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Residents Still Displaced from February House Fire

The house fire on Feb. 17 was determined to be from a heating and cooling unit on the second floor but questions are now arising about whether the owner had the correct paper work to have five units on the property.

investigators initially believed it was a faulty wall-mounted unit that caused the . At the time, it displaced the 11 people living in the five units.

The residents are still displaced and now, it appears, they will have to find new places to live.

The fire has led to an investigation of the property, owned by Bora Gurson, by the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District and the Contra Costa County building inspector's department.

"We're determining if he had the appropriate permits for the five units," Contra Costa County Senior Building Inspector Joe Lasado said. "It's not looking that that many units were approved, but it's under investigation."

Fire Department Spokesperson Kimberly French said its investigation is ongoing and cannot comment on it.

Though no one was injured in the fire, it left about $75,000 in damages. It was contained mostly to the second floor unit where it started in the kitchen. Liliya Georgiyeva occupied the unit where . The unit below suffered some water damage from the effort to put the upstairs blaze out. The other three units, one in the front of the main building and two behind and separate from the main building, were unaffected.

The fire required that PG&E turn off the power for safety reasons. PG&E cannot turn the electricity back on until the building is brought up to speed, Lasado said.

Normally, this would mean the damage to the unit would be repaired. After the building inspectors came out and approved the repairs, if they were up to code, PG&E would get the thumbs up and power would be restored.

Therein lies the issue, though. According to Lasado, the building inspection department cannot find permits for the multiple units on the property.

Lasado said that so far the investigation has turned up documents from the tax assessor that show two units were on the property in 1940, but even the permits for two dwellings then, let alone three more, have not been located.

A message left with Gurson has yet to be returned.

Lasado said the department couldn't comment on whether or not the various aspects of the units may have been up to code (plumbing, electricity, heating and cooling). Without permits from the building inspector, code enforcement wasn't part of the process.

"We have no idea about the property's units," Lasado said, referring to code enforcement. "If (items) were installed, they weren't installed with permits."

Between the fire damage, no electricity, and the lack of code and permit documentation, the five units are considered "substandard dwellings," restricting residents from living in them.

Lasado told Danville Patch on Friday that residents in some of the units had still been living on premises and one had hooked up a generator for power.

"There are issues with this," he said. "It's unfortunate that some of the residents are still on the property but they are substandard dwellings."

On Thursday, the San Ramon Fire Department posted an "order to stop use" on the property. It called the property as a "single family home."

These violations listed were:

  • Change of use and occupancy
  • Work being conducted without permits
  • Unsafe buildings
  • Allowing a fire hazard to exist
  • Use of fueled equipment
  • Failure to obtain operational permits for additional occupancy

Also on Thursday, another notice showed up with the owner's phone number on it. It said: "Do not enter without written consent. Violators will be considered to be trespassing. ... This notice also applies to tenant."

One of the unit's residents, David Lehman, said he and other residents still had items on the property. He said Gurson told him he needed to find another place to live.

"He verbally told us we needed to move," Lehman said. "I asked are we going to be our deposit back? Should I get a pod and just store my stuff until the home is fixed? He said we should get our stuff out ASAP."

Lehman said he's been staying at his in-laws' home. "We have nine people living in a three bedroom home," he said.

He said his family needed to stay in the area because his daughter is at and they don't want to pull her out. "I just don't know about the deposit, I don't want to be out of sight out of mind and not get my deposit back."

For 1181 Danville Blvd., Lasado said a notice to comply was issued March 6. This notice says the owner needs to produce documentation stating the five units are in compliance or apply for the permits to get them in compliance (which would then require code inspection for all five units, as well). Lasado said the building inspection department is willing to work with any property owners to get to voluntary compliance.

"It's a lengthy process," Lasado said. Adding that permits for the Alamo property have yet to be pulled.

If a property owner in this situation decides to ignore the building inspector, the department can file violations against the property. Lasado did say that Gurson has been responsive to the department so far.

However, if these violations are ignored, they can result in citations from the fire department and the sheriffs department, plus other administrative fines. Lasado said it varies depending on the violation but the owner could end up paying as much as $14,300 if ignored for 30 days.

Calls placed to the other residents of the building have not yet been returned.

Stay with Danville Patch as this story unfolds.

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David Lehman March 21, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Thank You
David Lehman March 22, 2012 at 12:18 AM
We are having a hard time finding a place to live. The not knowing is hard.
David Lehman March 30, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Any suggestions on where to go for good legal advice? Things are getting ugly and we may need some serious help. Also we still have no found a place to live, we are still sleeping on our in laws floor. Dragous@comcast.net 925-594-2389
David Lehman April 13, 2012 at 12:11 AM
We are still looking for a place to live...... the property has been red tagged by the county...... we are getting nothing from the owner ..
David Lehman April 25, 2012 at 01:56 AM
We are still trying to find a place to live and still trying to get our stuff packed. The most important thing is finding a place to live. We are getting no where with the owner.

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