Demolition started Monday of a downtown Modesto apartment building that caught on fire and sustained substantial damage this month after the city had condemned the building and its tenants were moved out.
And while the building will come down, Modesto will not be able to determine the cause of the fire.
The city has hired Modesto Sand and Gravel to demolish the building at a cost of about $117,000, according to city spokeswoman Heather Graves. She said work should take about a week and will include closing a traffic lane on Ninth Street in front of the building. Modesto Sand and Gravel gutted the inside of the building Monday and will remove the debris before taking down the brick walls.
The two-story building at 624 Ninth St. consisted of 27 studio apartments. They rented for $575 to $585 a month, including utilities. And despite its deplorable condition — which included mold, rats and cockroaches, rotting bathroom floors, holes in walls and floors, and faulty plumbing and electrical — it provided affordable housing for people on the margins during a time when rents are spiking.
Graves said Modesto expects to recover its cost to demolish the building as well as its other costs by placing a lien on the property. She said there will be an Oct. 26 hearing to set the amount. She did not have information about those other costs, but they include what Modesto has paid to help tenants relocate.
Graves said the fire’s cause cannot be determined because of the extensive damage it caused and for how long it burned. The fire collapsed the roof and heavily damaged about eight second-floor apartments.
The fire was reported on the evening of Oct. 2. Witnesses told firefighters that people had been in the building when the fire started. Authorities have said the electricity and gas had been turned off. The city had boarded up the building Sept. 1, but there were reports of people breaking into it.
The building is owned by Turlock residents Steve and Noma Arakelian. Steve Arkakelian declined to comment Monday other than to say it was sad the building was being torn down. The Arakelians bought the property in 2005.
California Rural Legal Assistance filed a lawsuit in August against the Arakelians seeking financial damages on behalf of seven tenants. And the San Francisco law firm of Kellogg & Van Aken filed a lawsuit last week against the Arakelians on behalf of a dozen former tenants.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316