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With a $700,000 check, the city of San Francisco and a local homeowner last week put to rest a code enforcement dispute that had dragged on for 17 years. In a settlement reached days before a scheduled oral argument at the First District Court of Appeal, both sides agreed to abandon their ongoing battle over a $1.6 million default judgment the city won in 2000. Defendant Josef Pohl agreed to pay San Francisco $700,000 � the city got the check Thursday � though the settlement specified that he was admitting no fault or liability. The city claimed that Pohl had repeatedly renovated his home without getting the required permits to create a second unit within the building and to put on a 25-foot-by-25-foot addition. And court documents indicate that the fight over Pohl’s building had sometimes turned ugly. In a brief filed a couple of years ago, the city said that it once had police officers and a locksmith force their way in because Pohl wouldn’t let a building inspector enter. “All the while, [Pohl] was locked inside,” the city added. “I would say he was a little more reluctant to fix his violations than the landlords we sue,” said Deputy City Attorney Rose-Ellen Fairgrieve, who supervises the city attorney’s code enforcement team. “He could have fixed everything within a matter of months, really, if he had just set his mind to it.” By 2003, Pohl had fixed everything, Fairgrieve said, but both sides continued to argue about the default judgment until the recent settlement. By last week, lawyers for both sides seemed to be letting bygones be bygones. “There’s no disputing there was a long history that Mr. Pohl had with the city before I got involved,” said the defense attorney on the case, Joseph Bravo of San Francisco’s Bravo & Margulies. But Bravo also said the resolution had resulted from “a lot of good-faith negotiating.” “We think it’s a fair settlement,” Fairgrieve added. The default judgment had been so high because it was not contested soon enough, she said. The settlement was large enough to cover the roughly $130,000 the city spent on the drawn-out litigation. And the remainder of about $570,000 would rank alongside the biggest penalties she’s seen in her seven years on the code violations team, she said. And she doesn’t discount another plus � moving on. “We’re really happy to have the case behind us.”

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