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.”