Construction flap builds into a lawsuit in San Francisco's Sunset district 

A two-story home in the Outer Sunset neighborhood is under a spotlight following complaints that property owners have turned it into an illegal rental unit.

According to a complaint filed recently by the City Attorney’s Office, the home at 1562 34th Ave. violates city building and health codes because work done in 2007 went above and beyond what officials approved.

The complaint says the home’s owner received building, plumbing and electrical permits to create additional ground-floor bedrooms, bathrooms and a laundry room. But workers allegedly converted the space into a separate dwelling with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen.

Structural modifications may not have been done correctly, the complaint alleges. In addition, the property also could contain unapproved electrical and plumbing work; could have been constructed without using fire resistant materials; and could include windows that don’t meet city standards for light, ventilation, rescue or fire escape.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said fines for these violations have been mounting since 2007. According to the complaint, property owners face up to $2,000 per day for health and safety code violations and up to $5,000 total for plumbing violations until the problems are corrected or the proper permits are received.

Department of Building and Inspection officials allegedly tried and failed to contact the owners numerous times between 2007 and last month, before the complaint was filed.

Owners of the property could not be located for comment.

Neighbors say the college-age tenants are “nice” and have not caused any problems.

Nonetheless, neighbor Richard Harrison said neighbors say they want the property to return to its intended use as a single-family dwelling “because it’s zoned that way.”

Roughly 33 neighbors on the block signed a petition to get the city attorney to take action, which some say took longer than many hoped.

According to building and inspection records, there were seven complaints between August 2007 and June 2011 on this particular property.

According to spokesman William Strawn of the Department of Building and Inspection, department inspectors first handle any building or code violation complaint before asking the owner to correct the action. If such requests go unanswered, a department panel decides to hand the case over to the city attorney.

Between three and five cases each year are referred to the City Attorney’s Office, building and inspection officials said.

“This case is troubling because despite years to get the owner to comply with the law, he refuses to do so,” Herrera said. “We always want habitable housing that is safe and doesn’t create a threat to public health and safety.”

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