EL PASO, - Several buildings in Duranguito were partially demolished earlier this month, leaving them in possible violation of city ordinance, according to Duranguito advoactes.
In early September, several construction crews began tearing down some walls of buildings that were issued demolition permits, leaving large holes. The area has since been fenced, preventing any further demolition to take place. Advocates however, believe the buildings are still in danger.
"A lot of the buildings have just been partially demolished, there's lot of openings and we're here watching over the buildings and the neighborhood to make sure arsonists or what not doesn't happen, the buildings aren't further damaged since they're not being shielded at all from the elements or from inclement weather," Duranguito advocate Catherine Court said.
Court tells ABC-7 it's not only heartbreaking to see the buildings in this condition but says it's potentially hazardous.
"Bricks could fall, water could get in, there's some potential for fire damage as well," Court said.
The City of El Paso did not say if the buildings were in violation, stating in an emailed response, “We are following the process for buildings in this condition. The properties have been barricaded from unwanted entry and for the safety of the public. We are limited in what we can say due to the pending court proceedings.”
However, the city's Code of Ordinances states: "No wall, chimney or other structural part shall be left at the end of each shift in such condition that it may collapse due to wind, vibration or other cause."
It also states:
-Upon the completion of demolition operations, the site shall be completely cleared of rubbish, brush, weeds and other debris. The site must be left free of ponds/ponding areas.-
-Footings/foundations, basement/surface slabs, septic tanks, wells, cesspools, and cisterns shall be completely removed.
Exception: Footings, foundations, basement walls may remain provided that:
a. The site is properly secured by appropriate fencing.
b. Plans sealed by a design professional are submitted at the time of proposed new construction using existing footings, foundations, or basement walls.
c. The plans provide an engineering analysis stating that the footing/foundations are structurally adequate for the intended new structure.
d. An engineering inspection report indicating that the original footings/foundation or other structures that will be utilized have not been disturbed, structurally impaired and/or impacted by the demolition.
4. Security fencing shall be provided by the contractor.
5.The applicant shall coordinate with applicable city departments for the blocking of walkways, thoroughfares and alleys to protect the public.
According to city code, punishment for code violations are considered a misdemeanor and the person, firm, corporation or agent can be fined up to $2,000. It also states, "each such person shall be deemed guilty of a separate offense for each and every day or portion thereof during which any violation of any of the provisions of this code or of the technical codes is committed or continued.
"We're asking the city to refurbish, reinforce the buildings that were illegally demolished, while we're still in the appeals process, there's no reason there should be openings in the buildings, they should be taking some precautions to protect them from further damage," Court said.
The buildings are owned by private property owners and not the city. Since demolition is on hold and litigation is pending, it's unclear who would be at fault and if they would be punished.
Advocates were also concerned about one property in Duranguito that contained "flammable materials" inside of an entrance visible to pedestrians. The building, located on 224 W. Overland, was not among the partially demolished. Advocates tell ABC-7 they were concerned anyone could go in there and throw a match and possibly start a fire.
"Here at the camp we have fire extinguishers and we're watching over buildings to make sure nothing happens. We're here 24 hours a day, through the night, through the weekends," Court said.
Advocates tell ABC-7 crews boarded up the entrance in question on Tuesday. In a statement the city said, "The City promptly boarded and secured 224 Overland per our building codes to prevent unwanted entry and for public safety, and the flammable objects were removed."