House has been under construction for 40 years

Construction still needs to be done on this house at 370 Walsh Road in Atherton. Photo from the Town of Atherton's report on the house.

Editor’s note: The printed version of this story gave the wrong day for the hearing on this house. The hearing is set for Wednesday, Sept. 19. The version below has been corrected.

Daily Post Staff Writer

In 1978, the movies “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever” were released, a gallon of gas was 71 cents, Jimmy Carter was president and construction began on a house at 370 Walsh Road in Atherton.

Now, 40 years later, construction of that house may be reaching the end.
At least that’s what Jennifer Schoon-Tong is telling Atherton officials. But she’s asking for a little more time.

The City Council will discuss the house Wednesday night.

Schoon-Tong’s father, Dr. Norman Tong, bought the house in 1975 and in 1978 was granted a building permit by the town. Over the next 38 years, construction went slowly, with Dr. Tong building the home largely by himself.

On March 1, 2007, the city began sending Dr. Tong letters about the slow-moving process, and that it appeared from the town’s plans on file that Dr. Tong was deviating from the original building plans.

Construction stopped on Feb. 28, 2016 when Dr. Tong died, according to a letter to the town from his daughter, Schoon-Tong.

Since then, the town has been sending letters to Dr. Tong’s wife and children about the status of the house, warning them that the building permit was set to expire in September 2016.

Three-step plan

Since the building permit has expired, Code Enforcement Officer Monica Diaz has put together a three-step plan for the property in order for it to be compliant with town code.

• All overgrown, dead, hazardous, diseased or decayed trees or plants needs to be removed,

• Debris from the 38 years of construction and Dr. Tong’s residence on the property needs to be removed,

• The home on the property needs to have proper plans and permits filed with the city, or it will be razed.

Schoon-Tong has taken care of the first two steps, according to Diaz’s report, but is asking the council to give her more time so she can figure out how to complete the house. She also wants a permit to re-open the property as a construction site.
“I am being forced to make a decision in a mere 30 days for a home that the town was aware of was in this condition for decades is fundamentally wrong,” Schoon-Tong wrote. But in the meantime, she is asking the town ease up on the fines that are a result of the project.

Stress from fines

“Accumulating monetary fines and making progress, but not enough, (is) causing us to fail inspections every 10 days is unnecessary, fiscally and mentally stressful and the timeline is unrealistic, given the scope of work required,” Schoon-Tong wrote.

The council will have to decide whether or not to be more lenient on Schoon-Tong and discuss what the town ought to do if the building is not completed in the agreed-upon timeline.