Friday, November 20, 2009
2222 4th St N - The Final Countdown
Guest post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman
After the Public Safety & Regulatory Services meeting this week, it looks like we're in the last stages of the life of 2222 4th St N. This is a property that has plagued the Hawthorne neighborhood for quite some time. On November 18, PS&RS brought up the notorious property (item #17 on the agenda).
The recommendation was to demolish the structure, and came with photos of the subject property. The city council also offers a video link to the meeting, and this item comes up around the 1:41:00 mark.
Because of the length of the meeting and the software necessary to view it, folks might not be able to watch it in its entirety. So what follows is a summary of what transpired...
Things began rather dryly with a city staffer explaining that the stay of demolition was continued for two meeting cycles and the owner needed a new code compliance. This report was completed on 11/3/09 and made available to Khan on 11/13/09. The city staffer explained that "extensive work is left, which is in direct contrast to Khan's testimony at the 10/21/09 hearing where he stated '90-95% of the work was done.'" The current recommendation was to continue the stay for one more cycle to 12/9/09.
CM Hofstede made notice of the fact that she had a 2-inch file regarding this, dating back to 2005. It was unclear if she meant just 2222 4th St N, or multiple properties owned by Khan. She said that the floor plan for converting the property back to a single-family residence was inadequate, as one would have to go outside to get from one floor to the next. (More on this later)
Much of the existing work was not done to manufacturer's specifications. Khan would have to:
- Replace flooring, as the carpet was installed with no padding or tack strips to adhere to walls. The carpeting has been alleged to be used, but Khan denies this;
- Siding will have to be replaced as it is already falling off;
- Replace used windows with ones considered efficient;
- redo gas piping as it was installed without proper permits;
- complete work on a duct system;
- pay a double-fee permit on the gas range as it was also installed without proper permits.
"Major" incomplete work was also cited. The roof, rafters, chimney, flashing, and landscaping were listed as significantly incomplete, and the garage floor and sheeting indicated structural instability.
CM Samuels asked why we were even continuing to consider a stay of demolition. A city staffer noted that the timeline just came back on 11/13 and there had been no chance to meet with Khan yet. They still recommended demolition, but had a desire to have that meeting first.
CM Hofstede stated that Khan already had a restoration agreement and had been out of compliance with its terms since August 9 of this year. Don Samuels responded to this by asking the attorney if they had any legal obligation to continue giving Khan more time. He was told that even when Khan claimed the work was 90% complete, it was still a failure to comply with the terms of the restoration agreement - whether Khan was 1% or 99% complete with the work set forth. Therefore, a demolition in this case would be legally enforceable.
Samuels then made a motion to demolish the structure. CM Schiff worried that rushing to demolish might be a violation of Khan's due process, but Barb Johnson chimed in at this point and said she was in favor of the motion. "We have someone who operates at the margins" of what is acceptable and she indicated it was time to enforce our city's rules.
Johnson then mentioned the back stairs, which I might add, came to the attention of various city council members because a Hawthorne resident informed me and I posted the information on this blog. Samuels added his disdain regarding this detail, saying we had "an experienced property owner [who] converted a duplex to a single-family residence, and the solution [to get from one floor to the next] is to go outside."
While Hofstede added that the windows and floor coverings (presumably carpet) were used, Schiff remained concerned about due process. This seemed to be the only concern being raised against demolition; not whether it was warranted but whether it could be done without Khan suing the city.
Samuels then made a motion to support the demolition of 2222 4th St N and the motion carried. But like Tom Sawyer attending his own funeral, Mahmood Khan was in the audience. The motion was then moved to reconsideration to give Khan a chance to make his case.
He first claimed he could "swear that no[ne] [of the carpeting] was used," but made no mention of any other items being new vs. used. He astutely took Schiff's cues and reminded the committee that he only received the report two days ago and this wasn't a realistic time frame to complete the work. He began to talk about how rough he had it and said he had to borrow money from family and friends to make repairs to this property and others. Yet somehow he was still just a great landlord, as he said, "Come and see what I do with my properties. I fix them up."
(Hawkman interjects: Right. Come here and see how Khan fixes up his properties.)
Khan proceeded to chide Samuels for bringing up the "house of poop." In another Khan-founded twist of logic, he said that he would fix it up as soon as he had money, but he also tried to sell it. (I wonder why nobody wanted to buy it?) Khan also called foul on unfair criticism over having different types of siding, referring to a "multi-million-dollar project on Highway 55 in north Minneapolis" that had two types or colors of siding. (JNS readers are encouraged to point out which building he may be referring to, but I'm guessing it looks a hell of a lot nicer than the "Neapolitan House.")
He also claimed that there was a stairwell inside the house that could be used to get from one floor to another.
Winding down, he said that "actions are judged by intentions," and he intended to finish the project. (Hawkman interjects: NO!!! ACTIONS ARE JUDGED BY RESULTS, AND WE ALREADY HAVE PROOF OF KHAN'S RESULTS!) Despite his insistence that he might sue the city, he kept saying it was his "humble request" that the property not be demolished.
Hofstede said she understood how busy Khan is, but reminded him that he DID have a restoration agreement, and as of 9/4/09, he was aware of his failure to comply with it. The expectation is that he would follow through, but "we're not seeing activity on your part that your intentions are to complete the work."
Khan said that as a flight attendant, he works and flies ten days a month, so he's home "99% of the time." (Ummm....so there's let's say 30 days in a month, and converting the 20 days into a percentage of that is...wait, let's go with hours instead, and then we take into account that he has to sleep and assume a normal working day, so we add up the number of hours, figuring how many he's around for and...well math is hard. I guess with the 99% of the time Khan is around, he's been able to do 95% of the repairs on 2222 4th.)
Khan also said that "We are on the same team, we support one another." (Was he serious?)
Johnson then asked him how many properties in Minneapolis he owned, and Khan replied, "30 or 40, I don't know exactly." Continuing her heavy hitting, she asked if he was current on ANY of his taxes. Khan said he was working with banks to get loans so he could get caught up on taxes, and asked for a waiver of vacant house fees.
(Hawkman interjects: Let me ask a question here, directed at the mortgage industry as a whole. "Hey Mortgage Industry, remember when you were lending all sorts of money to people who were behind on a lot of bills? How'd that work out for you?" Mortgage Industry: "Not so good." Yeah, I wouldn't hold my breath on that financing.)
Johnson then said we will never recoup the money spent on just this property alone, and "I personally don't see us on the same team." (THIS is why we reelected you, Barb!)
Ostrow brought a substitute motion forward that would have granted more time to Khan, once again out of concern for due process. Hofstede spoke against the substitute motion, saying there were five separate occasions that this property alone has come before the PS&RS committee. Ostrow's motion did not carry.
Hofstede then moved that the committee support the staff recommendation for demolition, but direct staff and Khan to work on an agreement. If that agreement is in place by the next council meeting, then they may reconsider the recommendation. In order to do that, Khan would have to show the ability to come into full compliance within 90 days, pay all delinquent fees on the property, and post a $50,000 performance bond.
The motion carried, and 2222 4th St N moved ever-so-slowly towards its inevitable demise. When that happens, I hope they get the guy in this song to do the demolition.