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Who’s minding San Diego’s council districts?

Abandoned apartment building gets slow response from city bureaucrats

Back of the Mississippi Street apartment building (photo taken last month)
Back of the Mississippi Street apartment building (photo taken last month)

A long-vacant apartment building at 3926/3926 ½ Mississippi Street in North Park remains in violation of San Diego Ordinance O-20203 (“abatement of abandoned properties”), passed in October 2012.

Broken windows, check; nobody living there, check

A building is deemed an abandoned property when it's empty, run-down, and not displaying a for-sale or for-lease sign. The building on Mississippi Street has broken windows and graffiti on the premises. It is unlawful for an owner to not repair or board-up such broken windows. The property must be secured against trespassers.

A citizen complaint form (“Request for Investigation”) with photos was mailed last September 30 to the city's Neighborhood Code Compliance Department. No response was received. Under provisions of the city's abandoned-property ordinance, a sign must be posted that lists the property owner or management company with contact information. There is no visible sign in front or back of the deteriorating structure.

The Reader followed up on February 5 and was advised by Lynda Pfeifer, supervising public information officer of Development Services, to contact code inspector Keith Cleveland. A city database shows Cleveland opened a file on October 16, 2014. Cleveland was contacted via email for comment on February 5 but he never responded.

Third District councilmember Todd Gloria's deputy chief of staff Katie Keach responded on February 5 that the council representative for North Park, Adrian Granda, “will look into this.” Keach emailed a followup on February 19, stating, “Adrian received information about the case this morning from city staff. Because it involves the City Attorney, I defer to Ms. Pfeifer about whether it can be shared at this time.”

Pfeifer subsequently responded, “I just checked with the Deputy Director from the Code Enforcement Section and learned that the Code Enforcement Investigator inspected the property on February 18, 2015. Due to the recent inspection of the property and ongoing compliance violations, a determination was made to submit the case to the City Attorney’s Office for further enforcement action next week.”

Granda didn't mention if he had looked at the site before or after the code-violation complaint. Keach did offer a reminder: “Please note that Adrian Granda is not a code compliance inspector; he works for Councilmember Gloria, and has worked with the code compliance department about the concern.”

Which councilmembers and/or their community representatives ever walk their district's streets to look for trouble spots? The following question was emailed to all nine councilmembers on February 26: “Do you or your neighborhood representatives have a regimen of periodically walking the streets in your district in search of fixable problems?”

As of March 9, the following are the responses received from each councilmember (with their corresponding district numbers): Scott Sherman (7), David Alvarez (8), and Marti Emerald (9) replied with “Yes.” Seven business days after the inquiry was sent, the offices of Sherri Lightner (1), Lorie Zapf (2), Todd Gloria (3), Myrtle Cole (4), Mark Kersey (5), and Chris Cate (6) still hadn’t responded.

The county assessor's office says the property is owned by Demers Family Trust, 5157 Hawley Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92116 (the same address as Robert Demers Contractor). A site visit yesterday (March 9) showed some improvements have been made. The apartment entryway was boarded up and trash had been removed in front of the building. Two new windows were installed in a back section.

As for the property value, Hillcrest-based realtor Scott Bruning said, “This apartment building on Mississippi is in a highly desirable area for single-family homes, condominiums, and multifamily properties. A building like this in San Diego's market is a prime candidate for an investor to purchase and renovate.”

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Back of the Mississippi Street apartment building (photo taken last month)
Back of the Mississippi Street apartment building (photo taken last month)

A long-vacant apartment building at 3926/3926 ½ Mississippi Street in North Park remains in violation of San Diego Ordinance O-20203 (“abatement of abandoned properties”), passed in October 2012.

Broken windows, check; nobody living there, check

A building is deemed an abandoned property when it's empty, run-down, and not displaying a for-sale or for-lease sign. The building on Mississippi Street has broken windows and graffiti on the premises. It is unlawful for an owner to not repair or board-up such broken windows. The property must be secured against trespassers.

A citizen complaint form (“Request for Investigation”) with photos was mailed last September 30 to the city's Neighborhood Code Compliance Department. No response was received. Under provisions of the city's abandoned-property ordinance, a sign must be posted that lists the property owner or management company with contact information. There is no visible sign in front or back of the deteriorating structure.

The Reader followed up on February 5 and was advised by Lynda Pfeifer, supervising public information officer of Development Services, to contact code inspector Keith Cleveland. A city database shows Cleveland opened a file on October 16, 2014. Cleveland was contacted via email for comment on February 5 but he never responded.

Third District councilmember Todd Gloria's deputy chief of staff Katie Keach responded on February 5 that the council representative for North Park, Adrian Granda, “will look into this.” Keach emailed a followup on February 19, stating, “Adrian received information about the case this morning from city staff. Because it involves the City Attorney, I defer to Ms. Pfeifer about whether it can be shared at this time.”

Pfeifer subsequently responded, “I just checked with the Deputy Director from the Code Enforcement Section and learned that the Code Enforcement Investigator inspected the property on February 18, 2015. Due to the recent inspection of the property and ongoing compliance violations, a determination was made to submit the case to the City Attorney’s Office for further enforcement action next week.”

Granda didn't mention if he had looked at the site before or after the code-violation complaint. Keach did offer a reminder: “Please note that Adrian Granda is not a code compliance inspector; he works for Councilmember Gloria, and has worked with the code compliance department about the concern.”

Which councilmembers and/or their community representatives ever walk their district's streets to look for trouble spots? The following question was emailed to all nine councilmembers on February 26: “Do you or your neighborhood representatives have a regimen of periodically walking the streets in your district in search of fixable problems?”

As of March 9, the following are the responses received from each councilmember (with their corresponding district numbers): Scott Sherman (7), David Alvarez (8), and Marti Emerald (9) replied with “Yes.” Seven business days after the inquiry was sent, the offices of Sherri Lightner (1), Lorie Zapf (2), Todd Gloria (3), Myrtle Cole (4), Mark Kersey (5), and Chris Cate (6) still hadn’t responded.

The county assessor's office says the property is owned by Demers Family Trust, 5157 Hawley Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92116 (the same address as Robert Demers Contractor). A site visit yesterday (March 9) showed some improvements have been made. The apartment entryway was boarded up and trash had been removed in front of the building. Two new windows were installed in a back section.

As for the property value, Hillcrest-based realtor Scott Bruning said, “This apartment building on Mississippi is in a highly desirable area for single-family homes, condominiums, and multifamily properties. A building like this in San Diego's market is a prime candidate for an investor to purchase and renovate.”

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Comments
20

I am underwhelmed by my council member's lack of interest in this type of issue. Again we have in effect an absentee, inherited wealth landowner shirking their responsibility of ownership. In my opinion all property of this type within the city limits of San Diego should be condemned as an attractive nuisance, then confiscated by the city by eminent domain, and repurposed as affordable housing.

March 10, 2015

Skimming over that long City ordinance, it's the last resort for the City to seize such a property. There are fines involved if the owner doesn't comply with the law, but those fines don't seem heavy enough to serve as a useful deterrent.

March 10, 2015

The lack of response to the complaint in September is typical. Cleveland, it would appear, did little or nothing until the second contact was made by the Reader. When I say typical, I mean it was typical of the "do nothing" SD city government. City Hall has been avoiding the tough jobs for decades. Politicians come and go, but the city has a huge bureaucracy that generally does as little as it can get away with.

March 10, 2015

Also typical is the not-in-my-job-description, pass-the-buck attitude by some city employees, especially neighborhood representatives who work for our nine councilmembers. What exactly ARE these reps paid to do? I don't know the answer, and I'm not sure councilmembers even want to talk about that.

March 10, 2015

Start with the regular city employees who have job descriptions that, in high-flown terms, require them to do things of tangible value. No, that city government has been in a "do nothing" mode for at least forty years, based on my personal contact. Whether is was animal control, noise abatement, code compliance, public works, parks and recreation, or even the cops, SD city services were hard to contact and even harder to engage. That's in part why we moved out of the "slobberin' city" three decades ago. Do we have it perfect in No County? Hell no! But at least we know whom to talk to when the system breaks down, meaning that it doesn't break down every day.

March 10, 2015

With a much smaller bureaucratic maze to engage in N. County, it's got to be easier than in our Big City where the layers are as thick as Andersen's Pea Soup.

March 14, 2015

So nice how our city government leaders have MORE than enough time AND our money to make those obnoxious video of themselves, though.

March 10, 2015

When did this trend start, of public servants becoming amateur entertainers and thinking they must "show off" (as they used to say) in a video?

March 10, 2015

Have you seen the sickening sycophant-y video that the SD Taxpayers Assn, is putting out to advertise their "Goldens" program, starring all the usual suspects, including Jerry "How can we miss you if you won't go away" Sanders?

March 11, 2015

They better keep their day jobs, as "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels will not be calling.

March 11, 2015

Videos might be the answer. Perhaps, our city council people and/or their reps. could video tape walking their districts, interview the locals and post the good/bad/ and ugly along with their actions to resolve issues.

March 10, 2015

I really like that idea. I somehow don't see it happening, though. That takes some motivation and effort on their part, and also we'll hear something like this: "It's not in my job description, so I'm not doing it."

March 10, 2015

To John Greenman who responded via Facebook (which I don't use): Thanks for your pertinent comment: "Mr. Granda works for the people of that district. Todd Gloria doesn't sign his check, San Diego taxpayers do." Yes, too many public servants--not just in our city--forget who they really work for.

March 11, 2015

Update March 13: Some repair work is being done inside the apartment units now. My photo shot today shows the view from Mississippi Street's sidewalk.

None

March 13, 2015

Aw, C'mon now! 3rd District Councilman Todd Gloria is often seen walking the streets of his district! Following close behind is a photographer ready to snap a shot of Todd grinning and drooling over his "sexy streets" (his words, not mine) that he's so proud to have resurfaced. Meanwhile, he's too busy figuring out his next political move to deal with pesky little constituent issues! Lower your expectations, and things will be just the way the city wants them.

March 14, 2015

I found it "telling" that Councilman Gloria's deputy chief of staff refused to answer my question about whether Gloria or his neighborhood representatives (including Adrian Granda) walk the district to look for "fixable problems." It was a simple question. By the way, there's a useful website called Transparent California (http://transparentcalifornia.com/) where you can look up public servants' salaries and pensions. As of 2013 reports (salary + benefits), Gloria's deputy chief of staff/spokesperson Katie Keach earns $100,000. Mr. Granda earns $30,853. Former North Park neighborhood rep Anthony Bernal now does the same for downtown; he's paid $62,590.

March 14, 2015

In related news, Bernal is very interested in becoming the next District 3 councilmember, even though his chance of winning is between slim and none. Apparently the torch is instead being passed to openly-gay Chris Ward.

April 2, 2015

Update March 20: Front broken windows are being replaced.

None

March 20, 2015

I'm still waiting to hear back from Gerry Braun, director of communications at the City Attorney's office, about what fines if any were levied on the property owner. So much for the talk of more "transparency" in city government actions.

April 15, 2015

6/9/2018 update: After Todd Gloria left the Council, Adrian Granda, after a less-than-stellar job performance, became a community representative for Supervisor Ron Roberts. He left that post last month.

June 9, 2018

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