West Campus condo complex goes without power for over a month; city responds

A condominium complex in the West campus area is blaming the city for being without power for over a month. However, the city says this was the result of working without a permit.

On June 19, FOX 7 Austin visited a condo complex on 1700 Nueces with meter boxes on the ground and wires loose. It turns out the complex has not had any power for over a month. 

The property manager claimed what was supposed to be an easy fix replacing an old wall that electrical meters were attached to, turned into a mess. Currently, no residents live in the building. The condo is placing blame on the city for the hold up.

"Whether it was Austin Energy or the city, everything just kept snowballing and taking longer and longer," Matt Ely, owner of Ely Properties, told FOX 7 Austin on Wednesday.


However, the City of Austin says that is not the case.

"The work was performed without the city's review and without an approved permit," said Matt Mitchell, Public Information Officer with the City of Austin.

Mitchell says the owners of 1700 Nueces hired a private electrical contractor to work without an approved permit from the city. He says the work resulted in exposed electrical equipment on a damaged wall. When the city was called in, he says they ruled it as a safety concern and had no choice but to turn off the power and start the collaborative process from there. 

"Both the property owner and the contractor were notified that they would need to go back and obtain the permits and work with the city to make sure that they had an approved site plan before they could move forward with further construction," he said.

Mitchell says the city is now working with the condo to fix the issue promptly, but it is going to take some time.

"We're working to find solutions and to design solutions that will fit their needs and at the same time, be respectful of the fact that we have quite the queue already of projects to get to," he said.

Before starting any construction work, Mitchell advises Austinites to ensure they contact the city to make sure the right permits are in place.  

"Can help keep the project on track and avoid those lengthy delays and frustrations. No matter how big or how small the project might be, whether it's a huge building or just a bathroom, you're going to want to make sure to just do your due diligence, check in with the city and say, this is my project. This is the plan that I have for it. Are there any concerns from the City of Austin as far as permitting or anything that I need to do?," said Mitchell.


As for this condo, the city says they are working with the owners to bring the property up to electrical code and safety standards.

"It's a collaborative effort. We're continuing to communicate, and we're doing everything we can to expedite the process and make sure that that property's permitted and a site plan is approved and we're ready to continue that construction," said Mitchell.

City of Austin Media Relations Manager Memi Cárdenas released this statement to FOX 7 Austin on behalf of the city:

"The City of Austin prioritizes the safety of people and property. This situation is the result of life safety and electrical code violations as well as years of wear and tear on both the structure and its electrical equipment.

"In January, the owners of 1700 Nueces hired a private electrical contractor to plan and perform electrical work on the building. The work was performed without the City’s review and without an approved permit.  The work resulted in exposed electrical equipment on a severely damaged wall, creating a life safety concern. In May, Austin Energy was notified of the site's condition, and both the property owner and the contractor were notified that they would need to obtain permits to rebuild the wall and reconnect electrical service.

"We understand how frustrating this is for the property owners. We are working with them to bring the property up to current electrical code and safety standards.

"We encourage all Austinites to contact the City before starting any construction work, including electrical work, to ensure the community’s safety."

In response to the above statement from the city, Jeremy Sanchez sent FOX 7 Austin the following statement from 1700 Nueces Condominiums:

"In response to the statement made by Memi Cardenas with The City of Austin. The timeline in which she states is inaccurate including the relevant information. 1700 Nueces Condominiums hired MDG Construction to rebuild the wall on which the electrical meters are installed. No work was done until May and it was expected to be minimal repairs that would not require a permit. Ely Properties requested a proposal from MDG Construction on Monday, 5/6/2024. The proposal was only to repair the wall minimally and reinforce so that the electrical equipment wouldn’t fall off the rotted wall. The work was performed due to the wall degrading over time (the building is 50yrs old. Built in 1974) and posed a safety hazard. On Wednesday, 5/8/2024, work started to repair the damage to the wall, not work on the electrical. Upon rebuilding of the wall, On Sunday, 5/12/2024 we notified the city this would be an "emergency repair" permit asking for help on permitting. This was done to ensure the safety of the contractors and the building. No electrical was exposed at the time of this request and it was the hired contractor that notified AE of the work being performed. No work was being performed on the electrical of the building, only the wall itself.

"Upon request of power being disconnected, AE required all electrical meters be updated to current electrical code. The contractor complied and hired an electrician to draw up plans for new meters and the relevant electrics. Electrical contractor submitted for AE ESPA review on 5/14/2024 and requested a "quick turnaround permit" knowing the building was without power and 18 homeowners were now displaced. On Friday, 5/15/2024 our electrician began to prepare the electrical riser diagram for permitting. Permitting department and AE stated this was not an "emergency" and the standard permits would need to be submitted. While this was taking place, AE made request after request. One request was that 1700 Nueces replace single phase power to three phase power. They also requested that the power be brought in from underground pull stations rather than at the pole that is 10ft from the building (how it was been for 50yrs without issue). All of which they wanted the owners of 1700 Nueces to pay for (over $63k in requests). The permitting department then found permits from 2007 that were not properly closed by the previous owner of the property, prior to the community being sold as condominiums. A time at which none of the current homeowners had anything to do with the property or knowledge and are now being punished for something they had no part of.

"The homeowners of 1700 Nueces are merely asking that The City Permitting Department and AE take this matter seriously and allow the needed work be done so they can move back into their homes, homes in which many have mortgages. Occupants have been displaced for over a month and neither AE nor the permitting department are taking this matter seriously and keep presenting road blocks at every turn. We have complied with their requests to update the current meters. The new wall has been built and all parties are ready to make the needed changes. However, it is now the various City departments that are holding up the process and will not let work proceed."