A house in Atherton that has been under construction for more than 40 years will be demolished, but delays from utility companies have pushed back the date of the teardown, according to City Manager George Rodericks.
On Feb. 3, 1978, the town issued Dr. Norman Tong, listed as the homeowner and builder, a permit for a new single-family home at 370 Walsh Road. That house is still unfinished, despite the fact that Atherton in 2006 passed a law putting a strict three-year time limit on construction projects, with hefty fines for violations.
Town officials had said in the past that their hands were tied because the homeowner was following regulations in place when he received his permit, which allowed the permit to remain open as long as he scheduled an inspection and could show "meaningful progress" every six months.
In 2014, the town documented a long list of problems on the property, including dead trees; accumulations of trash, scrap metal, tires, construction supplies and materials; combustible materials; inoperable vehicles; and a large structure that showed significant deterioration, staff wrote in a report.
In February 2016, Tong died of a heart attack while working on the house. On Sept. 30, 2016, the building permit expired because, as a town report said, "no meaningful progress had been made in over one year."
Last September, the City Council ordered Tong's family to apply for a new building permit, bring the building up to current codes or tear it down. The family has opted to demolish it, but gas, electric and sewer shut-offs are still pending so the house remains, Rodericks said.
The most recent delay in the effort is due to PG&E, which applied for a gas cut-off and pavement restoration permit in March. Town staff approved the permit the day PG&E applied, Rodericks said in a July 1 email.
"PG&E did not return to pick up the permit until mid-June," Rodericks said. "They still have not completed their work."
PG&E is set to begin its work on Aug. 13, said company spokesperson Andrea Menniti. Neighbors may notice PG&E crews digging in the street during the project, she said.
Tong's family hired a demolition contractor and can formally apply for the demolition permit as soon as PG&E completes its work, Rodericks said. The review process for the permit can take up to 10 business days, said Mike Greenlee, a town building official, in a July 2 email.
The house's structure has not been altered in any way, Greenlee said. Once demolition is finished, the lot will be completely cleaned, he said. There is a chain-link fence around the property to help prevent unwanted entry.
West Bay Sanitary District also applied for a sewer disconnect permit, but that work is still in progress, he added. West Bay will need to verify that the house's sewer line is not connected to the sewer main. West Bay will also verify that the sewer line is properly capped off.
Officials from the town's code enforcement division visit the property at least two times a month, Greenlee said. The last complaint the town received about the property was in April, he noted.
The Tong family could not be reached for comment.