“The building is being used for Swinger parties with large amounts of people. Alcohol is also being brought in by the patrons and checked with a bartender.”
That unedited snippet, labeled as Case 221825, can be found online at what San Diego’s Development Services Department (DSD) calls OpenDSD. If you’re keen to go code-violation surfing, the city’s happy to be your enabler, with thousands of posted reports, complete with mapped street addresses that are usually accompanied by Google street-view photographs.
Not long ago, the folks downtown launched an online information portal that allows the public to “track the City’s land development permit processing functions.” Civic pride in evidence, the department boasts, “the scope of the data published exceeds that of any other city.”
Indeed, the city, while highlighting public access to prosaic fare such as permit applications and building inspections, goes on to note that “case activity is also provided.” Boy, is it ever. Jim Myers, deputy director at the Development Services Department says, “I don’t know of any other city that’s gone as far to make this information available to the public.”
You can find a lot of things online these days, including stuff that, in decades past, could only be obtained by combing through dusty folders or peering through microfiche viewers. If you want to stare down a cold-eyed con in safety or skulk around the neighborhood playing “Who’s the child molester?,” mug shots abound, courtesy of Megan’s Law. And if that’s not lurid enough, there’s always “The Faces of Meth,” exported from the redoubtable gendarmes of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department up in Oregon. But if you long to keep your voyeurism local, the OpenDSD database, which covers the entire city, allows you to cruise and peruse code-enforcement cases going back to 2011.
As befits a metropolis of its size, the City of San Diego has a passel of codes that lead to a multitude of violations, real or alleged. Presumably, the bulk of the bellyaching emanates from pissed-off neighbors who carp about everything from yapping pooches to non-complying porches. When you click on an icon on the OpenDSD map, you’ll find that each case has been assigned a number and has a claimed source, often a “citizen complaint.”
As one pores over the maps and clicks the violators designated by triangle-encased exclamation points, certain patterns emerge: complaints of building without permits, homes without occupants, homes with too many occupants.
If you want to learn the official highlights or, as sales types might say, the features and benefits of a part of San Diego, you can ask the local chamber of commerce or perhaps an eager real estate agent. But if you long to suss out the character of a neighborhood, a more efficacious method, and certainly a livelier one, is to check out what turns the neighbors livid.
At 12715 Heritage Glen Court in Carmel Valley, the lament reads, “Neighbor has 25 chickens within 25 [feet] of my bedroom/property line, in a coup. We have flies and fowl odor.” (Case 221887)
Meanwhile, over at 1671 Palm Avenue at the edge of National City, we’re informed that a “Vacant lot has a trailer with speeding boat and trasiets [sic] hanging out there.” (Case 224027)
And in Clairemont, someone reports that a neighbor has “Hired unlicensed subcontractors, drugies and criminals to turn his two car garage into two bedrooms.”
Myers states that the intent is to “let members of the community know what’s going on in a neighborhood, and if they see something, find out whether a complaint has already been made and if the City is working on it.” To be fair, a lot of it’s pretty mundane stuff, couched in city-speak like “RHOP” (Residential High Occupancy Permit) and “BMP” (Best Management Practice) deficiencies presumably generated by neighbors with a lot of time or grudges on their hands. And barking dogs are commonplace across the city. In some cases disgruntled residents are ratting on their landlords for rats, roaches, and toilets that don’t work. Myers notes the frequency of bedbug complaints, such as the one lodged against Room 317 at 1835 Columbia Street (downtown) that reads, “Someone vacationing from out of state woke up and found bed bugs all over the room.”
For a glimpse of how the “other half” lives, the map facilitates a sociological sojourn that can be conducted from the safety of one’s den. In the Southcrest neighborhood at 3652 Z St., Unit 56 , “Multiple people have moved into a dilapidated shed in the back of an apartment complex. The people are always drinking and having loud profane arguments. The worst thing is that they are disposing of their human waste on onto vacant property adjacent to our apartments.” (Case 223317)
In La Jolla, it apparently takes a lot less to torque the toques of the locals: “The home at 1950 Lee Lane in La Jolla has very loud AC close to our bedrooms at the adjacent condos. It cycles on for five minutes up to several times an hour night and day, to the detriment of our comfort and health.” (Case 219618)
If there’s a recurrent theme that courses through the complaints, it’s the juxtaposition of the rural with the urban, where pastiches of San Diego’s agrarian past linger to the displeasure of some. At 5188 Streamview Dr. off Chollas Parkway, we learn, “Pig being kept in front yard. Has grown fairly large.” (Case 221874.) At 6045 Reo Place in Paradise Hills, we’re informed, “Duks running wild on property and very loud.” And at 7119 Lisbon street (Skyline), simply “2 roosters and 3 goats.”
Some of the dispatches read like late-night comedy fare. “This is a cemetery and someone is living in a container and there is rugs being sold out of it.” (2127 Iris Ave, nestled near Nestor) “They carpeted their front yard and use it as a driveway. Don’t tell them who complained because it will cause problems for me.” (2917 Webster Ave., Logan Heights)
Wacky complaints? Myers laughs, “You should work for the government sometime. Unlike the private sector, we can’t pick and choose our clients; we help everyone. So, we get a wide spectrum of issues.” And as for the roosters? “I have nothing against our winged friends.”