Fire-ravaged Casa de Vallejo nearly ready for re-occupancy, four years later http://www.timesheraldonline.com/news/ci_2075...
Four years after a deadly fire that partially destroyed downtown Vallejo's historic Casa de Vallejo, the building's owners are nearly ready to start renting out units again.
Vallejo's Housing and Community Development Manager Melinda Nestlerode said the owners told her both would be working today.
"They're nearing completion and want to get leased up before they're done," she said. "It will still be affordable housing for seniors, multi-family, subsidized by HUD."
Chief building official Gary West said now that the owners' legal troubles appear to be behind them, work to repair and remodel the damaged 83-year-old former YMCA-turned ritzy hotel-turned low income senior housing facility, is moving forward. Criminal charges against the owners were reported dropped for lack of evidence in early March.
Three senior residents died in the early morning four-alarm blaze on Aug. 15, 2008 and some 117 were displaced. A Vallejo fire investigation found that smoking by sixth-floor tenant Robert Bennett, 68, ignited the fire. Bennett, Harold Fortune, 61, and John Argente, 74, perished in the blaze.
Within months of the fire, civil and criminal charges of elder abuse and manslaughter were filed against five executives of Amerland and its subsidiaries, Vallejo Housing Partners LLP, Logan Property Management and Amerland/Vallejo LLC.
But all that seems to be history, now.
"They're pretty much topped out with all the structural stuff getting wrapped up and installing a new fire sprinkler system (and other elements) throughout the building," West said.
It will be several more months before the tower -- the part most damaged by the fire -- can be occupied, but the owners are trying to get ahead of the curve, West said.
"They contacted us and Fire Prevention about trying to get temporary occupancy for the lobby and office area so they can start taking applications," he said. "There are some conditions they need to have in place first, like fire extinguishers and isolating the area so no one goes wandering off."
Reopening the Casa de Vallejo can't happen soon enough for city officials, West said.
"We've been checking with (the owners) multiple times asking what's going on," he said. "We're blocking the streets and sidewalks, and stuff. We were told lots of things were tied up in legal battles on several different levels, but we seem to be past that now."
The streets around the building likely will stay blocked through the summer, for the public's protection, he said.