui and chief building inspector Mauricio Hernandez to Six Dogs — which is housed at the Burlingame office of attorney Edward Singer. “However, a site visit has revealed that work exceeded the scope of the approved permits and plans for the above reference (sic) work contain inaccurate information.”
That DBI letter was sent to Six Dogs on Sept. 30, the date when nine permits were revoked at Hernandez’s order. They have since been categorized as “suspended” pending next month’s Board of Appeal hearing.
In late September, the DBI received a phone call from an undisclosed person alleging, among other complaints, “Developer falsified plans @ ground floor to show full basement. Permits undervalued … No permits for new garage doors …”
Within days, the nine permits had been revoked. “Work exceeds scope of permit,” sums up the DBI “Notice of Violation.” Fines assessed against Six Dogs could exceed $315,000.
Richards’ attorney Emblidge said his client is being singled out and treated with undue harshness.
“Dennis Richards has always taken his role as a Planning Commissioner very seriously and has long asked hard questions about official actions taken by the Department of Building Inspection as well as other city agencies to ensure San Francisco residents are treated fairly,” reads a statement from Emblidge.
“We do not feel the minor issues alleged by DBI justify revoking permits. We are very concerned about the timing of DBI’s actions, since they occurred shortly after Commissioner Richards questioned DBI’s work on other projects. We are gathering evidence on why DBI took these actions, the history of similar actions and whether DBI took these actions in retaliation for Mr. Richards’ efforts to bring accountability to the Department.”
Emblidge said he was not at liberty at this time to disclose members of Six Dogs LLC, other than Richards.
The property is being listed by The Agency, which describes it as “a trophy collection of residences, a masterful mix of sophistication, opulence, and luxury. These homes were thoughtfully reimagined to exceed even the most discerning buyer’s expectations, featuring designer finishes, zen functionality and innovative use of air, light, and space.”
If Six Dogs is unsuccessful at the Board of Appeals, it could next turn to Superior Court.
It is unclear how this situation will affect the planned sale of the property.
Update, Oct. 22: Realtor Rachel Swann has confirmed to Mission Local that she is Richards’ partner in Six Dogs LLC (she owns four dogs, he owns two). Readers may recall her as the Realtor attempting to sell the cursed “Sunset Idea House” on 25th and Alabama.
Swann says she is looking forward to her appeal, which she says will provide “clarity” and “vindication.”