Top Stories 2014: #6 — Dangerous Domains

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Tacoma Daily Index is looking back at the 10 most popular and most read articles among visitors to our Web site. Enjoy!

Since this spring, the City of Tacoma has awarded a number of contracts to raze many buildings deemed dangerous to the public.

In May, two contracts were awarded to Tacoma-based Wm. Dickson Co. — one to demolish a former restaurant building located at 722 S. 38th St.; and another to demolish a former single-family home located at 6506 Tacoma Ave. S. (see “Tacoma picks contractor for 2 building demolitions,” Tacoma Daily Index, May 27, 2014; “City Hall News: Speakers bureau, code compliance update, and environmental videos,” Tacoma Daily Index, May 16, 2014; and “City Hall News: Historic preservation, building demolitions, and Tacoma Water property sale,” Tacoma Daily Index, April 25, 2014).

Four months later, two contracts were awarded to Puyallup-based Pelland Enterprises — one to demolish a 1,944-square-foot, 73-year-old former single-family residence located at 2101 S. Sprague Ave.; and another to demolish a 998-square-foot, 73-year-old former single-family residence located at 6220 E. Portland Ave. Also in September, a contract was awarded to Puyallup-based Woodland Industries to demolish a 1,028-square-foot, 114-year-old former single-family residence located at 1954 S. Wilkeson St. (see “City selects contractors to demolish 3 abandoned, derelict Tacoma buildings,” Tacoma Daily Index, Nov. 12, 2014; “Bids are in to demolish 3 abandoned, derelict Tacoma buildings,” Tacoma Daily Index, Oct. 6, 2014; and “City seeks wrecking crews for 3 Tacoma buildings,” Tacoma Daily Index, Sept. 16, 2014).

In October, a contract was awarded to Pelland Enterprises to demolish a former 1,176-square-foot, 82-year-old former single-family residence located at 4621 S. M St. (see “Tacoma Bid Watch: Gangs, graffiti, and South Tacoma Way / Water Ditch Trail upgrades,” Tacoma Daily Index, Dec. 9, 2014).

Finally, last month, the City issued a call for bids to demolish a three-story, 2,988-square-foot, 86-year-old former apartment building located at 1313-1/2 Fawcett Ave.

The Tacoma Daily Index publishes many of the City’s calls for bids asking contractors to demolish some of these unsightly buildings. The bid documents usually include photographs of buildings in various states of ruin: piles of dirty clothes; broken furniture and fixtures; evidence of looting; yards overgrown with weeds; bright yellow signs stapled to the structures and announcing, ‘Notice. Must Not Be Occupied’; and front doors boarded over by heavy plywood with similar messages: ‘No Trespassing. Violators Will Be Arrested. Keep Tacoma Safe.’

When the Tacoma Daily Index started reporting on the demolitions, the topic was very popular among our readers.

“These properties are usually vandalized, and you will at times find people living in them,” City of Tacoma Code Inspector Supervisor Dan McConaughy told the Tacoma Daily Index in November (see “Dangerous Domains: A conversation with Tacoma building inspector Dan McConaughy,” Tacoma Daily Index, Nov. 17, 2014). “Also, wire theft does occur. The City will have the buildings vacated and secure them — and a lot of times re-secure — from third party entry as needed. Also, the majority of our workload is complaint-driven.”

According to McConaughy, these privately-owned buildings go through a review process, which includes a meeting before the the City of Tacoma Office of the Hearing Examiner — the City presents testimony as to why the buildings are dangerous, and the owners present testimony as to why they are not. The owners are then given a decision by the Hearings Officer to either repair or remove the buildings. If the owners fail to comply, the City will demolish the buildings.

“Our goal is not to demolish buildings,” added McConaughy. “We want to give the owner every opportunity available to repair these buildings or do the work themselves. It is not until they have exhibited that they are going to do nothing is when we must protect the public’s interest and remove the buildings.”

To read a monthly breakdown of the Tacoma Daily Index’s most read articles of 2014, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and author of A Reporter At Large: A decade of Tacoma interviews, feature articles, and photographs. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.