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Developer agrees to provide new SLO roofs 

A few dozen local families were counting their lucky stars after winning an innovative San Luis Obispo lottery, awarding them the chance to buy specially priced “affordable� homes in an upscale new subdivision.
 
But for some proud homeowners at Rancho Obispo on Madonna and Los Osos Valley roads, with the first rains of last winter their dream dissolved into a nightmare, then surged into an arduous battle.

In early January 2005, after allegations of roof leaks, city officials opened a code enforcement case on Rancho Obispo. “It was a very nontypical way of receiving a complaint, with a single request for a field investigation listing all 29 duplex homes,� explains Tim Girvin, City of San Luis Obispo code enforcement officer.
 
He prepared a doorknob flyer with information about the city’s housing code rules, asking homeowners to call him if they detected any water intrusion which might imply a failure in the required moisture barrier. After inspections at seven homes, Girvin says, “We had seven real problems that I confirmed, homes that had leaks coming through the roof, the flashing, and causing damages.�
 
The Contractors State License Board also investigated the development, hiring an independent consultant to inspect the roofs, according to Girvin. “I’ve been told that the original installation of the roof shingles was done improperly. They didn’t follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions,� he says, adding that the warranty specifies a five-inch exposure overlap, but the Rancho Obispo homes were “slightly overexposed� by a quarter of an inch.
 
Now R.W. Hertel & Sons, Inc., has agreed to foot the bill for replacing all 53 roofs in the subdivision. The developer will also cover the cost of an independent special inspector, required by city code enforcement officials to keep a watchful eye on every step of the construction, according to Girvin.
 
The homeowners’ association is the likely agent to hire a special inspector, using funds supplied by Hertel, he says. Once a roofing plan is approved and the special inspector is hired, building permits can be issued over the counter to homeowners who decide to have their roof replaced.
 
Girvin blames the leakage problem on the design of the duplexes, with two roofs coming together at an inner wall. “A lot of the problem was with the flashing where the wall connects to the roof. Water can get behind the flashing and get into the structure,� he explains.
 
“These types of details are a workmanship issue. The code just says you must have a weatherproof barrier; it doesn’t specify you have to do ‘A’ before you do ‘C’. The roofing work was done by a subcontractor who has since gone bankrupt,� Girvin adds.
 
The code enforcement officer says it’s in Hertel’s interest to agree to replace all the roofs and achieve code compliance, especially considering all the developments the company is involved with in SLO County. “Word of mouth spreads quickly,� he says.
 
“This has been very trying. If I put myself in the shoes of homeowners who’ve had drywall ripped out, it’s exhausting. I feel for their plight.�
 
Now these homeowners will see their entire roof ripped off down to bare wood, replaced with a new roof structure including a moisture barrier and possibly new flashing, with all the work to be finished before the rains start up again in the autumn.
 
Says Girvin, “As the code enforcement officer, I help solve problems. I don’t look at everybody as a criminal with malicious intent. I work with people to get the best results.
 
“We’re turning a corner now. The fact that they’ve agreed to achieve code compliance means we’ll get final resolution on this.� Hertel hasn’t returned calls to New Times for this article, but they have sent letters out to homeowners saying they would repair the roofs. ∆

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