Neighbors' Construction Projects

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Construction project will be detrimental to neighbor's health

Dec 2015

I'm a caregiver to a disabled mother and son, who have a myriad of complicated illnesses between them. They recently got news of an apartment complex to be built next door to them. The construction is supposed to last about one year. The noise and pollution from this project will be detrimental to their health could even be fatal to the mother. Unfortunately, moving is not an option, as they have very specific housing needs and also, they are under section 8.

According to public records, the property owners have submitted an application for the project which is currently under review and has not been approved yet. I should add that although this family lives close to the Berkeley border, they technically reside in Oakland. I'm hoping someone will read this and will be able to give some good advice. I've called every disability rights and non-profit legal organization I could find, and also talked to a volunteer lawyer at the Oakland library. It seems they all just keep referring me to each other, creating a circle of referrals, but all were generally not very helpful. I also emailed their district's council member;waiting to hear back. Should I try to find a lawyer to work pro bono? If so, how do I go about finding one? I've already contacted Legal Aid without success. Thanks for reading. susan

It's so considerate of you that you are concerned about these people. However, I think this is a difficult situation. I doubt very much anyone can stop this construction of a new apartment building. Keep in mind the huge pressure for cities to provide more housing and no city is going to stop a project for one household. If they did have any legal stance at all, it would require doctors' written affidavits that any construction next door will create illness for these people. They would have to prove that this construction is going to be detrimental to their health. I think it is highly unlikely to stop the construction. While I am not familiar with Section 8 regulations, I think a better approach would be to work with Section 8 to get them moved. I would knock on the door of Section 8 and notify them that their current housing will be unfit, therefore they must vacate and find new Section 8. Paralegal

You need to band together with other 'Davids'' in your neighborhood to negotiate with the construction Goliath. I will assume that you cannot stop the project, but the group of you may be able to negotitae some more favorable conditions for hours of construction, noise, dust, etc. Noise itself can be very subjective, depending upon the significance of the noise. A quiet repetitive noise may be alarming (the drip of a leaky roof) or comforting (the tinkle of a cash register.) Consturctio disruption is always limited in time, but the resulting building is forever, or almost forever. Depending how you frame the disruption (nw building, new neighbors, neighborhood improving) v (big ugly building, overcrowding, there goes the neighborhood) will determine how it is perceived. lynn

Neighboring construction mess

Jan 2014

My neighbors, who I like, are just finishing up a fairly sizable home construction project. While the construction project has been minimally invasive for us, it has left various messes on our property. There is construction debris along the shared property line, which I assume will get cleaned-up during the final stages, and the outside of our house is fairly dirty.

I am wondering what is the general protocol for being good neighbors? I would love for the siding of our house to be cleaned as well as the screens and windows. Do people generally offer this to their neighbors? Is it ok to ask for this? There was a large amount of demolition work that deposited the dirt and dust onto our house, and in addition to being tired of looking at the dirty house and through dirty windows, I am worried about lead. Additionally I was going to get some lead kits from the city of Berkeley to test the soil, but I did not do this prior to the demolition work, can I ask them to do some abatement if it is in the soil? Thanks for any insight anon

Talk to the contractors about their dust, they are responsible for it. I am surrounded by absentee owners doing major construction jobs. I found debris on my path when i came home the other night... argh.

I told one owner in a friendly email and spoke to the construction company foreman, problem solved. The other neighbor has the messiest job-site in town (really, i am a carpenter). I have spoken to him, but he hires sub-par construction companies (i have seen his other developments). The City of Berkeley doesn't care, so you will need to negotiate with the contractor. How about telling him/her of your concerns and you will post the results on BPN

As for lead dust, too late for abatement now, there are rules about lead containment, very strict rules. At the state level. Talk to contractor about this as well. A Responsible Carpenter

Dear neighbour, It was a bit more than fifty years ago I began my first reconstruction project in a NewEngland city. I was young-and-foolish! I had foolishly bought a total wreck of a building. My project was ''saved'' by a wonderful friend, a contractor, who arrived - arrived like Superman - to actually teach me how to do what I had so foolishly thought would be ''easy.'' Since then, I've bought ''broken'' homes (because that's what I could afford as I've moved here-and-there), and managed their reconstructions here, in California, and in other states. Based on experience, I'd say any reconstruction will create some mess, but it is the responsibility of the reconstructer (Is ''reconstructer'' a word?) to not let messes develop on their own site, and, far-more important, in every way possible, LIMIT IMPACT OF THEIR WORK ON THEIR NEIGHBOURS' HOMES AND FAMILIES TO AS-CLOSE-TO-ZERO AS POSSIBLE !!!

Testing for lead after any project on a building built before 1980 is important! Do lead testing immediately! And test again in two years. Make sure you tell your reconstructer-neighbour that you're going to do lead testing because you're concerned about the possibility of lead contamination, and, I'd suggest, ask for your reconstructer-neighbour's help.

And, yes, it would be fair that your reconstructer-neighbour pay to have your home cleaned-up. Good neighbours are to be treasured - bad neighbours make life a whole-lot less FUN!

Neighbor's construction, Lead paint and asbestos

Nov 2013

The house next door to me is built right up to a foot from the property line. Our long driveway runs along it, and this is a place our children 2 & 6 frequently play. The house is in rough shape and has been empty for quite a few years (since we bought our house and before- owner lives elswhere) .

The owner decided to fix it up, including lifting it 3 feet. We have been agreeable and signed off on all permits etc. However, to do this place up right would be a big job (minimum 200-300K), and I have been given the impression that they are trying to do something more minimal b/c of money constraints (understandable) so may be trying to cut corners.

Two issues:

1) Tiles and other material probably asbestos . One of the crew told me that most of the tiles are staying though they are going to try to remove some whole, to use on another part of the house and that they will just wet them. When we removed the same kind of tiles during our own renovation- we used a certified asbestos removing outfit, tent, all that. But I do know that these tiles are the considered to be less friable asbestos. Does their approach seem kosher?

2) They have been tearing all sorts of stuff up and there are paint chips from the demolished porches in our yard etc, and god knows how much dust. We also did a home testing kit on the (cracked peeling rotten) windows, which abuts our driveway and they are definitely lead painted (and will most certainly need to be either removed or seriously rehabilitated)

I feel like I need to have conversation with the contractor about containment because he been a bit sloppy so far. (and stupid stuff like sending his guys to jackhammer concrete on a Sat afternoon etc). We grow vegetable in the yard and my 2 year old is always eating from the plants and has his fingers in his mouth a lot etc. I am pretty concerned and I am not a parent that is generally too neurotic about health or germs.

Does anyone have any tips on approaching this? Also, which state or local agencies to approach should an initial conversation not make any impact on his practices. Also thinking about all of this is making me want to test my soil, does anyone know a (preferably reasonable cost) place that does this?

We are in Berkeley, to the extent thats relevant to any responses. Grateful for any guidance. freaked out mamma

I think you're being waaay too tolerant.

Lead safe practices are required for any lead paint - they need to prove there isn't lead paint to waive the requirement.

Make it clear with your neighbors that they can't litter ANYTHING on your property, much less toxic chips. Lead is serious business. I wouldn't worry about the asbestos hurting your kids (but that doesn't let them off the hook for doing that stuff right too), but the lead will hurt kids.

The contractor's crew should be cleaning every piece of litter off your yard every day that they work, even just nails or small pieces of plastic. If dirt is contaminated with paint dust, that must be removed too.

Here is some information from the City of Berkeley's website:

From the EPA's website. ''Abatement of lead can be performed legally only by certified abatement firms using trained and certified staff. Abatement will result in complete elimination of lead and lead hazards (or, long-term encapsulation of all lead-based paint).''

Don't hesitate to call the planning department and ask about these things.

Politeness is good, but you will never forgive yourself if you didn't protect your kids. You already did your neighbors the favor of not getting in the way of their 3 foot height increase. They can return the favor by doing the work correctly and safely. living next to construction project too

Contact Alameda County - Healthy Homes Department, They should be able to provide direction. Additionally, asbestos & lead-paint surveys/abatement procedures are typically part of the permitting process. I would be concerned too! Enviro momma

Call Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention. They offer a lot of free services that can help with your situation. 510-567-8280, or website: J

Call Healthy Homes program of Alameda County, ask them to send an inspector. That'll do it. 510 567-8280 Used to be the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

First, this definitely sounds like an area to keep your children away from. It takes very little lead dust to poison and potentially cause life-long neurological problems. Renovations can create high levels of lead dust. For this reason there are State and Federal laws requiring training, certification and containment of paint chips and dust (as well as asbestos) when working on pre-1978 homes, and it sounds from your description that the contractor is not in compliance. The contractor should also thoroughly cleanup the paint chips and dust.

The Alameda County Healthy Homes Department, ACHHD, (previously known as the Lead Poisoning Prevention Department) provides information, in-home consultations, and assistance with unsafe renovation problems. Funds and project management are also available for lead hazard repairs in homes with low-income families and young children. You can call their public information line at 510-567-8280. The City of Berkeley also has a lead poisoning prevention program that may be able to help.

I highly recommend that you have your children tested for lead as soon as possible. Keep them out of the work site and other contaminated areas. If you are eating any produce from the garden it should be thoroughly washed before anyone eats it and measures taken to not track leaded soil into the home.

For more information, call the ACHHD at 510-567-8280 or visit their website at Julie

Regarding the lead: You are right to be concerned about lead exposure, especially for your kids. Work involving lead-based paint is regulated by both the Federal and state governments, and workers must be properly certified. I'd suggest contacting the Alameda County Healthy Homes Dept. There's a lot of info on their website about lead poisoning. I couldn't easily figure out if they do enforcement if lead-safe practice aren't being followed, but they should be able to refer you to whomever does. Good luck. Anon