Monday, February 21, 2011


On the advice of our lawyer, we hired Leo McFadden to pre-inspect our building. Condo conversion requires having the City building inspectors come in to check if your building is up to code. Any code violations the inspectors find must be repaired - whether or not you condo convert. A pre-inspection gives you an assessment of what City inspectors are likely to cite you for, so you can estimate repair costs before having the City officially come in.

Let's get to the juicy part first. If you Google Leo McFadden you will see he used to work in building code enforcement for the City, but resigned after the San Francisco Chronicle accused him of being at the "center of an ethics controversy." Apparently he formed a real estate holding company that held ownership interest in several San Francisco residential properties. From what I can tell, Leo's company would buy, renovate and flip properties that had been cited for code violations. My sense is the owners were in over their heads, trying to maintain old buildings. They went the cheap route - having shoddy work done without permits. When they got cited, they would bail and sell the property. Of course it is possible to take a darker view, and imagine a little band of thuggish inspectors roaming around looking for run down properties so they use the threat of endless citations to strong arm owners into selling.

But when the accusations were made, back in 2005, the City's Ethics Commission said city employees - including building inspectors - were free to buy and sell real estate provided they are not privy to or acting on information that is not available to the general public. Also, a city controller's review found no evidence of San Francisco building inspectors buying up property under review by their agency. To me, Leo seems like a decent guy who took advantage of an entrepreneurial opportunity, one that his job did not expressly prohibit. And he ended up a victim of yellow journalism.

Anyway, he resigned from the City, and went into business for himself. He certainly knows his stuff. He did a careful walk-through of our 100-year-old building, and pointed out things we will almost certainly be required to change - like our old gas wall heaters. We will be receiving a detailed written report shortly. This lets us get a jump on projecting costs and lining up a general contractor.


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