A property owner who demolished an 80-year-old cottage in north Berkeley to build a much larger home has been slapped with a Stop Work Order.
As reported in the Berkeley Daily Planet on Oct. 27, residents on a quiet tree-lined street were surprised when the cottage at 1728 Delaware St. was suddenly gone. They said owner Patrick Mebine, a computer programmer in San Francisco, assured them the project was only a remodel and addition that would incorporate the existing structure.
Builders had completed the foundation and laid some of the flooring on the new 3,000 square foot project when the city halted work on the site last Friday.
“The city has issued a Stop Work Order and Patrick Mebine has been advised that he will have to appear before the Zoning Adjustment Board for a Use Permit Modification,” Said Matt Le Grant, the senior planner at the Planing and Development Department.
Le Grant said it could take a month or longer before work on the project will begin again.
Mebine said he thought he received permission from the city to demolish the cottage. He said he is uncertain what the Stop Work Order will accomplish because the cottage is gone and in the meantime the unfinished project will just sit there. “It’s not good for the neighbors, it’s not good for me and it’s not good for the contractor and sub-contractors,” he said.
He said the project contractor had no other work scheduled and is now out of work.
Mebine filed a Zoning Project Application last year in which he described his plans as a “Remodel of, and addition to existing dwelling resulting in 1,657 additional square feet of usable floor space.”
Notices of a public hearing before the ZAB were mailed out to neighbors and notices were posted in the immediate area.
The notices announced the project as a “Partial house demolition, major residential addition and hot tub.”
In addition Mebine went to his neighbors and showed them an architect’s drawings that incorporated the existing cottage into the remodel.
He presented the same plans to ZAB and they issued a Use Permit allowing for additional square footage and construction of a hot tub. The Use Permit also allowed for the demolition of “more than 50 percent of the building’s walls and roof so as to constitute a demolition of an existing 1,200-square foot dwelling.”
The Use Permit is the governing document that specifies what is permitted on all development sites.
Mebine said when his contractor took a look at the cottage he strongly recommended demolishing the entire structure. “He said all I’d be saving is some studs that might not meet city requirements,” Mebine said. He agreed with the contractor and decided to completely demolish the cottage.
Mebine applied for and received a demolition permit from the city and said no one at the permit center told him there would be a problem.
But Assistant City Attorney Zack Cowan said any permit for demolition would not supersede the conditions of the Use Permit. “At the point he decided to change his plans he should have gone back to the city for approval,” he said.
Cowan said the conditions of the Use Permit are created by representations made to the Zoning Adjustments Board and once the Use Permit goes into effect those representations bind the property owner.
At no time did Mebine ever present to ZAB any plans that described a demolition of the cottage.
Mabine will now have go through the application process again. Which means waiting for available space on the calendar for another public hearing before ZAB. He will also have to post and mail hearing notices to residents in the project area. Zab will then decide whether to award Mebine permission to demolish a building that no longer exists.
“I’m not sure how the board will vote,” said ZAB member Gene Poshman. “We’re kinda back at square one.”