SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen proposed legislation on Tuesday that would put an end to what she called “fraudulent abuse” of the city’s Department of Building Inspection permit system.

According to Ronen, the city urgently needs legislation as abuse of the permit system, by both DBI officials and contractors, has gone on for far too long. She noted that the ongoing abuse resulted in nuisances like projects that exceed the number of units allowed and un-permitted work to homes that has resulted in damage to the city’s neighborhoods.

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The legislation would create an Expanded Compliance Control List, naming parties or projects associated with three or more serious building permit violations within the last 18 months.

Once created, any new building permit application associated with a party or project on that list will then be subjected to elevated scrutiny, multi-department reviews and increased inspections.

The legislation further calls for DBI to post the Expanded Compliance Control List on its website and provide regular reports about the list to the Building Inspection Commission.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen points to a person celebrating from a window the affordable housing groundbreaking at 490 S. Van Ness Ave., November 14, 2018. (Bay City News Service)

Supervisor Hillary Ronen points to a person celebrating from a window the affordable housing groundbreaking at 490 S. Van Ness Ave., November 14, 2018. (Bay City News Service)

“This history of fraud, corruption and malfeasance in our permitting practices is long and ugly,” Ronen said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “At times, those caught in the spotlight have been DBI staff and management, and at other times, it’s been developers, contractors, and consultants who are seeking permit approvals.”

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Back in May, federal prosecutors charged former Building Commission President Rodrigo Santos with bank fraud, alleging Santos fraudulently deposited 261 checks into his personal account totaling $478,000 — money from clients at his engineering company intended for payments to the Department of Building Inspection and other city departments.

Ronen said the city is continuing to deal with the fallout of permit applications Santos had his hand in, including a project in the city’s Portola neighborhood that resulted in 30 new units built, when only 10 units were permitted, resulting in fire and safety concerns for residents.

Additionally, the city recently settled a separate civil lawsuit over un-permitted work on seven homes, four of them in Bernal Heights, that resulted in neighbors complaining of hazards like slipping foundations.

“Having serial violators offenders violate our laws again and again with no measures in place to stop them is absurd. And that it continues to happen signals to me that DBI in the past has taken a passive and ineffective response to defend the integrity of our code, the safety of our buildings and the public’s trust in government,” Ronen said. “It’s critical that we take action to enact clear regulations to ensure implementation and enforcement or procedures to protect the public, along with regular reporting and public accountability.”

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