The city of Salinas is moving to place the Dick Bruhn building, gutted by an electrical fire in 2016, into receivership, saying years of inaction on the part of the building's owners have created a public health nuisance, not to mention creating epic blight on a prominent corner of the city's historic Oldtown.
Notice of the intent was placed on the doors of the building on Dec. 6, and also delivered to the building owners Berkley Inc. and Berkley agent Paul Kehoe, a son of property owner Gerry Kehoe.
The notice reads: "To all interested parties. Please be advised that in no less than three days, the city of Salinas intends to file an action with the Superior Court of the State of California for, among other things, public nuisance, nuisance per se under the Salinas Municipal Code, unlawful business practices, and the appointment of a receiver to abate the substandard conditions on the parcel," pursuant to health and safety codes. The notice was written by Matthew Silver and Rene Farjeat, of the firm Silver & Wright, on behalf of the city.
Should a judge approve the receivership action, the city can move to sell the parcel outright, or rehab it and then sell it.
"The city has given the property owners many occasions over the past three years since the fire occurred to bring the building into compliance; to ensure the health and safety of the public," says Salinas City Attorney Chris Callihan. "The building has been and continues to be a danger to the public.
"The owners' refusal or inability to correct the health and safety violations left the city with no choice but to take action."
On Feb. 12, 2016, a trio of workers entered the Bruhn Building with several family members in tow to show them the interior. One of them turned on a light switch, and the decrepit wiring, in conjunction with unpermitted interior renovations, sparked a fire so intense that a high-rise strike team from the San Francisco Fire Department was put on standby and Mayor Joe Gunter said he thought the whole 300 block of Main Street might burn to the ground.
In the ensuing months, interior debris was removed and the windows were boarded up; new windows were installed on the ground level, and at least one has been shattered by vandals, to be boarded up again.
Kehoe, who also owns the decrepit Greyhound Building in Oldtown, as well as the restaurant and entertainment complex at 201 Main St., was ordered to pay $75,000 in civil penalties and costs after an investigation by the Monterey County District Attorney found that Kehoe and Berkley, Inc. failed to conduct environmental protection surveys before a renovation.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Kehoe and Berkley, Inc. failed to conduct asbestos surveys over a two-year period from early 2013 to 2015 for a renovation of the building’s second floor.
Two months before the fire, the Monterey Bay Air Resources District referred the asbestos removal issue to the District Attorney’s office for an investigation. Local, state and federal law require the owner building scheduled for demolition or renovation provide inspections for asbestos, even if none is found. The case against Kehoe alleged that he failed to have any such surveys done.
In March of this year, Kehoe told certain media outlets, including KSBW and The Californian, that he was moving forward with plans to develop the Bruhn Building into apartments, and intended to start interior renovations in the fall with the intent of opening by summer 2020.
To date, no work has been done.
This story will be updated.