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State launches probe of troubled builder in wake of Standard articles

A bald man speaks to a commission.
Tad Van Nguyen speaks during a San Francisco Planning Commission meeting at City Hall on Dec. 20, 2007. | Source: Courtesy SFGovTV

A San Francisco Standard investigation has prompted the State of California to open a probe into a troubled contractor with a decades-long track record of building violations. 

Tad Van Nguyen first came into public notice when San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection flagged his work as among the worst contractors in the city. But the four problematic building sites the city focused on represented only a handful of the issues that have plagued Nguyen. 

“Thank you for bringing the building code violations related to Tad Van Nguyen to our attention,” California Contractors State License Board spokesperson Katherine White said in a statement to The Standard. “The lead you provided enabled the” state to contact the city about Nguyen’s track record. 

The state opened its investigation Jan. 23, according to White, who added, “CSLB is continuing its investigation into Tad Van Nguyen.” 

San Francisco building inspection department spokesperson Patrick Hannan said his department is aware of the investigation and is working with the state. 

“The state contacted us after seeing the article in The Standard,” Hannan said

Nguyen, who did not respond to a request for comment, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Late last year, the city’s building inspection department flagged Nguyen as a result of a 2021 law that expanded oversight so that repeat violators of city building rules would be put on notice and flagged for the public. 

Until Dec. 26, there had only been one person on the city’s list of repeat offenders. That person was Rodrigo Santos, a structural engineer who pleaded guilty to federal charges in January 2023 for taking part in a scheme that helped his clients receive lenient inspections on their projects. 

Nguyen was added to the list because of four serious violations within a year. Those violations occurred on four projects his construction company worked on in 2022 and 2023.

But The Standard found his violations went back more than a decade and involved multiple projects, including his own home. 

Nguyen’s record of embattled projects began when he was an unlicensed builder who posed as his brother and used his sibling’s license in 2009 on a project where he did shoddy work and which he eventually abandoned.

Nguyen’s actions led to his brother’s license being revoked, but it did not stop the state from issuing Nguyen a license of his own in 2011. 

While his brother was being investigated by the state, Nguyen was committing repeated violations on his own home in Ingleside Terraces, which prompted neighborhood and city opposition that dragged on for years. 

What followed were years of Nguyen working on other projects in San Francisco without permits or beyond the scope of permits. In a number of cases written about by The Standard, he had repeatedly violated building codes, building rules and building inspection department orders.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at