Family gets a month to come up with plan to finish house under construction since 1978

370 Walsh Road
The owner of the property at 370 Walsh Road pulled a building permit for this house in 1978. The project still isn’t completed. Photo from the Town of Atherton.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The children of the man who spent the better part of four decades building a house in Atherton said they have no idea why their late father took so long, but they asked the City Council last night for a little more time to decide what to do with the unfinished building.

“Rome was not built in a day, and this house will not be built in a day,” Jennifer Schoon-Tong told Atherton City Council last night (Sept. 19).

Jennifer Schoon-Tong and her brother Christopher Schoon-Tong asked for council to give them more time to decide what to do with the house at 370 Walsh Road. Council last night gave them a month to figure out what they will do to get the house built.

The siblings found themselves in charge of the property when their father, Dr. Norman Tong, died Feb. 28, 2016 at age 74. He bought the property in 1975.
Dr. Tong had obtained construction permits in 1978 and over the next four decades slowly built the house by himself.

Councilman Rick DeGolia said that while he sympathizes with the family, the fact that construction went on at the property all these years is “unconscionable.”

“We can’t have an open house that’s unsafe and staring in the neighbor’s face,” said DeGolia. “You’ve got to resolve it so the people who’ve lived next to 38 years of construction don’t have to look at an eyesore.”

Neighbor says house is dangerous

Bill Carlomagno, who lives next door, said that the unfinished house is dangerous for the neighbors, despite the efforts by the Schoon-Tong siblings to improve the property over the past two years.

Carlomagno said that given the home’s current condition, people can enter the house or live in it.

He also asked that some landscaping or a fence be installed to shield his view of the house. Previously, there had been trees blocking the view of the house, but since the Schoon-Tong siblings began doing work, they removed a lot of the dead greenery that once shielded his view of the neighborhood’s eyesore.

The siblings asked the council if the building permit could be reopened, but it expired in September 2016. If the city were to reopen the permit, they would have to resubmit new plans for the home.

Family given a month

All the council members were sympathetic of the position that the children of Dr. Tong were put in, when they had to take over their father’s unfinished business after his death.

But the council still went with code enforcement officer Monica Diaz’s recommendation that the Schoon-Tongs receive a month to decide what they’re going to do, during which time they would have to come up with new plans for the home.