Home Collapse: House "Remodeled" From 854-Square-Feet to 5,139-Square-Feet Crumbles

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Andrew J. Nilsen
In the midst of sextupling the size of a home at 125 Crown Terrace, it collapsed Monday -- angering opponents who predicted such an end.
Neighbors have, for years, argued that the definition of the term "remodel" was being stretched to the breaking point by a Twin Peaks home at 125 Crown Terrace: a "remodel" from 854-square-feet to 5,139-square-feet. 

It turns more was being strained than credulity and semantics.

At around 10:40 p.m. on Monday, portions of the "major alteration" job collapsed and tumbled down a steep hill from Crown Terrace onto Graystone Terrace below.  

This occurred on a temperate and dry evening. 

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Jim Herd
The aftermath
The home -- owned by influential developer and former Building Inspection Commission President Mel Murphy, now a Port Commissioner -- was the subject of a December 2012 SF Weekly cover story. That article examined the loopholes city builders use to essentially demolish small, affordable residences and "remodel" them into monster homes for huge profits. 

Following countless legal missives, conferences, and hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Appeals, the city determined that this sextupling of a structure was a code-conforming "remodel," and not a "demolition." Demolishing affordable family housing is essentially verboten in this city. But a "major alteration" into a massive structure in no way resembling its former iteration is, demonstrably, permitted.  

"Well, it's a demolition now!" cracked attorney Stephen Williams, who represented several of Murphy's neighbors in a protracted legal battle. "This is exactly what we said was going to happen." 

Crown Terrace Nilsen.jpg
Andrew J. Nilsen
The home collapsed down this hill and toward Graystone Terrace
Williams has long contended the contrived steps required to preserve aging and worthless elements of the home -- the retention of which were key to labeling the job a "remodel" -- would be a precarious operation violating both common sense and the laws of physics. 

"It's impossible to suspend [the foundation of ] an 80-year-old building in mid-air and build a new, modern structure around it," says Williams. "Well, it's not impossible. But why do it? It makes no sense." 

It would appear to make even less now. 

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Jim Herd
Messages for the police and Department of Building Inspection have not yet been returned. 

Williams anticipated a Notice of Violation would be issued by the Department of Building Inspection. He also noted that the project "doesn't have a demolition permit" and the approved construction plans have just been rather drastically altered. 

Still, he didn't sound like a lawyer gearing up for a lengthy, construction-halting battle. 

"The best thing for the neighbors is to have this over with," he says. "That's the position they've been put in." 

Update, 7:45 a.m.: Department of Building Inspection spokesman Bill Strawn writes "DBI has an inspector on the scene, and stabilizing work has been done to prevent the building from causing public safety issues." 

A city alert summarizing the situation is pasted below: 

125 Crown Terrace Building Collapse, December 17 

- Situation Summary - At approximately 2241 hours, a house under construction collapsed and partially slipped off the foundation. Adjacent homes were temporarily evacuated as a precaution. At approximately 2332 hours the DBI Inspector arrived to evaluate the structure. The DBI inspector determined the structure to be temporarily stabilized, and there is no threat to adjacent homes. As of 1225 hours, a contractor is on scene, and an additional shoring contractor is en-route. All residents have elected to stay in their homes. There were no injuries as a result of the collapse. 

Overall Situation Status Improving _X___ Stable _____ Worsening _____ 

Summary Status: Damaged structures: 1 

Next Steps - DBI Inspector on scene to work with contractors to finalize stability and shoring of the structure.



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