The unused AT&T (formerly Pacific Bell) building in North Park continues to have homeless transients, graffiti, the smell of urine, and trash. The fortress-like structure — a perfect canvas for taggers — is located at 4220 Arizona Street. Graffiti attacks have been ongoing for several years.
The empty parking lot is fenced and gated to keep out trespassers, but homeless individuals regularly sleep near the entrance and on the side of the building. Taggers have defaced the building and mailbox multiple times and tagged for-sale signs erected by CB Richard Ellis.
Responsibility for investigating possible violations is the Neighborhood Code Compliance Department. Enforcement and fines are authorized under San Diego Municipal Code 54.0313.
The half-square-block property is not considered “abandoned” under the city's ordinance passed last October, but under the “vacant properties program” instituted in 1996, it could be considered a “blight and eyesore to the community.” And it might “pose serious threats to the public's health, safety and welfare of surrounding residents and adjacent properties.”
Scott E. Grant lives on Arizona Street across from the building. In an interview, Grant said that police have responded to his complaints in the past about “loudly arguing” homeless trespassers, but, he said, “AT&T is ultimately responsible” for dealing with conditions there. “It's their property.”
Steve Aldana, information manager with the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association, said, “It is obviously the responsibility of the property owner, so we would expect that AT&T would take care of it. That being said, they have a long history of ignoring these responsibilities all over the country.”
As for interested buyers, Aldana said, “We had a meeting with a developer who was in escrow on the two parcels a couple months ago but haven't heard an update. For years, we have considered the property a huge development opportunity waiting to happen.” Grant thinks the building “would make a good police substation” and suggested AT&T donate the property to the city.
District 3 councilmember (and council president) Todd Gloria was asked for comment. Gloria's spokesperson Katie Keach said his North Park representative “indicated that he received no recent complaints about the property but had followed up with AT&T.”
AT&T's San Diego spokesperson Lane Kasselman responded: “When AT&T is made aware of the occasional homeless presence by either AT&T personnel or the community, we alert the San Diego Police Department,” Kasselman wrote. “AT&T has also asked the San Diego Police Department and San Diego Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) to increase their patrols of the property and area."
In a related matter, T-Mobile currently operates cell-phone antennas on the building and has applied for a neighborhood use permit to upgrade them. That decision by the city's development services department is expected by April.