After perching precariously on a crumbling edge of Telegraph Hill for more than a week, a $2 million apartment building was ordered to come down - piece by piece.
The Department of Public Works issued a demolition order Monday. Chief building inspector Laurence Kornfield said work would begin Tuesday after the hillside street on which the five-unit complex sits is stabilized.The building will be taken apart piece by piece with the help of a large crane anchored at the foot of the hill, 150 feet below, he said.
Engineers initially believed the 55-year-old building could be saved but changed their minds when a part of the entryway broke away Sunday.
Kornfield said the building's owner, Benjamin Chavez, had not come up with a demolition plan on time, so the city had to step in and would bill Chavez for the demolition. The cost has not been determined.
The building has been sliding since recent rains caused rock-slides on the shale cliff over which it hangs.
Three nearby buildings were evacuated because utility lines were connected to the teetering complex, but Kornfield said there was no danger to surrounding houses.
Neighbors agree the building began shifting during the recent rainstorms. But most say problems in the area date from the late 1800s when quarrymen raided the hillside for shipping ballast. They also note that the city did extensive road work in the area recently.
And they say part of the hill was gouged away a decade ago to construct an office building at the foot of the hill - the same building that now lies in the apartment house's path.
"We all knew it was on the edge," said Wells Whitney, a resident of neighboring Montgomery Street.