K. Mennem 7:17 p.m., June 17
The community group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment has a novel means of encouraging major banks to clean up and maintain properties on which they foreclose – dumping trash left at a bank-owned residential property at the doorstep of one of the company’s commercial branches.
Alliance members gathered in front of a house on the 200 block of Southlook Avenue in San Diego’s Mountain View neighborhood this afternoon to draw attention to the deteriorated condition the property had fallen into since it was acquired by Bank of America. Weeds and piles of trash covered the front and back yards, and several windows were boarded up.
“I walk out and I see strange, suspicious people coming in and out of the house,” said Clara Lorrabaquio, a neighbor who lives across the street and an Alliance member. “Then you walk to the side and you see this dump,” she continues, pointing to the lower yard where old furniture and televisions share space with shredded upholstery and piles of other debris. “It’s not a very nice sight.”
The Alliance organized the action with the hope of drawing attention to San Diego’s proposed Property Value Protection Ordinance, a law that would require banks to register distressed properties where they hold a first lien, as well as take responsibility for their maintenance and upkeep once the properties were abandoned or the bank had the occupants evicted. Banks could face steep fines of up to $1,000 per property per day for allowing maintenance and safety standards to slip. Such laws have been passed in dozens of other municipalities around the state and nation – Chula Vista was one of the first cities to implement a similar program in 2007.
After symbolically filling a truck with a small portion of the garbage dumped on the property, the group and their press entourage made their way to a nearby Bank of America branch. Prior to the arrival of the protesters, B of A security hustled their remaining customers out of the building as employees and security guards locked themselves inside.
Alliance members milled around the bank under the watch of several police officers, chanting slogans including the popular Occupy refrain “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!”
How the property ended up in Bank of America’s hands, and in its current condition, is unclear. The property is listed with a local real estate agent who appears to represent the former owners and marked as being in escrow since January, suggesting B of A refused to consider a short sale request by the former owners. Photos of the property from that listing show no large trash items in any of the yards, no broken windows, and a well-kept interior with a remodeled kitchen and bathroom. Calls to the agent for further information went unanswered.