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New complaints filed against alleged ‘drug house’ after Castro fire

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Firefighters responded to a two-alarm fire in San Francisco’s Castro District Friday morning near Dolores Park. (Nuala Sawyer/S.F. Weekly)

City building inspectors have added new violations to a stack of complaints and fines at an alleged “drug house” in the Castro District after a two-alarm fire last Friday.

The latest notice of violation filed on Feb. 23 was a result of the fire at 517-519 Sanchez St., a three-story blue Victorian. It cited the property as unsafe due to fire and water damages that make the home structurally unsound.

The new violation is the latest in a string of complaints and city enforcement actions regarding that property dating back eight years, including a lawsuit filed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera in 2015. That lawsuit declared the house a “nuisance” to the neighborhood due to code violations and alleged that it “harbored drug activity there for years.”

The fire comes just a little over a week after homeowner Joel Elliott was allowed to retrieve his belongings from the home, which he was forced to vacate in December 2017, according to court documents.

SEE RELATED: 2-alarm fire in Castro District home with history of drug problems, code violations

Elliott has a long history with the DBI dating back to June 2010, when he tore down his front staircase and attempted to rebuild it with two-by-four planks of wood.

He has been cited for dozens of violations since then, for issues including lack of heat and electricity, further construction without permits, non-functioning toilets, rodents and possible criminal activity, according to building officials.

In September 2016, the court ruled against Elliott in the city lawsuit, ordering him to pay $1.6 million to his creditors and to The City.

After Elliott filed for bankruptcy, the court ruled that he could sell the $2.6 million home to pay off his debt. There was a buyer lined up, but Elliott backed out of the sale at the last minute, according to city officials.

The house was then turned over, by court order, to assigned trustee and attorney Janina Hoskins last December.

The cause of the house fire remains unknown and Lieutenant Jonathan Baxter, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Fire Department, said that investigators were on the scene Monady and working to find the source of the fire.

Attempts to reach Elliott’s attorney were unsuccessful.

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