City: Historic downtown Pleasanton home demolished without permit | News | |


City: Historic downtown Pleasanton home demolished without permit

Officials livid as private project shirks process; work stops as site red-tagged

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Work has been halted at 4371 Second St. after city officials deemed the historic single-story house was fully demolished without a proper permit. (Photo by Jeremy Walsh)

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.

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23 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 13, 2019 at 10:14 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

89 year old house is historic? Man, I must be really old because the house I grew up in in Oakland was older than that.

39 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 13, 2019 at 10:19 pm

The irony in this story is that Gerry Hodnefeld was a member of Pleasanton’s 7-person Historic Task Force that put all the historic preservation a into effect. Report on that, Pleasanton Weekly.

Shame on you, Gerry. Shame on you. You 100% knew better.

43 people like this
Posted by Strip business license
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2019 at 11:46 pm

One simple fix right now is to suspend Morgenroth's Pleasanton business license for a lengthy time period, say 2 years, as punishment. They absolutely knew the demolition rules, did they not?

25 people like this
Posted by james
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 14, 2019 at 9:27 am

This happened in San Francisco and the city made the owner rebuild the property to the exact specs as before. Should be done with this case as well

21 people like this
Posted by HypocrisyPatrol
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 14, 2019 at 9:29 am

Ironic that the city pretends to be indignant here, but completely ignored the violations and self-dealing at 309 Neal St. I heard a journalist is working on the story—it’s quite a black eye for the city—so curious to see if the city comes clean or doubles down on the hypocrisy.

13 people like this
Posted by Nick
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 14, 2019 at 9:41 am

Play by the rules - period. 89 years old is not historic. It's just old. I'd suspend a business license for good. If not, they'll just be up to their old tricks when a license is re-instated.

4 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:02 am

Grumpy is a registered user.

Wait, what's wrong with 309 Neal? Is that the house that the owner donated to the city and the city didn't want it and sold it?

15 people like this
Posted by LivesOn2nd
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:08 am

Not surprising Morgenroth did this. Look at every home he has done work on. He rips out ALL the windows in old homes and replaced with new aluminum windows. His work is a testament to his building style. His old home on 2nd was also completely demo’d. Don’t know why people around here continue to use him considering he places no value at all on historic homes. He is also waaaaay overpriced.

30 people like this
Posted by Shameless 2
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:15 am

Shameless 2 is a registered user.

Shame on one of our most experienced developers, Gerry Hodenfeld, for tearing down this historic resource without permits. If anyone knows proper procedures it is hodenefel. He and members of his family development business should be banned from developing any homes in Pleasanton again. We need to send a clear message that this behavior is not tolerated. And there should be a significant fine that goes along with this.

17 people like this
Posted by Pton Girl
a resident of Stoneridge Orchards
on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:37 am

Some of the comments here are not the community of character we ought to be. Shame on you for throwing rocks at a glass house. If you want to make a difference, report illegal construction, serve on a city commission or committee or city council or get a neighborhood watch group going. Be a voice of influence, make Pleasanton better.

10 people like this
Posted by Strip business license
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:53 am

I heard this morning that the city of Pleasanton no longer requires contractors to have Pleasanton business licenses. When did this happen and why? Apparently there is work being done with contractors that have business addresses in Pleasanton that are no longer required to have Pleasanton business licenses. How is this happening?

Also why did the city's building department and code enforcement not halt the demolition while it was going on? You would have thought that only two blocks from Main Street that they would have been well aware that it was being bulldozed, unless of course it happened in the middle of the night.

I hope that there is a public hearing in the next City Council meeting about this situation because it looks like there seems to be a complete lapse in the process.

Also, I agree that the builder must rebuild the historic structure exactly how it was before it was demolished illegally similar to how a similar situation was handled in San Francisco.

21 people like this
Posted by Josef & Carla
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:59 am

Was the City of Pleasanton listed on the deed as the property owners?


[removed] Until the next demorat/socialist comes into power there still is such a thing as PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNERS RIGHTS!!!

23 people like this
Posted by Tom
a resident of Castlewood
on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:59 am

I agree with some other contributors that the building is old but not historic. Seems a little bit like a tempest in a tea pot in my opinion.

17 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 14, 2019 at 11:29 am

If the guy owns a house it's his to do with as he sees fit. Including tearing the damn thing down. If you don't like that then you can buy the next house and keep it just as it is.

21 people like this
Posted by Tatiana Adams
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 14, 2019 at 11:51 am

It was ugly and 89 years isn't that old.

22 people like this
Posted by Steven 3
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Aug 14, 2019 at 11:58 am

Steven 3 is a registered user.

Hogenfield properties is co owned by Brian Bowers who is on the downtown association board and on another city committee and knows the rules. Brian Bowers is the person fighting for 3 and 4 story condos all over downtown like he built on Peters. We need people on our committee who will play by rules and improve Pleasanton and not just try to profit at the expense of our city.
Agree there needs to serious ramifications for all involved with this this fiasco.

49 people like this
Posted by Marilyn Gore
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 14, 2019 at 12:57 pm

Very shocked at many of the comments posted.

We had a wonderful experience during the remodel of our home . Jim Morgenroth was our contractor and we highly recommend him . We were recently presented a heritage preservation award plaque by the Pleasanton Heritage Association.

We live next-door to the empty lot on 2nd Street. During the teardown we were appalled to see the construction of the house, including the first 12 feet of the house that remained. Not surprised when it was deemed unsafe!

The owner has stated they plan to build to specs exactly what was there. Hopefully, The city will let them proceed with construction as soon as possible without penalty.

61 people like this
Posted by Trevor Moniz
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 14, 2019 at 2:20 pm

I’ve been a Pleasanton resident for 43 years. I moved to 2nd St 14 years back, and recently used Morgenroth to renovate our home top to bottom. We had a great experience Morgenroth, and he did everything by the numbers. Those who comment on him tearing down homes and replacing windows with aluminum seem to have little basis for their comments. He followed code, and did fantastic work compared to the two prior contractors we went through. Our windows were replaced with windows that are historically approved in towns much older than Pleasanton. In terms of the cost comments, he actually came in and saved us from the cost overruns of the prior contractor. First hand experience with Morgenroth over a 3 year project should speak much louder than the generalized statements.

14 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Aug 14, 2019 at 3:03 pm

One giant “whoopsie” being slipped by the city. If no permits were pulled for a complete tear down then what about permits for hazardous waste (lead and asbestos) removal and disposal?? What about permits for PGE to remove and relocate the gas and power lines??
Morgenroth should know better he’s been working in this town for a long time, maybe that explains why the city turned a blind eye during the tear down? This city of mine continues to amaze me with their shenanigans.
3 options besides penalizing the owner and the contractor would be to rebuild on that lot the original house exactly as it was before tear down, leave the lot empty for additional overflow parking for the city or build some stack and pack housing and duplicate that Spring St. nightmare.

42 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 14, 2019 at 3:14 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

It's just an 89 year old house of no historical significance...George Washington didn't sleep there and neither did George Bush...and you want to go to the extreme of putting someone out of business and workers out of their jobs. Get real, people. Every building in Pleasanton is not historic...most are just old (and yes ugly).

27 people like this
a resident of Mission Park
on Aug 14, 2019 at 3:23 pm

Whoops, This is disturbing, an owner wants to live in a heritage house in a heritage neighborhood. This fits into what our community truly wants, families willing to invest and renovate our older homes. Kudos to the owner, the desire to live on second street shows they are not going to change the architectural style of their home. The finished home will quite criticism, owners are caring and very committed to our community. Morgenroth Construction has a long history working in heritage neighborhoods, including his own home.
There will be many more heritage homes renovated, the community should not stifle renovations. "Best Practices" are generally accepted as a standard that rewards those when the finished product is superior. To leave or not leave a standing wall is a silly argument, the finished home should be the standard...does it look like the home the city approved.

12 people like this
Posted by anotherpleasantday
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Aug 14, 2019 at 4:24 pm

Why not tear it down? What’s anyone going to do about it? There’s a reason no repercussions are in place. Who made that decision? Developers know that Joe Blow won’t buy a historical house and tear it down but a developer will. Who let a developer sit on the force? Fools.

How did Gerry get the position? Was he appointed? By whom? The City Council? The mayor? The city council and the mayor shouldn’t be in the pockets of developers. You get what you vote for.

Karla Brown, you were a city council member during this time? Perhaps you can explain to us what the council was thinking.

4 people like this
Posted by Strip business license
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2019 at 4:33 pm

One of the major problems is that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing in city hall. This is problematic.

The building division seems to have no idea what the planning division does or is doing. The planning division has no idea what the building division is doing.

I would not be surprised if the personnel in the building division that signs off on permits even knows that there is a historic preservation ordinance in place.

22 people like this
Posted by BB
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 14, 2019 at 4:55 pm

This is funny. What about when the city screwed the owners out of the house downtown Pleasanton right in front of the do it yourself car wash. I believe it was built in 1908? The owners went to sell it and the city said you have to sell it to us! They wouldn't let the owners sell it to the public! Then the city bought it(UNDER MARKET VALUE) and leveled it and it's been a dirt lot for 10 or more years now? I GUESS THEY CAN LEVEL A HISTORICAL HOUSE... AS FAR AS MORGENROTH HE IS A GREAT GUY, BUILDER AND ALOT CHEAPER THEN OTHER CONTRACTORS.

56 people like this
Posted by ONE WALL
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 14, 2019 at 5:12 pm

One wall standing preserves no history, even if there is any associated history with the unremarkable home in question. What’s the difference if you see the same facade, but it happens to be built from newer materials? We had a similar issue and it drove our costs through the roof to maintain one wall; granted, we didn’t have the same hollow clay brick issue this home had. In the end no one can really tell which one wall is historic in our home. To boot, the 2x4 exterior wall construction of the time versus 2x6 construction limited the insulation properties. At least with the thinner insulation and single pane wood frame windows we were forced to keep (even though other much more older, more historic municipalities have approved wood look alike clad double pane windows) our carbon footprint can stay historic. Historical preservation is good. Preserving architecturally significant structures is good. Keeping something that has no historic significance, just so you can say “wow, look at that one old wall and those drafty windows... amazing” is crazy to me. Preserve the look and feel of our downtown, but let’s not hinder building smartly for our future.

6 people like this
Posted by Bulldozing historic houses
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2019 at 7:50 pm

BB, the city changed the land use designation of both the Du Clair's and Garibaldi's houses on Vervais to Park and Recreation via the Downtown Specific Plan creating a situation where there was no way that either could sell their property. They did this without telling the owners of the property. Nor was it discussed in any city meeting.

The city bought the Du Clair's house eventually with a low dollar amount and ending up bulldozing it without any public notice. How the city was able to suddenly remove the house is highly questionable.

The Garibaldi's house remains in a city-created bureaucratic limbo where its designation as a Park remains as it has been since about 2003.

27 people like this
Posted by GrownUpInPton
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2019 at 8:56 pm

The home was unsafe. What happens when there is another large quake and the home falls on top of its residents? Who takes the liability for that? The city would turn it's back on this 'historic' home. They wouldn't drop a dime to make sure that it was rebuilt according to specs. Last time I checked, Pleasanton isn't paying the mortgage on this home. If he wants to rebuild it to fit back in with the neighborhood in a safer and more energy efficient way, than so be it. When it comes down to it, preservation is preserving the city's wallet so they get a cut of all of the permit fees and to retain power over it's residents by telling them what they can do with their investments.

8 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Native
a resident of Del Prado
on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:39 pm

I've known and worked with Jim Morgenroth for numerous remodeling projects on our home over the past 14 years. He and his crew are always conscientious, trustworthy, and responsible. I have never known him to cut corners in any way and he's always been transparent and honest. I'm so sorry to see his name and business disparaged in this way. I'm disgusted, and not at all surprised, to see so many keyboard warriors piping in with their "expert opinions" and judgement knowing zero facts of this situation. Jim, you have many supporters in Pleasanton who know this will get resolved. Hang in there.

14 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:52 pm

Odd that “well regarded” contractors and developers would demo a house without a demo permit. I’m sure that’s not a new requirement. Morgenroths wife is also all over Facebook waving around their structural engineer’s report but it’s odd because that doesn’t look like a report from the city’s structural engineer. Do they have one? Probably not.

They all should have known better and instead decided they would do whatever they wanted to do, after ignoring city warnings to stop work.

Me thinks Morgenroth and Hodenfeld doth protest too much...

34 people like this
Posted by Kent Tierney
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 15, 2019 at 1:36 am

The Pleasanton Weekly is not telling you the whole story. The documents related to this project are clear. The Owners followed the building department process once they found un-reinforced masonry. A structural engineer deemed the house unsafe. The owner submitted plans that clearly stated "Existing house to be totally demolished". The City approved, yes I said approved these plans. Now the City wants to say they didn't know the house was being demolished? The people in charge of this City are clueless and don't know what they are doing. This article is biased and improperly paints the homeowner as a devious person.

29 people like this
Posted by Off with his head
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Aug 15, 2019 at 4:50 am

People with no facts to go by, screaming to end a man’s livelihood and that of all of his employees: You guys are awesome.

24 people like this
Posted by Structural engineer
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Aug 15, 2019 at 5:10 am

Facts and assumptions: “Without a demo permit”... assumption. The article acknowledges that the city was aware of the demo, just not of the complete demo. Demo permit was in place, with a misalignment on the scope. Let’s all speculate on who’s at fault for the misalignment since we have all the necessary info to render a verdict. “Doesn’t look like a report from the city’s structural engineer”. Yes, that’s most likely correct. The process is that the builder, owner or someone running the project submit structural engineering specs/findings/recommendations etc to the city for review and stamped approval. The engineering reports will all look slightly different and not be issued on Pleasanton letterhead. So... off with their heads. With the little I know on what happened with this home, Im recommending that we grab our pitchforks and head down to city hall and demand that they strip Morgenroth’s business license, assuming they have the authority to do so, of course.

19 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 15, 2019 at 8:47 am

@ Ken Tierney - stamping “received” does not equal approval.

@ structural engineer- you can spin it however makes you feel better, but a permit that does not align with the work being done makes the work unpermitted.

Hodnefeld helped to write the rules that are in place for historic homes in Pleasanton and has the audacity to decide they don’t apply to him.

25 people like this
Posted by Structural engineer
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Aug 15, 2019 at 9:26 am

@Julie- no spin. The point is that neither of us know what was included in the demo permit. One side says full demo was included, the other side says it was not. Two side, city and developer with different points of view on the situation and most likely different proof to support those points of view. I’ve seen neither side’s proof, so cannot pass judgment. My callout was that there are many passing judgment on limited to no information. So, let’s all go grab our pitch forks and march on city hall to demand justice for something we are all uninformed on.

10 people like this
Posted by Wombat
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 15, 2019 at 9:37 am

@Structural engineer :”The point is that neither of us know what was included in the demo permit. One side says full demo was included, the other side says it was not. Two side, city and developer with different points of view on the situation...”

But it’s not exactly a dispute in which the opinions of both sides carry equal weight, is it? If there was any question or confusion at all about whether a full demolition was included, it seems that it was incumbent on the developer to double-check with the city and make sure that everything was crystal clear before proceeding with the demolition.

22 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Castlewood Heights
on Aug 15, 2019 at 10:10 am

As a resident of Pleasanton for over 25 years, I am appalled and quite frankly embarrassed to live in a community that cares more about an unsafe 89 year old home than the people that would live in it or the livelihood of upstanding citizens and taxpayers.

29 people like this
Posted by Structural engineer
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Aug 15, 2019 at 10:18 am

@Wombat. according to the developer, they did follow proper procedure and had appropriate approvals. If they submitted plans, as they stated, that included the full demo, and the city approved, is it the city’s fault they approved it, or the developers? No need to answer that question, it was rhetorical. Either way, my point is that nobody on this message board has evidence either way, but there are many people calling for the owner/developer to pay the piper. My stance is not in favor of either party, it is in favor of not calling for action based on limited or no factual info as many seem to be doing. And, it is in favor of not pointing guilt based on limited/no information, and opinions etc.

3 people like this
Posted by Jeremy Walsh, editor
associate editor
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:03 am

Jeremy Walsh, editor is a registered user.

This story was updated on Aug. 15, 2019 to include links to documents received by the Weekly to date in this case. From the Hodnefields, a copy of structural calculation form stamped by city building staff as well as other documents with context on the foundation problems. From the city, a copy of the violation notice mailed to the property owners and a copy of the planning approval document issued in fall 2018.

8 people like this
Posted by Spudly
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:05 am

Regardless of the permit to demolish status and lack of that info in the story, I would like to address those posters who say things like "what our community really wants..." which is supporting restriction on growth. I would like to see super high end condos built on the upper Castlewood golf course if golf is not a viable business. I would buy one.

11 people like this
Posted by Fifty Years Here
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Aug 15, 2019 at 12:35 pm

Fifty Years Here is a registered user.

The City will do nothing... I had an issue with trees on my property line a while back. The trees were on property controlled by Zone 7. I had to hire an arborist, and a tree trimming artist, reports, etc., the whole 9 yards. More than 10k later basically the trees were "pruned," nothing more. Two years after that, my neighbor went onto the same property, chopped two trees down to the ground and was fined $1,800.
It's better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission!

26 people like this
Posted by RogerDDD
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2019 at 4:56 pm

I don't understand all the people commenting that the work was done without permits. All of the permits appear to have been pulled. The city approved total destruction of the house by the building department (the stamped submittal is linked in the article).

What was not done, was to get planning approval. That is not a permit. On that note, I have no idea if the person should or should not have been aware of the need to return the planning department - so I will not judge to whom or in what manner punishment should be dealt. I do think that in this day and age, when a permit gets approved, I assume it is entered into a computer that should be able to flag notices that planning approval may be necessary. And perhaps the building department should have some idea.

4 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2019 at 5:45 pm

BobB is a registered user.


I love the "stack and pack" on Spring Street. I think it looks great. What is the problem?

5 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 15, 2019 at 6:49 pm

“Reviewed” does not equal “approved”. Any contractor or developer, especially ones as experienced as these two, know that. I know that, and I’m just an English major..

Morgenroth lives downtown. Hodnefeld did for many years before purchasing this property. They both have worked in the city for years.

How is it possible to claim ignorance, gentlemen? Hodnefeld was instrumental in approving the historic ordinance, for Pete’s sake.

No matter how many of your friends you encourage to parade out on the blog in your defense, it’s inexcusable.

46 people like this
Posted by My project
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 15, 2019 at 7:36 pm

I’ve only been through the permit process once, and my pans called for some demolition. My plans were stamped with the same exact thing as in the linked documents and considered approved. For my project, reviewed equaled approved. I guess it’s possible I missed something, but I was pretty thorough with the city to make sure I didn’t misstep.

I’ve read through most messages on this thread. Some seem to have a bone to pick with the builder for some reason. Based on my very limited experience, the documents seem in order... and I kinda agree with the few people who expressed concern over placing historic significance on one wall versus the structural integrity of a unreinforced wall that posed a risk. I’d be curious to know what was historically significant about the home other than it represented an architectural style of the time. If rebuilt with the same facade, not really sure what the difference is. My two cents, take it or leave it.

7 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Aug 15, 2019 at 8:53 pm

Get a permit! If not, there are consequences.

26 people like this
Posted by MikeB
a resident of Canyon Meadows
on Aug 15, 2019 at 9:05 pm

Agreed, get a permit or there are consequences. Looks like they had one. The link in the article shows reviewed/approved engineering recommendation to do a full demolition for structural reasons. Seems like sound justification for a full demolition. Too bad whomever stamped the papers didn’t catch the fact that there was to be a full demolition, maybe we’d have one more historic wall in Pleasanton we could all enjoy. The onus is on the builder to call out their plans, seems they did, the onus is on the city to review and approve or deny. Seems like maybe the reviewer should be in question not the builder. If I have approval to do something, I generally do not ask for re-approval.

35 people like this
Posted by Bored
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 15, 2019 at 9:33 pm

@ Julie, a few comments back, before the city stamped structural report was posted on the Pleasanton Weekly, you mentioned the document being on Facebook.
At that time, in your reply to Mr. Tierney, you referenced the report as “stamped received”
Now that it’s posted online, for all to see, you’re referencing it correctly as “stamped reviewed” As an English major, you probably know the difference between those two words. One supports your argument and one does not. I’ve been following along and trying to see your point of view. Are you a lover of old homes? Do you not like this contractor? Are you upset with the homeowner? The process? The city? Would you mind helping me understand your need to be right on this?

43 people like this
Posted by Encouraged
a resident of Beratlis Place
on Aug 16, 2019 at 5:23 am

@Julie- I took the time to read through all the comments here because a neighbor forwarded me the article... I was immediately hooked by the amount of backlash. The kicker was your accusation that Jim is encouraging his friends to parade around on the blog in support. I can’t say whether your accusation is correct or not, but I can say it does not apply to me (and I suspect most, if not all). I have used Morgenroth Development several times in the past, and always been more than happy with the cost and end product. Other than the “hello” I give Jim when I see him around town, I have not had a conversation with him since my job completed a handful of years back. In truth, it is your very accusation and the comments throughout this board by you and others that encouraged me to make this post in support. You really seem to have an issue with this builder. If I were to apply your logic, I can only assume that the city has encouraged you and the rest of the negative posters here. People have their own voice and choose to use it. Some may use their voice because they are a friend of Jim’s. I used my voice because I can’t stand to see others use their voice to besmirch good names. I also cannot stand it when those same people rally for retributions that would ruin lives when they have very little info to go on. You’ve used the words “shame on you” in your prior posts...back at you with that one.

4 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2019 at 10:42 am

I don't live in Pleasanton, so I have no dog in the race. What does bother me is unethical business practices. Strip their business license permanently. One strike and your out. It's the only way to see to it that ALL businesses act ethically at ALL times. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

9 people like this
Posted by Voice of reason
a resident of Valley Trails
on Aug 16, 2019 at 11:14 am

Y’all need to chill. This will be forgotten in a matter of days. Innovation is a part of life, the owner of this home has every right to renovate their property as they want. If you bought this house then you can preserve it. Stop worrying about other people’s business and possessions.

5 people like this
Posted by Nick
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 16, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Voice of reason - You're the voice of unreason. What part of unethical business practices don't you understand? If you're okay with not playing by the rules (that the rest of us have to abide by) you're a flake. The truth hurts.

1 person likes this
Posted by concerned resident
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 16, 2019 at 12:59 pm

I don't understand why the wrecking ball has been used to destroy many of the buildings that make Pleasanton such a charming small town.

Why was Starbucks allowed to demolish the former Gem Theatre on Main Street? What city council gave them permission? And when was the meeting?

Charles Huff modified the Roxy Theatre as it became the Wine Steward. Why was Starbucks allowed to demolish the former Gem Theatre rather than renovate it in a historically respectful manner like Charles Huff did with the Roxy?

Also why was the city allowed to demolish a house built in 1907 that they purchased after the Pleasanton Weekly ran this story? When was the meeting that this decision was made? Web Link

8 people like this
Posted by Karl
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Concerned Resident -

Concerning destroying many of the buildings that make Pleasanton such a charming small town as it related to the new Starbucks.

Did you ever go into Pastime Pool? Ever see what a completed dump it was? Ever see the lowlifes hanging out front?

It was the last of the crappy bars that dominated Main Street.

It was a dump, and what is now in it's place is a billion times better.

10 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 16, 2019 at 2:38 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

Karl's right. I remember it...and like I said before, just because something's old doesn't make it historically significant and Pastime Pool is a glaring example.

3 people like this
Posted by Amy M.
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 16, 2019 at 4:46 pm

I double majored at Occidental College; History with an emphasis in American Art and Architecture, and Economics. I’m simply going to address the umbrage over an 80-something year old home designated historic.
Despite living in Vintage Hills for 6 years prior to moving to Livermore, I can’t remember the house in question. However, it’s quite possible to have a 60-70 year old home, a Neutra for example, that would be considered architecturally significant and worthy of saving. One could also have a 120-yr old Edwardian home that’s fallen into disrepair and can’t be saved. Age alone does not dictate what is and isn’t worthy of saving. Plus this is a state and city where historical buildings tend to be much younger or newer than their East Coast or European counterparts,

20 people like this
Posted by Pro-Law
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2019 at 11:45 pm

Putting myself in the property owner's shoes - I would have a hard time looking at the returned documents, which say the plans have been reviewed by the city for a demo, and then not thinking anything other than it would be okay to proceed. If I were to receive documents back from the city saying it had been reviewed I wouldn't think I'd need to go back to the city for anything else. Due to those documents, I think the city would have a difficult time enforcing this incdient if taken to court. It wasn't like the property owner was hiding their intentions.

12 people like this
Posted by Betty
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2019 at 10:06 am

I find it odd that a City of Pleasanton inspector didn’t notice that the house was being demolished. We couldn’t put new windows in our 25 year old home without an inspector “dropping by” to check our permit. Something is not right here. It seems the city dropped the ball somewhere and is trying to put the onus on the contractor and homeowner because they are well known entities.

7 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Aug 19, 2019 at 8:44 am

Grumpy is a registered user.

Ok, at first reading, I thought the owners were getting a bum rap.

But now that PW posted the variance and the building permits, it seems clearer.

The variance doesn't allow demolition and requires that the variance be given to the building department to ensure that the building plans comply with the variance. Furthermore, if there's a difference, the owner has to go back to planning and explain. And in all cases, the variance takes precedence.

This is standard stuff. The building department in any city merely determines whether something is sound and to code. No high rises are allowed in Pleasanton, but it's conceivable that someone could get a high rise plan stamped by the building department: obviously, the person would have to be asleep, but the point is that the building department does not enforce zoning. They may as a courtesy remind you and even not stamp if it's glaring. But they can miss planning issues and the fault lies on the owner for not complying with planning, not the building department.

So, now I agree l that the facts shown here suggest that the builder made this error by negligently by failing to ask planning for approval to change the plans and merely submitted them to building. That never works. So they were caught.

For the homeowners, I'm hoping they will be able to rely on the builder's insurance or equivalent to pay for the error, and shouldn't be put out too much themselves.

As for whether the house is historic or not, that's a red herring. That little area there has special rules for planning, and you know that by buying there. It's fully disclosed in the title package. So, the question here is whether we think lawlessness is okay just because someone disagrees with the intent of the rules. And the answer there ought to be "no". You can't buy in an HOA and paint your house bright red without HOA approval. Read the covenants. You can't buy on 2nd Street and do a full demolition without planning approval. Same thing.

Like this comment
Posted by Joanne
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2019 at 1:32 pm

Bryan bowers ,
Who is co owner along with his stepfather of this business
Did not know the ramifications of tearing this property down?
Yet he sits ion the board?
My guess is this is the cost of them doing business they tear it down and just pay the fines

4 people like this
Posted by Nick
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 19, 2019 at 2:48 pm

Grumpy - You are correct. You either get it or you don't. They were caught. Happens all the time. People roll the dice (cutting corners - unethical business practices), and they're not sorry. They're sorry they got caught. I never thought the homeowners were getting a bum rap. This was unethical from the beginning - all the way around.

3 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 19, 2019 at 9:13 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

Trial by "Town Square"...string 'em up. The house was a red herring there.

3 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 19, 2019 at 9:30 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

And as far as "rolling the dice" well, that's exactly what the city of Pleasanton did in the Val Vista tract back in the 60's and 70's and now our foundations are sinking. Although they approved the building it's not a city's the homeowner's problem. And if this house had fallen and injured someone...guess what? Not a city problem...a homeowner problem. And when the city tells a builder that they can't cut down a "heritage tree" even though it's diseased and it falls...homeowner problem.

7 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Aug 19, 2019 at 10:53 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

If you want to talk about heritage trees, fine. The city has a silly definition--30 ft make it a heritage tree and so all of the cheap cedars and redwoods are heritage trees. Poorly done and a bit autocratic.

But the fact that the house was a dump is totally a red herring. This is a tiny part of town, entirely optional to move in there. All the builder had to do was tell the planning department that their plans had to change for safety reasons. There's an excellent chance planning would have okayed it, or made merely a request to leave the wood and replace the foundation by laying the wall down. Or any of a hundred more options.

Instead, the builder either chose to do or inadvertently did an end run around them. And now they got caught.

It's like people who whine about paying taxes, saying that the tax law is unfair so they won't file. I have no sympathy when the IRS comes after them. In fact, I'm happy, because I pay my taxes and I don't enjoy it but I follow the rules, so they surely should pay theirs and not demand special treatment.

As with the builders special treatment. The facts suggest that they chose to ignore planning, even though they knew full well that that isn't allowed. So now they'll suffer the consequences. Action, reaction. Seems fair and honorable for them to get in trouble for it, even if the house was a dump. They refused to talk to the department they needed to, and deprived planning of having the say the law mandates and working to find a fair solution. Nope, take unilateral action and that's cheating.

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