The “capsule house” was found in violation of several city building codes | News

A Palo Alto home that was promoted as a model of affordable shared housing because it was renovated with 14 sleeping “chambers” has been cited for multiple code violations, according to Palo Alto city documents.

The house, located on Ramona Street in the St. Clair Gardens neighborhood and rented by the Brownstone condominium company, first caught the city’s attention after news reports about the new project broke. The business rents out pod spaces — stacked double rooms a little larger than a double bed — and shared amenities for $800 per person per month, with no deposit or first and last month’s rent required.

The city received unfounded complaints that the house was being rented on a short-term rotation basis, however, with many people coming and going. She also allegedly has an illegally converted garage.

City fire and building inspectors investigated whether it complied with building and fire safety codes, with the Palo Alto Fire Department inspecting the home on July 29.

Inspectors found that the house did not have smoke detectors in the sleeping pods; Extension cords used instead of standing wires; possibility of excess fusing with multicomponent strips; detection of wiring outside the building; poorly installed wires included; He had an illegally converted garage and an unlicensed, remodeled residence; It included furniture clogging exit doors and tracks, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that needed battery replacement, among other findings.

An August 16 infringement notice from the city’s Department of Planning and Development Services ordered the property owners, Kianfar Serooshian and Homeyra Ghaffari of Granite Bay, California, to correct the violations. A revised notice updated the specific dates that ranged from “immediately” to September 16th. Permits to work in the garage and remodel the residence must be submitted by November 15.

The city has directed owners to install properly rated smoke detectors in all sleeping areas, individual pods and in hallways to bedrooms, and to install properly rated carbon monoxide detectors outside sleeping areas.

Installed sleeping barriers penetrated the required entry and exit path, and the city ordered 36 inches of clearance for walking around the house.

The city required owners to obtain a permit to properly reinstall or move the water heater in a closed closet. The electrical service panel also has improperly installed wiring that requires a permit for repair. The city also found low-voltage, 110-volt electrical appliances, including fans, power strips, and lighting in and around the sleeping incubators that looked like unlisted electrical appliances. The city has ordered that the devices be replaced with UL compliant devices or that they be removed altogether.

There were unsecured external wires near the sleeping pods, and appliances were connected to multi-connector transformers and extension cords, which could overload the home’s electrical capacity. The city requires a permit and proper wiring installation.

Inspectors also found that work was done on a home that did not comply with the last known approved permit, which was filed in 1999. The city required homeowners to provide records and prove that the home was authorized to be remodeled, garage converted and received. consent. If not, the residence will either need to obtain the necessary permits to remodel and convert the garage or obtain permits to re-residence to a pre-approved design, the city indicated.

The homeowner was initially ordered to reduce the occupancy of the residence to no more than seven people, based on the number of square feet per total built area, but later dropped the requirement in the revised August 31 notice to update the breach.

The city confirmed in an email Wednesday that it does not currently have any local building code restrictions limiting the number of unrelated residents living together.

Landlord Sirocian was contacted by phone Tuesday night and said he would call back but did not. Ghafari’s voicemail states that she is out of town until early October.

Brownstone argued that rentals are less than 30 days. Each rental agreement specifies that the tenant must commit to a 30-day stay, the minimum required by law.

Brownstone CEO James Stallworth said Tuesday he had provided the city with a copy of the rental agreement, which stipulates a minimum stay of 30 days, and discussed the matter with the city, which he said was “misleading.”

“We do not allow stays for less than 30 days,” he said.

At present, 13 people reside in the house. Newest person with LinkedIn and been there for 45 days; In a follow-up email on Tuesday, he said the longest-running resident at Stanford University was at home for 375 days.

Stallworth, who previously worked for the state auditor’s office, said by phone that he thought the city should have called him rather than the homeowners because they knew Brownstone was the tenant. He said the city was “not well informed” about ordinances to limit the number of unrelated residents and that it had not verified whether the alleged violation of the 30-day stay requirement had occurred.

“I should mention that many of the city’s assertions in the letter should not be described as objective facts – just statements based on assumptions. For example, the city didn’t come and measure the load or check/ask if our electronics were UL listed before sending the letter. I want Just make sure that’s clear,” he said in the email.

“The infringement notice includes a list of observed violations and references to certain sections of the code that the city believes were not in compliance,” the city explained in an email response on Wednesday.

Stallworth said his company has complied with many of the city’s reform demands. They replaced the auxiliary light switch with a battery-operated one because they could not verify that the light switches were Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certified, and the city noted that the light switch wiring was not up to their standards.

“We had an electrician sign our capsule design to confirm we were not in danger of overloading the circuit before we put the capsules home,” he said in the email.

The city said it did not independently verify compliance, but the property owner reported having installed fire detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. The city has not yet been called by the homeowners for an inspection and cannot verify their claims that they complied.

“When a landlord requests an inspection, the city will assess compliance. In addition, the landlord has begun the process of applying for permits to treat the water heater and electrical panel,” the city said in its email.

“Currently, monthly rentals for the pod may continue while the landlord addresses pending law violations,” the city said.

Stallworth said the company shares the city’s commitment to the safety of its residents.

“We intend to operate fully within the limits stipulated in the laws. We have not had any safety issues with our home in a year of operation, and implementing city corrections will make our home safer,” he said.

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