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"There's not a code requirement...for gutters or downspouts," Zsako adds, explaining that the Beauvallon was built according to the approved drawings, and that the drawings were approved because they met the city's building codes.
It's an explanation that surprises Matrix owner Levy.
"How can that happen? It's not correct," he says. "Because then why don't all these other buildings downtown have that?"
Nassi dismisses all the construction complaints as a lawyer's ploy to get money from the building's insurance policy, which would have to pay the costs. "If there was no insurance on this, there would be no lawsuit," he says. And he claims that Swinerton tried to fix construction problems early on, but the homeowners' association wouldn't allow it because of the lawsuit. As a result, Nassi says, the leaks and other water issues worsened. As for the gutters, those are up to J&J — or whatever company now owns the commercial portion of the building — to fix. "We sold the building to them as is," he says. "Gutters are a simple thing. They cost a few hundred dollars to put up in each section. If I was the landlord there and enough people requested it, of course I'd put it up." But, he adds, when the building was first constructed, it "wasn't something the architects thought of putting in."
It's an oversight that sounds strange coming from a developer who prides himself on attending to minute details — such as the $150,000 gate from Buenos Aires, Argentina, that Nassi bought to frame the entrance to what is now the Aviano coffee shop. It symbolizes the "elegance of the building," he says. "I worry about the details all the time. I don't think anyone will ever build anything as gracious and elegant as that building."
In the years since the lawsuit was first filed, it has become very difficult to sell a condo in the Beauvallon. Some buyers who research its history consider it a risky investment, while realtors are often hesitant to steer clients there.
"There are known construction defects in the Beauvallon building and it is causing educated buyers to be a bit standoff-ish with the building," Allison Smookler, a real-estate agent for Coldwell Banker, wrote in a May 2008 posting on the real-estate website Trulia.com. Smookler wouldn't comment for this story.
RE/MAX Alliance agent Joe Powers says he recently tried to sell two bank-owned condos in the building but only managed to sell one — for a fraction of its previous value. The three-bedroom home had an original foreclosure value of $925,000, but it ended up selling for $300,000. Several of the building's other three-bedroom units are also listed in this price range. One ad describes a 2,200-square-foot condo with two terraces, views of the pool, and newly upgraded tile and counters selling for $315,000.
"It's a sign of the times," Powers says, explaining that banks are desperate to recover whatever money they can before the economy spirals further out of control. He's watched the race to the bottom continue in real estate for more than a year.
But at the Beauvallon, Powers says the situation is even worse because of the construction defects, the lawsuit, the number of people trying to sell and the homeowners' association fees that can reach $500 a month for a one-bedroom condo.
Many of the original residents bought in the era of "creative financing," when you didn't have to put much money down for a $300,000 condo, Powers adds. Then, when the value plummeted to $160,000, they just walked away.
It wasn't that they couldn't afford to pay their mortgages; they just didn't think it was worthwhile. Although foreclosure may have damaged their credit scores, they still might have been able to rent a new home for less than their mortgage payment. "Why should we?" Powers says, explaining the reasoning of some of these owners. "You know what? Screw it, I'm out of here."
Dick Allen, who has lived in the Beauvallon since the summer of 2005, admits that "there have been a lot of rentals" in the building, but he thinks the situation "improved considerably" as the homeowners' original trial date approached. Although he and his wife haven't had any problems with their two-bedroom unit, they support the lawsuit. "Some of the exterior problems did not get fixed," Allen says.
Nassi, meanwhile, has moved on to other states — and racked up another suitcase full of complaints. In 2006, a court-appointed receiver took over the 92-unit Palladio Condominiums that he'd built in Reno, Nevada, after BCN Development and its partner, Royce Royal Capital Advisors, ran over budget on a construction loan and couldn't cover the cost of finishing the project, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
In Sacramento, California, Nassi made plans to build two condo towers with famed architect Daniel Libeskind, who designed the Hamilton addition to the Denver Art Museum. But in October 2007, Libeskind's attorney wrote a letter to Nassi saying he owed the architect money and that there had been a "substantial breach" of their agreement. One of the projects, the 38-story Aura tower, stalled in late 2007 after Nassi failed to secure financing and lost a $10 million loan that had been offered by the City of Sacramento. Libeskind couldn't be reached for comment.