Homeless individuals sleep near the entrance and on the side of the building.
  • Homeless individuals sleep near the entrance and on the side of the building.
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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.

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SanCarlosGuy March 19, 2013 @ 2:39 p.m.

Good article, I've driven by the property and have wondered about its' status. You would think a major company like AT&T would do its' best to present a positive public image. Especially it they want to upgrade the cell-phone towers that require a public hearing. The City Council should also consider maintainence of the utility companies' buildings throuout the city when their license renewals come up for public hearings.


dwbat March 19, 2013 @ 10:39 p.m.

The 2012 San Diego Equality Awards were presented by AT&T. And, of course, that gets them publicity and thanks from the community. But keeping an old building secure, clean and graffiti-free in the North Park neighborhood is not really a PR opportunity for AT&T. So they have no motivation to do it. It can't be the expense, as this gigantic corporation has a market capitalization of $200 BILLION.


jnojr April 3, 2013 @ 2:54 p.m.

What should AT&T do? If they roust out the fallen-down drunks and stumblebums, people will be shrieking about what a horrible, evil, heartless, soulless corporation they are.


derickwade April 23, 2013 @ 2:36 p.m.

Well, technically ALL corporations are heartless and soulless because they are not actually biological organisms.


dwbat Oct. 1, 2013 @ 12:46 p.m.

But corporations are comprised of biological organisms; they're called humans. And those humans decide their corporate ethics. I'm not sure if AT&T execs even know what "ethics" means.


dwbat Sept. 27, 2013 @ 3:31 p.m.

AT&T could donate money for more homeless housing. They wouldn't even miss a few $million out of their budget.


dwbat March 23, 2013 @ 2:07 p.m.

No homeless on the premises today (March 23) when I went by. But there were some new graffiti tags. I'll keep monitoring, as I live close by.


dwbat March 31, 2013 @ 1:24 p.m.

They're back! Today (3/31) there was a new little campsite near the building's rear entry door. So NO cleanup work is being done on an ongoing basis at this eyesore property.


derickwade April 23, 2013 @ 3:40 p.m.

Were you, by any chance, the Hallway Monitor of your Middle School?


opassons April 3, 2013 @ 12:57 p.m.

This site is in the process of being developed. There's a group with a plan for senior housing on one lot (the west parking lot) and the opportunity to develop the other (the building). AT&T can do a better job of sending someone there regularly to remove the trash and the commercial broker should probably do more to clean up graffiti on his sign. Has anyone tried calling Doug Matheson directly to let him know the tags are there? Even if we'd like entities to take a pro-active approach, sometimes a little neighborly help direct to the source can help. I'm going to email Doug and a contact at AT&T and see if they can agree between them to send someone more regularly. Seems like an easy enough thing to do. I'd also suggest bypassing generic calls to the SDPD in favor of contacting Officer Jenny Hall, our Community Relations Officer for SDPD, directly. She is extremely responsive and actually does care about the issues neighbors raise. You can reach her at jmason (at) pd (dot) sandiego (dot) gov. And if you want to take a more active role in preventing these types of things, please email me and we can work together with Councilmember Gloria's office and a handful of other neighbors and businesses to address these issues. My email address is opassons (at) gmail (dot) com. Would love to help any neighbors in Greater North Park/University Heights/South Park, ehhh, mid-city generally, who need it. Cheers


jnojr April 3, 2013 @ 2:56 p.m.

"AT&T can do a better job of sending someone there regularly to remove the trash"

So they can get sued by the ACLU for disturbing the precious possessions of the noble between-homed individuals?


derickwade April 23, 2013 @ 3:18 p.m.

"precious possessions of the noble between-homed individuals" Your haughty contempt and and use of disparaging labels and pejoratives suggests an underlying Narcissistic personality structure (Lack of Empathy Feeling of Superiority. Disparaging of Others... )

To these human beings their possessions most likely are precious to them. It's not your place to determine personal value, whether it be of another person or of their belongings. The courts recognize and protect an individuals physiological necessities (e.g. the need for sleep and the need to excrete bodily waste). They are homeless, thus no bathroom. Perhaps one of you righteous Neighborhood Nags could take a few minutes away from your "surveillance" of the building and call the Alpha Project which pairs police officers with homeless outreach staff to assist the homeless in obtaining shelter, mental health/alcohol and drug treatment, employment coaching, SSDI etc.

But it sounds as though you are only interested in pushing the problem out of your hood and into someone else's.


dwbat Oct. 1, 2013 @ 12:38 p.m.

Obviously you didn't read my April 12 comment. I have previously contacted the SDPD and asked them to bring out the HOT team. But under City ordinances, vacant properties are the responsibility of the property owner. The must secure their property. And the SDPD cannot be their private 24/7 security guards. AT&T refused to do much of anything when they owned (and moved out of) the building. It's now up to Community HousingWorks to do a better job. Time will tell.


dwbat April 12, 2013 @ 5:25 p.m.

While downtown today I walked by the new Connections Housing building (the old run-down World Trade Center) at 6th and B. It made me wonder why the homeless person living at the AT&T building (by the back door) hasn't received a ride to Connections, where he could get temporary housing, food and medical care if needed.


dwbat Sept. 27, 2013 @ 3:40 p.m.

Community HousingWorks (the current owner) had a chainlink fence installed today at the building entrance. This will prevent individuals from living there, or storing their stuff. Having transients squat on private property is not the answer to the homeless problem; it's not good for the neighborhood nor the individuals. I was recently informed that CHW is working with the SDPD and their Homeless Outreach Team to end the "occupation" of this site.


dwbat Oct. 2, 2013 @ 5:39 p.m.

Here's a newer campsite at the back door. CHW indicated last month they will cut the bushes way back, but haven't followed through as promised, as of today.


dwbat Oct. 11, 2013 @ 12:18 p.m.

Finally there's real progress on the grounds cleanup and shrubbery pruning. Hopefully CHW will now keep it that way.


dwbat April 6, 2015 @ 4:51 p.m.

Update, April 6, 2015: Community HousingWorks is doing a good job of monitoring the site. The bushes are kept cut back, and trash is removed regularly. There's no longer homeless sleeping on the property, and no graffiti tagging of the building. Hopefully construction of the new apartments will start next year.


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