Home News Fire-torched downtown San Jose homes were hit by many code violations

Fire-torched downtown San Jose homes were hit by many code violations

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SAN JOSE — The owner of two downtown San Jose Victorian homes that caught fire and collapsed in flames was hit with numerous city complaints for code violations at the old residences, court papers show.

On March 26, San Jose firefighters were called to the scene of a blaze that had engulfed two Victorian homes, one at 146 North Fourth Street and the other at 152 North Fourth Street. The flames eventually caused the abandoned residences to collapse.

152 North Fourth Street (left) and 146 North Fourth Street (right), two Victorian homes in downtown San Jose, shown in a March 2023 image capture. The homes are boarded up.(Google Maps)
152 North Fourth Street (left) and 146 North Fourth Street (right), two Victorian homes in downtown San Jose, shown in a March 2023 image capture. The homes are boarded up. (Google Maps)

The burned-out homes are owned by a business entity operating as RPRO152N3, an LLC whose managing member is Brent Wei-Teh Lee, aka Brent Lee, according to documents on file with the Santa Clara County Recorder’s Office.

San Jose officials have become alarmed that the Brent Lee-led LLC was responsible for numerous code violations that created blighted and hazardous conditions at both houses, according to a lawsuit the city filed in November 2023 with the Santa Clara County Superior Court.

A vacant lot is visible next to 146 North Fourth Street and 152 North Fourth Street in downtown San Jose. The residences are shown with squares on their rooftops. Debris and a vehicle are visible adjacent to both residences.2023 image capture (Google Maps)
A vacant lot is visible next to 146 North Fourth Street and 152 North Fourth Street in downtown San Jose. The residences are shown with squares on their rooftops. Debris and a vehicle are visible adjacent to both residences. (Google Maps)

City firefighters have launched an investigation into the cause of the North Fourth Street blaze.

What’s clear is San Jose’s concerns about the two houses surfaced years ago, according to the city’s litigation against the real estate investment group.

The murky parts of this situation, however, are the steps that city officials completed to ensure the blight and hazards at the houses were actually remediated.

The homes were on a portion of a site where the Brent Lee-managed group had proposed the development of a 23-story student housing tower that would have produced 298 residential units, city planning files show.

The Lee-led group bought the development site at the corner of North Fourth Street and East St. John Street in 2013, county records show. The price wasn’t disclosed.

A few years later, code violations for the properties began to appear on the radar screens of city staffers, the lawsuit against the RPRO152N3 LLC showed.

“In February 2018, the city’s Code Enforcement Division began investigating 146 North Fourth Street, owned by RPRO152N3, for blight as well as health and safety violations,” the lawsuit claims.

The 146 North Fourth house appeared to be greatly neglected, according to the legal filing.

Similar problems came to light at the adjacent house on North Fourth Street, court papers show.

“In March 2020, Code Enforcement began investigating 152 North Fourth Street, owned by RPRO152N3, for blight violations,” the city lawsuit claims. Besides blight, the city staffers were concerned about disrepair and improper storage or maintenance of boxes.

At that point, the city’s investigation into the adjacent 146 North Fourth house had been underway for about two years.

Mounting levels of solid waste, a dangerous accumulation of refuse, an attractive nuisance, and blighted property were among the specific violations that the municipal staffers cited, the court records show.

“At the time of the initial inspection, 146 North Fourth Street was vacant with piles of solid waste and debris on the driveway and near the property,” the city lawsuit claims.

This first inspection at the 146 North Fourth house occurred in February 2018, according to the legal papers.

“From 2020 through 2022, the city staffers found more violations, including storing or maintenance of boxes, lumber, dirt and debris, an unsecured building, substandard housing and a blighted vacant building,” the city legal filing related to 146 North Fourth claims.



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