Pleasanton city leaders are lamenting the destruction of a historic home on Second Street, which was allegedly torn down earlier this summer without a proper permit and in violation of city regulations aimed at protecting heritage resources.
The owners of a single-story house at 4371 Second St. had been given city clearance for renovation plans that included removing and remodeling the back part of the home, but city officials said the Planning Division never authorized the 89-year-old building to be fully demolished -- but that's what occurred.
"Until recently. Pleasanton residents and visitors treasured 93 historic resource homes. That number is down to only 92 homes," Vice Mayor Karla Brown told the Weekly on Monday.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of a treasured historic home at 4371 Second St. in downtown Pleasanton," Brown added. "The City Council and staff will need to determine the appropriate penalty for destroying a protected home, that has been completely destroyed and removed from the site."
City officials acknowledge foundation problems discovered by the contractors may well have threatened the viability of the historic house but are steadfast that developers did not follow the prescribed process for seeking full removal.
Work has been halted for several weeks at the gated parcel on the north side of Second Street, with the city's Building and Safety Division red-tagging the property with a "stop work order" that cites "demo of historic home without required permit/approvals."
Construction equipment and some initial framing materials are still onsite, along with the detached garage left standing at the back of the property and a hand-painted "for sale" sign on the front gate.
That's all that remains at the narrow parcel that once served as "a distinct example of an end-gable bungalow form dwelling with Craftsman styling, featuring a low-pitched roof; wide unenclosed eave overhangs," according to the city's 2015 historic resource survey.
The property's owner, Jerry Hodnefield, expressed disappointment about the way the "fiasco" played out.
"I just want you to know that my intentions were honorable and that I thought we had done what was required after finding out that the house could not be saved," he told the Weekly.
"Nothing was done to code," Hodnefield added. "The house was constructed entirely of hollow clay blocks during the Depression, without any reinforcing in either the walls or the foundations. I was put on notice that the portion of the house which was to be saved was unsafe and a safety and health hazard and had to be demolished."
"We didn't realize that we had to go back to Planning in order to proceed," he said. "It was and is my intent to rebuild the house to look exactly like it was before the demolition if allowed to do so by the city."
A representative from general contractor Morgenroth Development, which is based in downtown, asked to defer comment until the end of the week.
The Pleasanton Heritage Association is "extremely unhappy" about what transpired at the Second Street property, according to president Linda Garbarino.
"They know better, and it was quite a shock that this did not follow a proper process. We're hoping for some mitigation regarding that," Garbarino said. "This sets a terrible precedent for the other historic homes that are in the city ... These, we need to protect."
City Manager Nelson Fialho also offered strong words on the demolition.
"The situation is unfortunate, disappointing and not reflective of the city's vision and recently adopted policies for historic preservation in downtown Pleasanton," he said. "We expect better from property owners and general contractors who in this case are very familiar and knowledgeable about the city's planning processes, including our preservation policies."
The now-demolished house was originally built in 1930 on land that was once owned by John Kottinger but eventually subdivided and sold off in the late 19th century, according to the city's historic resource survey (on Pages 506-509).
"The property has a high degree of integrity of design, materials, workmanship, and feeling, retaining original form, most historic window configurations and openings, and architectural details," the report stated. "The property is not significantly associated with any historic events or persons in the history of Pleasanton."
It was one of 88 houses identified as historic resources by the city in 2015 -- a number that grew to 93 earlier this year.
Last year, the current owners and their consultants pursued and later received city approval to renovate the property at 4371 Second St.
Their project included an 88-square-foot addition, replacement of windows, doors and roofing, and rebuilding a portion of the back of the house while leaving intact the front and part of the side walls, according to assistant city manager Brian Dolan.
That sort of project concept is common for downtown historic homes, to protect the historic facade while allowing for modern upgrades behind, Dolan said.
But at some point during the site work, the developer discovered problems with the foundation that they apparently thought could not be fixed, according to Dolan.
The consultant approached the Building Division with a request for changes to the footings -- which was approved -- but they did not call out to building officials that their changes would result in tearing down the whole house, nor did they seek approval from the Planning Division for the full demolition, as is protocol, according to Dolan.
"Frankly, nothing like this has happened in the 11-plus years since I've been in Pleasanton," Dolan said.
Hodnefield argues the city's Building Division should have recognized that their footing change request referenced removing the entire house.
He provided the Weekly with a copy of a structural calculation form stamped and reviewed by the city building staff on May 30 with a revision stating "existing house to be total demolished (sic)."
"Don't you think the departments should talk to one another. They sit next to each other. The city is not blameless here," he said. "How about some constructive and collaborative efforts to get the building rebuilt so it is identical to the building that could not be saved."
City officials said they discovered the improper demolition and posted the "stop work order" at the property July 1, informing the owners that further construction work could result in a citation and a fine, as well as criminal or civil proceedings.
Before moving ahead, the owners must now prepare an environmental analysis of the impacts of removing the historic resource and seek a design review application for any new construction.
Dolan pointed out that the current city code does not allow for fines for shirking the historic resource regulations, but city leaders may look to amend those rules in light of what happened on Second Street.
"We don't build 89-year-old homes anymore, so it's important that we resolve this quickly to restore the structure to its original architectural form, address the incident, and put proper protections in place to ensure city's planning processes are not completely disregarded in the future," Fialho added.
Editor's note: This story was updated on Aug. 15, 2019 to include links to documents received by the Weekly to date in this case.