“They want the neighborhood to look pretty from the back too,” said Pete Suarez, “now that’s a crock.”
Suarez bikes from south San Diego through Imperial Beach to get to Coronado. On April 28, I spotted him riding his turquoise Bianchi all-road bike, on the new bike trail behind the houses of 7th Street that leads to the Bayshore Bikeway/Silver Strand Bikeway.
“Even if their backyards looked like Sanford and Son, I wouldn’t get distracted,” he said, “but just maybe, the tourists that rent those goofy ofo bikes, might, and lose control if they see piles of junk.”
On April 20, some IB residents that live on 7th Street received a letter from the city of Imperial Beach that said they had to clean up their backyards in 30 days, or be fined.
“We thought that there would never be anything behind our home since its a bird estuary,” said Kelly Leiker. “There was never a trail before a few months ago.”
Leiker received one of the “Notice of intent to enforce minimum standards for properties” letters from the city. Her mother’s owned the house on 7th Street since 1977, but since then, Leiker has taken over, and in the last year, she and her husband invested $130,000 to fix it up.
“We have an infant and a preschooler that deserve our attention after work,” she said, “and my husband has slowly been fixing up the yard for us to enjoy come summer. I’m not sure if our yard is in compliance or not and we have yet to fix any questionable characteristics of our backyard.”
On the letter it reads in part “Please review the condition of the rear yard area of your property. If any of the conditions below are present, please correct the violations within 30 days of this notice.”
“Our yard isn’t a junkyard,” Leiker said, “not for the tourists, not for the visitors; but for ourselves and for our children.”
Leiker then sent me photos of their backyard. The two potential violations she’s concerned about are:
“Trash, debris, construction materials, etc. are prohibited from accumulating on the property" and
"Overgrown or dead vegetation on property, including sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and parkways is prohibited from accumulating on the property.”
They have a ladder lying by their fence; bags of soil, empty planters, and tools around their picnic table; and weeds growing by their blue shed. Leiker admitted, "There are stacks of pavers and a few construction type materials that we are using to fix up our yard.”
Jerry, a cyclist and mechanic, rides his Trek 5200 to Coronado. He parks his car and starts at the J Street Marina, passes the salt works on the frontage road by I-5, then crosses the new bike path behind Leiker’s house. “The rule of no parking and storage of vehicles in the backyard is f’ed-up,” he said, “I feel bad for the gear heads that can’t wrench without constantly looking over their shoulders.”
“Who judges what’s acceptable or not?” questioned Jerry.
Inspections of 7th Street backyards, between the 300-500 blocks, will be conducted on or after May 20, and if the property fails to meet minimum standards, the residents will be “assessed a fine of not less than $100.00.”
“So what does that mean,” Suarez said, “will they have to pay $100 per infraction …. I don’t think they (the city reps) can do that.”
Leiker’s not taking the letter lightly. She posted her sentiments on social media. “Shame on the city for giving us 30 days to finish a project,” she said. “The point is, 30 days isn’t much in the busy lives of working folks with young children, sick family, sports events. and social responsibilities …. whatever.”
Other neighbors chimed in and forewarned the 7th Street residents that their code compliance officers mean business.
Claudio is from Imperial Beach, but he and his family live over by Florence Street, less than a mile southeast from Leiker.
“We are up to $8,000 in fines over things we can’t afford to take care of,” said Claudio. “She (the code compliance officer) forced her way in our yard and took pictures. Even though our gate’s locked, she keeps coming back giving us more fines. They are fining us for overgrown vegetation that doesn’t exist anymore, rodents, sheds that have been on the property for 20 years, our fences and few other things. It’s like seven pages of citations.”
Leiker said that the city added a rod iron fence and plants to separate the new bike path from their backyards. “I’m not sure how long bougainvillea and the other plants they planted take to create enough cover for privacy,” she said, “but it will take longer than 30 days.”
“If they (the city) knew they were going to build a bike path for us [cyclists] a long time ago,” Suarez said, “why didn’t they warn the residents when the construction began.”