Former councilwoman says direction from council not followed
By Nick Rappley
A former city councilwoman claims three council members called for structural inspections prior to the purchase of a building, which was intended to eventually serve as a city hall annex at 21 and 25 Del Puerto Ave. during a closed session.
The annex building, now owned by the city, has been deemed by two separate engineering firms to be torn down or retrofit for compliance.
Former city Councilwoman Annette Smith, who was present along with Mayor Luis Molina and Mayor Pro Tem Larry Buehner for the discussion and negotiation of the purchase of the annex building, said Tuesday, July 9 that she made it clear she wanted structural inspections because she was a past business tenant of the building.
Councilwoman Deborah Novelli and Councilman Dominic Farinha both sat out of the deliberations due to conflicts of interest.
“We asked the right questions, we called for the right inspections,” Smith said. “We asked for a structural inspection because of the (former Barbosa Video) unit.”
Smith said she had been a tenant of the unit at 32 Ossie Street in the rear of the building at 21 and 25 Del Puerto Ave.
Smith said she ran Patterson Rubber Stamp, a wholesale rubber stamp company from 1993 to 2000 and indicated there had been flooding in the basement of the building, which was constructed in 1913.
“My concern was that the flooding and any damage had been corrected,” she said.
City Manager Rod Butler said at a city council meeting on July 2 that he had not directed Chief Building Official Jim Swanson to do more than a check for compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act.
“That was my failing,” he said.
On Monday July 8, Butler said those types of requests are not common.
“It would not be normal or typical to request a complete engineering report as part of a purchase of a commercial or office building,” he said.
Smith said she believed there needed to be an independent investigation by a firm outside of the city to find out what exactly went wrong.
“I know what I said and I know what I asked for,” she said.
Buehner, at the meeting on July 2, said they made a request for inspections twice, but fell short of saying the council members asked for specific types of inspections.
“I wish I would have,” he said. “The building department dropped the ball big-time on this one. A high school kid could’ve given this report.”
Buehner made his statements prior before Butler stepped in and stated he asked only for an A.D.A. inspection prior to purchase.
Mayor Luis Molina said Tuesday, July 9 that he didn’t recall anyone asking for specific types of inspections.
“I don’t believe it was detailed,” he said. “I also disagree with Mr. Buehner that this is all staff’s fault. We all need to shoulder some of the blame.”
The building, purchased for $650,000 last summer from Patterson property manager John Ramos, has been found to have major seismic deficiencies. Two engineering firms have called for the complete destruction and rebuild, or a complete seismic retrofit, which will cost nearly as much as the complete rebuild. A retrofit would nearly tear down the entire building.
Structural problems were discovered as staff members and architects began looking into installing a fire sprinkler system in September of 2012, after the building purchase had already been completed.
The building purchase had been finalized in August 2012.
Cost estimates have ranged from $1.7 million to $2.5 million on correcting the structure’s problems. Those costs don’t include the original purchase price of $650,000 or the more than $50,000 in consulting fees that went into the inspections and plans after the purchase before the problems were discovered.
n Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31 or firstname.lastname@example.org.