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DBI complaints


Howard Wong, June 17, 2013

My Name: Howard Wong, AIA and

My Contact: phone/email

Property Address: 1731 Powell Street, Block/ Lot: 0101/ 004

Demolition Permit No.: 201302190452, Filed 02/19/2013

PROBLEM: The Demolition Permit should not be granted or released, until known dangers to surrounding buildings are fully analyzed---concealed by the Project Sponsor. Also, existing soil and geotechnical conditions have been misrepresented in this application.

  • The Project Sponsor acknowledges that surrounding buildings are old, fragile and vulnerable---with shallow footings and brick foundations (See below---Barnard Impregilo Healy JV/ ARUP Report).
  • No structural assessment of surrounding buildings has been done.
  • In particular, the Pagoda Theater abuts (possibly tied to) a 1907 historic warehouse building.
  • In past construction at the Pagoda Theater, a high water table and underground stream were found.
  • According to the Project Sponsor's own engineers, additional soil test borings are necessary — but no new geotechnical report has been disclosed (after repeated Public Records Requests).
  • The Demolition Work includes preparation work for Compensation Grouting---to address soil subsidence and potential danger to surrounding buildings. But no new geotechnical report has been done to prove that Compensation Grouting will be sufficient or adequate.
  • In the ARUP Report, 3.1.3, Page 5: "The schematic demolition plans are intended only to start the permitting process and shall not be used for any other purpose."
  • The BIHJV/ ARUP Report has cost exclusions, including new test borings, geotechnical analysis, additional building mitigations, hazardous materials and changes in site conditions.

See "ARUP Engineering Fee Proposal". See independent Geotechnical Reports: "Karp Report 1, 2 and 3", commissioned by


  • The 2008 Historic Resource Evaluation for the Pagoda Theater was for an Alteration, not a Demolition.
  • The BIHJV/ ARUP Fee Proposal demonstrates that the Pagoda Project is going overbudget, requiring new SFMTA Board approvals and possible changes in work scope. From the 3-1-13 cost estimate by BIHJV/ ARUP, the Pagoda Theater Project's cost has increased from $9.15 million to $13.7 million---and may increase further.
  • Demolition of the Pagoda Theater should not be granted since the feasibility of the entire project is still in flux. Demolition should not be allowed unless all permits for the entire project are secured. The Project Sponsor may demolish the Pagoda and then change or cancel the construction-portion of the project.

Regards, Howard Wong, AIA and

Howard Wong complaint, supplement

TO: Department of Building Inspection



Property Address: 1731 Powell Street, Block/ Lot: 0101/ 004

Demolition Permit No.: 201302190452, Filed 02/19/2013


The adjacent restaurant owner has learned that demolition is imminent. The contractor shocked the restaurateur by saying that adjacent businesses would have to close during demolition of upper floors. Adjacent businesses can ill afford loss of income. The City and SFMTA have continued to conceal information from affected business/ property owners. The City and SFMTA have provided no engineering drawings or any review of demolition logistics.

And the Pagoda Theater Project is totally unnecessary!

Moreover, an independent Geotechnical Engineer warns of likely soil subsidence and damage to buildings within a one block radius.


Demolition is not simple construction---and has demonstrable risks. Without full engineering, geotechnical reports and plans, the Pagoda Theater's rushed demolition is unwise and illegal. At minimum, surrounding business/ property owners should be allowed to review engineering and demolition drawings, as well as be active participants in project planning. Thus far, neighboring businesses and property owners have been left in the dark.

ABC-NEWS: “Philadelphia Building Collapse Inspector Commits Suicide”

NBC10 PHILADELPHIA: “Philadelphia Building Collapse”

USA TODAY: “6 dead, 14 hurt in Philadelphia building collapse”

ASSOCIATED PRESS: “Woman buried for 13 hours in Philly building collapse loses both legs”

NBC10 PHILADELPHIA: “Deadly Building Collapse in Pictures”

Regards, Howard Wong, AIA,

Web site updated September 7, 2014;