San Luis Obispo cites self for derelict property

July 13, 2012

This is the ramshackle sight that greets neighbors of the SLO-owned Dana Street house.

Story and photos by DANIEL BLACKBURN

Weeds as tall as a human, torn window screens, crumbling chimney bricks and a collapsed fence and arbor made the ramshackle house at 466 Dana Street a prime candidate for a visit from San Luis Obispo’s “Good Neighbor” patrol. And on June 23, a citation was issued by city enforcement officer Allison Vike to the property owner for “overgrown vegetation and unsound fencing.”

A cleanup to be finished by July 8 was demanded under the city’s new policy and an enforcement order was taped on a front window.

The recipient of the citation? The city of San Luis Obispo itself.

Shortly after enforcement officials discovered the city owned the property, the notice to correct was taken down even though the violations remain unfixed.

San Luis Obispo’s tough restrictions on residents’ use of their properties went into effect in June. The program, with a monicker sounding suspiciously like an insurance company’s ad slogan, is a recent application of Measure Y bond funds aimed at shoring up the appearance of people’s homes. City officials have launched an extensive public relations program promoting the “Good Neighbor” program, which is comprised of two new enforcement officers and a hoped-for network of informants reporting on neighborhood infractions.

An arbor lies tangled on the ground at 466 Dana in SLO, where the city unknowingly ticketed itself.

A brochure published by the city informs readers how to report their neighbors to the proper authorities, and even provides a list of reportable offenses — like overgrown weeds higher than 12 inches, and drooping fences.

Citations for offenses can be given to both landlords and tenants without warning. City officials assert the program will help foster “neighborhood wellness.” A citation can cost from $50 to $200.

The Dana Street house is one of 280 properties currently owned by the city, some of which are unoccupied residences, vacant land or unused commercial parcels. Many of the city’s properties have been neglected with broken windows, crumbling walls and overgrown vegetation.

Alec Roberts lives next to the Dana Street house. He said that teenagers congregate in back of the property.

“I think the city should put it on the market with historical restrictions,” Roberts said. “I am sure the city would like the money.”

Brian Bassler, a city contract inspector for Parks and Recreation, said the city plans weed abatement and cleanup next week at the Dana Street home.

The historic Bowden La Loma Adode, fenced and decaying, may be beyond repair.

A second city-owned property at 1590 Lizzie is the Bowden La Loma Adobe, which has been deteriorating steadily since it was donated to the city from the Florence Bowden family. It sits forlornly on a large lot overgrown with massive weed patches and untended trees, dotted with trash piles.

The historic adobe is surrounded by a chain-link fence bearing “No Trespassing” signs. While there have been sporadic discussions about restoration, the adobe may be irreparable.

The city’s “service specialist” Vike, who issued the citation to the city’s Dana Street property, said that more than 90 tickets were written during the program’s first month of operation.

And for unspecified reasons, Vike resigned.  Her last day on the job is today.

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Please drive by the 466 Dana Street property and view the prompt clean up work that has resulted from this article. Well done City of San Luis Obispo personnel!

Now what about the other poorly managed property that are owned by the City? Hopefully the City of SLO will be a bit more sensitive to the neighborhoods and the neighbors of properties immediately adjoining other city owned properties particularly when the harsh neighborhood wellness standards are “proactively enforced”.

The moral of the story is now abundantly clear; “Do as I do, as well as what I ask others to do” !!

I find it rather curious that many here who comment about the “evils” of big government are very upset that Ms. Vike resigned after much of this information became public knowledge (or at least as public as it becomes when only reported here on CCN); my point is that IF Ms. Vike had come around to your property and had cited any of you for a violation of this new ordinance, most of the anti-government types would have screaming about “jack-booted government thugs” lording out their petty justice as an agent of the government. Apparently she did the job that she was hired to do without having gone through the listing of which properties the city owns to avoid citing the city itself (which the city has probably figured out now is a prudent thing to do to avoid further embarrassment).

I do agree with the suggestions that the city should follow up on the idea of a complete inventory of city owned properties and the needed maintenance needed to keep those properties up to date, and then make a pragmatic decision about the possibility of selling off some of those properties to enhance the cities’ coffers. I am also in agreement that this new ordinance is too broad, too far reaching and probably purposefully vague.

“A brochure published by the city informs readers how to report their neighbors to the proper authorities, and even provides a list of reportable offenses…”

Did the electorate in S.L.O. know beforehand they were voting for a “Snitch Law?”

thesaurus for snitch:

rat b…h narc informant nark p…y 50 cent gay tattle police snake tattle tale f.g informer liar loser grass hater punk snitching more…

With all the new revenues coming into the City, they apparently will not need to renew Measue Y and if they do put it back out on a ballot measure be assured it will be for a much longer period of time. It was effective as of 2007 and raises about $6 million NEW REVENUE a year 6 yrs x $6 M = $36 Million todate. In case anyone should forget, the key components for the use of this money was increased public safety (actually gave us one of the highest paid police in the State), neighorhood street paving projects, improved flood control, senior enhancement programs, code enforcement (creates it’s own revenue), and retoring open space funding. I was not seen any major improvements in these areas for the $36 million! Any now with Target, Olive Garden, TJ Marx, etc the revenue is increasing during the past couple of years. Where is it going! Oh yea, employee costs ans contracts for the City positions the keep telling us they are eliminating only to contract out. I would like to see the City post a list of employment type contracts (legal, planning, inspectors – I’m told several retired employees come put under contract for the City). Just shift the way business is done!

Does SLO lack the cash to clean this up? Hmmmm. Check this out:

US: ‘Thrive’ filmmaker Foster Gamble explains how governments at all levels operate on two sets of books: one for the public and one for insiders. [The public books deal with budgeted operations and show revenue from taxes and fines. The confidential books relate to a ‘hush-hush’ fund that derives revenue from investments. Most of these hidden funds are awash in money while the governments that own them are pretending to be broke.] YouTube 2012 Jul 6

Welcome to the police state:

Georgia: Local ordinance enforcement officer barges into a woman’s bedroom and yells at her to mow her lawn. [Can you imagine what would happen if this little bureaucrat were promoted to a position with greater authority? Collectivism breeds power-drunk tyrants at all levels.] DailyMail 2012 Jul 9

What about the other 278 city owned properties that were not featured in this article?

Is an overall inventory of other city owned properties been completed for the entire portfolio of City of SLO owned properties, defining what levels of deferred maintenance & associated costs are needed for those properties, as well as what specific properties could be put up for possible sale to generate additional funds that could be used to balance the city’s yearly budget “shortfalls to allow for the previously promised capital improvement projects (CIP’s) to actually be completed on time.

Isn’t that what the approximately $ 6,000,000 per year that Measure ‘Y’ generates supposed to have been used for! It hard to tell the residents of a small town of 44,720 residents to shop locally to generate additional retail sales taxes only to defer scheduled major CIP projects for several years!

Burn the voting public once, shame on you. Burn the voting public twice shame on the voting public for not paying attention to where their hard earned tax dollars are being spent!!

If a few sharp-eyed citizens hadn’t taken the time to review the city’s Historic Preservation Guidelines prior to their adoption, the following would have slipped through:

• “may be assessed a one time fine of up to $10,000 per violation, as established by Council. In addition, the City may assess a fine ranging from $100 to $5,000 per day, up to a maximum of 30 days, for continuing violations.”

• “Building permit restriction. City may prohibit the owner(s), successors, or assigns from obtaining a building permit for the subject property for a period of up to five (5) years from the date of violation, unless such permit(s) is for the purpose of correcting a building or zoning code violation or for complying with provisions of this ordinance. City shall initiate proceedings to place a deed restriction on the property to ensure enforcement of this penalty. The property owner shall be required to maintain the property during that period in conformance with maintenance standards set forth in this ordinance.”

• “In addition to any other penalty authorized by law, failure to maintain the property shall constitute a public nuisance resulting in the issuance of an order that the owner perform the maintenance necessary to comply with this section. Any failure to comply with such an order shall entitle the City to cause the maintenance to be performed at the owner’s expense and in addition to the penalties provided by this code for violation thereof, such cost may be recovered of such owner or occupant by civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction. In addition, any such costs shall become a lien against the property. The fines and penalties contained herein are non-exclusive and are in addition to any other remedies the City may have.”

The CIty has owned the Butron Adobe for years; since it dates back to about 1860 it can’t be torn down. It does get the weeds knocked down a few times a year. The arbor needs to come down, but it is entangled with wisteria and grape vines, which are themselves of some historical value. Maintenance staff are aware of the issues there, but staffing is a problem right now. This is a tempest in a teapot, in my opinion. Everyone here is rushing to all sorts of conclusions. Apparently, it’s one small step from this to internment camps for Armenian-Americans. Wow. Maybe everyone should just calm down.

Would the city be so lenient on a property owner if they had fallen on hard times, became seriously ill, or for whatever reason became unable to maintain the property as required by this code? “Staffing is the problem right now.” No excuses. We would get no quarter. The city should be held to the highest of standards AT ALL TIMES. (And this is calm for me! : ) )

Maybe if the City had not embarked on pushing poor people and the slobs on the bus out of town people would calm down.

Late night raids on the homeless.

Fines for folks who don’t have enough money to paint their old porch as frequently as the rich guy on top of the hill thinks they should.

“Tell on your neighbor” policies.

Fines for the not having the money to pay for an architectural commission, and a historic character review of a planning application to build a city required enclosure on your old [read historic] house to hide the very colorful garbage, recycle, and green waste cans you’ve been spending time sorting your garbage into.

Gee. Let’s all calm down.

Isn’t it the City that should be more lenient with its own citizens when times are tough, instead of cracking down to squeeze more blood from all of us happy turnips?