Former Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards once told the Department of Building Inspection to “go f*ck themselves,” but several DBI scandals later, Richards gets the last laugh with a $1.8 million lawsuit settlement.
It was one of the most remarkable moments I have seen in nearly 15 years covering this town: At a San Francisco Board of Appeals meeting, on the night of Wednesday, December 4, 2019, in a pre-Mohammed Nuru scandal era when a fellow named Edward Sweeney was the deputy director of the Department of Building Inspection (DBI), a sitting member of the SF Planning Commission went on what seemed like a wholly inappropriate rant against a colleague.
“I think you should tell Mr. Ed Sweeney and his crew to go fuck themselves. Quote,” Richards yelled, in a fabulous rant that lives on at the 4:37:34 mark of this SFGov TV video. “This is out of control, criminal activity. It will be investigated. Trust me.” The apparent lapse in judgement, and the fact that he later sued the city over the matter at hand, forced Richards to take a leave of absence, and eventually step down from the Planning Commission.
But Richards sure looked vindicated once the Nuru scandal spread to the DBI, ensnaring the department with all manner of fraud indictments. Then, last August, a city paralegal confirmed that the DBI was targeting Richards’ property to intentionally make his life miserable. Mission Local reported Ed Sweeney admitted under oath that he inappropriately tampered with Richards’ cases before the department, a point at which Sweeney has already resigned.
That’s pretty dynamite evidence for Dennis Richards’ case. And so today the Chronicle reports that the city is settling with Richards for $1.8 million, though his lawsuit had asked for $12 million. Richards told the Chronicle that the settlement “got to a number we could live with,” and if he had gone to trial “we could have been awarded $10 million or we could have been awarded nothing.”
Richards and his realtor and business partner Rachel Swann were suing because they had nine permits revoked by the DBI on a property at 3426-32 22nd Street. That building has since sold, or as some would say, it has since been “flipped.”
Richards does not deny buying the house just to remodel and resell it, telling the Examiner in December 2019, “This isn’t house flipping. This is improving the housing stock.” Either way, he’s poised to flip this whole ugly conflict for nearly $2 million.
The settlement is not yet official. It is on the agenda for today's Board of Supervisors meeting (still in progress, as of press time), where it will be introduced as a resolution. The official vote could be at next week’s meeting, or it could be kicked to a subcommittee for further consideration. We’ll update this post when we know more, and that probably won’t be until 9 or 10 p.m. Tuesday night.