The owner of a Barrio Logan building where 21 children and two adults were hurt over the weekend when a platform and stairwell collapsed violated important city safety codes, including lacking required exits and fire sprinklers.
A Notice of Violation filed Thursday by city inspectors reveals the Main Street property, Vault PK, did not have required emergency exits and exit signs throughout the building.
City inspectors also found that many construction improvements inside the building were done without permits and the required inspections. Those unpermitted uses included improperly constructed walls, stairs, partitions, restrooms, locker rooms and offices.
The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), is the owner of the building, and was cited for the violations, which also include damaged fire safety walls and a “severely damaged” structural column that, according to the documents, “...has compromised the integrity or structural support strength which supports the roof.”
Inspectors also cited MTS for allowing one of its tenants in the building to illegally discharge contaminants and worsening stormwater pollution. The violation notice said the “Illicit discharge appears to be coming from the rear of the unpermitted indoor paintball facility.”
Nearly two dozen people were injured Saturday night in the collapse of the platform at the indoor parkour gym. About 50 kids attending an event called “Kids Night Out” ran at the same time to an upper-level area in the gym when they were told it was time to eat pizza. That’s when a 20-by-30-foot wooden deck and stairwell collapsed.
Twenty-one children and two adults were injured and taken to local hospitals with moderate and minor injuries.
Vault PK owner Jessica Ho said she would be closing her gym for the time being, and said she was “truly heartbroken” over the accident and devastated for the families.
The city’s Development Services Division ordered the building’s owner to immediately stop all unpermitted use and occupancy of the building, to replace or repair the fire separation walls and damaged structural column and fix the fire-suppression sprinkler system.
City inspectors said construction crews will be allowed inside the building once the required permits are issued, and which time they can make the necessary repairs.
The building’s owner also has the option of tearing out all of the unpermitted construction and returning the building to its original use as a warehouse with partitions and restrooms.
The deputy director of the city’s Code Enforcement Division criticized the building owner for its “egregious breach of construction” code requirements.
“The reason we’re in this business is to prevent things from happening,” Mike Richmond told reporters. “And we wouldn’t be here today if the proper permits were taken and proper inspections done of the construction work, before customers were allowed inside."
“It would have avoided all the terrible things that happened to people” when the platform collapsed, Richmond added.
An MTS spokesman said, "preventing this type of accident from happening again is the focus of our efforts." The agency said it is conducting a "...comprehensive review of its property management practices to ensure that tenants comply with all city laws, regulations, ordinances and codes."
MTS said it has already fixed the building's fire suppression system and hired an expert to inspect the damaged support column and fire walls.
But the MTS spokesman also noted that "the cause of the accident was not associated with the integrity of the building" and that the agency's lease with its tenant "...clearly requires it to obtain all city permits and to comply with all of its regulations. Unfortunately, this did not happen."
The agency said its staff will make a full presentation to its Board of Directors when internal reviews and investigations are finished.