Meeting Notes for August 5, 2010

GNA Meeting Notes from 8/5/2010 (taken by Wendy DeBoer, GNA leadership team member)

Paul Hooper, Senior Code Enforcement Officer, “Working Together to Provide a Safe and Attractive Community”

Hooper said that Code is essentially responsible for everything that the police and animal control do not cover. For a straightforward and informative description of what Code Enforcement is, please see this brochure that was handed out at this meeting.

In addition to the responsibilities described in that brochure, Hooper said that within Code Enforcement there is an “NPA Team” that is responsible for addressing neglected properties. They work with the banks/owners of the properties to encourage them to bring them “up to par” with the standards of the neighborhood.

There are also weekend enforcement teams that focus primarily on citing the vendors at freeway exits (e.g., flower and fruit vendors) and sign abatement.

Code enforcement needs residents’ assistance in reporting problems in our areas. Violations can be reported by calling 311. Typically, they respond within a week, but sometimes longer if they are backed up. They do get to every report of a violation.

Mike Gardner encouraged residents to call Code, especially if they are reporting vacant properties with squatters who have moved into abandoned homes in their area and for reporting when residences in their neighborhoods are not well cared for. Particularly with abandoned home issues, it is important to notify Code as soon as problems with squatters arise as it is harder to get rid of people once they have moved in for long periods of time.

Hooper emphasized that Code’s goal is to get the home owner’s voluntary compliance. They also want to keep property values up and keep neighborhoods safe. They want to work positively with the home owners to encourage them to comply. If a homeowner’s property has grass that needs a little more watering or trimming, they may simply issue a notice about these improvements.

One attendee asked who is responsible for addressing problem backyard areas that border the Santa Ana River Trail. These areas are of particular concern because they overlap with transience issues and abandoned properties. Hooper responded that Code is responsible for the backyard areas but that problems with the homeless in the river bottom should be directed to the police.

Hooper was also asked what they do with citing rental properties. He responded that if they see “egregious” violations, they will put a notice on the door of the property and notify the owner of record. They also take photos of the property on the first visit so that they can determine if improvements are made in the future. At 30 days, they follow-up to see if the property is in compliance. If not, they issue an administrative citation. After that, the time between follow-up visits is reduced and fines begin to increase from $100 to up to $500. If nothing is done to improve the property at that point, they can issue an “administrative civil penalties order.” The owner then has another 30 days to make changes. If they don’t they can be brought to a hearing with a 3rd party and can get up to $1,000 fines per day if they continue to be out of compliance. In the case of total non-compliance, the court can award title to the City.

Patty Roberts is the code enforcement officer assigned to our area.

Asked about why a specific property on Jurupa that is a health hazard has not been improved—or how it was allowed to become such a hazard in the first place—Hooper indicated that they are only able to cite properties that have been reported by residents. Code enforcement is “complaint driven.” This particular property had been reported to Mike Gardner and Code six weeks ago and is currently being slowly addressed by the owner. It can take a very long time to secure complete compliance if an owner is not cooperative, but that does not mean that the process does not or will not work with time.

With respect to inoperable vehicles accumulating on residential properties, this can be tricky because Code can cite for vehicles that are not operable (are missing tires, can’t be driven, etc.), but owners can have cars parked if they are operable, even if they look like junk.

Asked how Code deals with code violations that are ignored by renters (if they throw out the notices and they never get to the owners), Hooper said that they also send copies to the owner of record and that if they do not comply they can place a lien against the property.

Asked if Code would do walk-throughs with neighbors in a particular area to assist residents in identifying violations, he and Mike Gardner responded yes but cautioned that it should not become a witch hunt. Walk-throughs are best if done in one’s own neighborhood and not as a way of penalizing other areas. They can be very constructive if done in the right spirit and, again, in one’s own area.

People who report code violations remain anonymous. Code enforcement does not share any of the contact information provided by callers, but they do use the information for themselves to call if they have questions about a report.

One call to report a property is enough. It is not the case that the more calls that Code gets about a property, the more likely they are to respond. They respond to all reports of violations. But residents should not assume that other people have or will call to report something. Make the call to 311 to make sure that Code Enforcement has a property that is out of compliance on their radar screen.

Mike Gardner, City Councilman, Grand Area Update

Mr. Wong, the owner of the problem shopping center at Jurupa and Grand Aves., died very recently. His son now owns the property. He is not from this area. The City was going to “come down on” the owner, but they will now work with the son to either improve the shopping center or sell it.

Maxi Foods expressed interest at one point in buying the center, and they have a pretty good record of upkeep with their properties.

Mike has a meeting next week with the City Attorney, Lt. Manning and the fire chief and they are going to make a list of demands to present to the son. If he doesn’t improve it or sell it, they will turn to imposing administrative civil penalties.

Not all of the businesses in the center are bad: owners of pizza place, donut shop and drycleaners are good people. But the situation needs to get under control. The center needs updating and improving. They also need a solid tenant in the large vacant space as a solid anchor.

Asked about a timeline, Mike said that they will know where they stand within 30 days. If the son wants to sell it, may not move very quickly because of the state of the commercial property market. Mike will update Wendy so that she can notify GNA members through our website.

One attendee noted that the Palm Center shopping center, particularly the area behind the gym, has become a dumping ground and asked that Code address that issue. Hooper said they would.

Mike cautioned residents about a scam going around about curb painting. Residents are not required to paint the numbers on the curb and if they didn’t authorize the painting, they don’t need to pay for it.

The city council approved changes to the construction drawings for Tequesquite park.

Several questions were raised about Mt. Rubidioux. Mike also talked about the new police chief Sergio Diaz and said we are lucky to have him.

“Getting to know our area’s Problem Oriented Policing (POP) Officers”: RPD POP Officers Dillon, Tavaglione, Schorrs

Officer Dillon said that there are 4 POP officers assigned to our North Area Precinct. They supplement response to the 91 calls and look through the incidents for long-term solutions. They can identify what problems are occurring in an area and determine if they warrant extra patrol. They work out of an office.

Dillon said that this was his first time at the meeting and that our area has relatively low rates of crime.

One attendee indicated frustration with not seeing patrol at the shopping center, even though the center has been identified as a problem area. Officer Schorrs indicated that it is not possible to have patrol, nor would not be possible in the future due to personnel constraints. Officer Dillon said that he would work with residents to address the problems in the center, and encouraged people to e-mail him or call him at mdillon@riversideca.gov. His phone number is 951.905.7196 and the non-emergency number for RPD is 951.787.7911.

Mike said that he will raise the issue of hiring 24-hour security with the owner of the shopping center.

Attendees raised the issue of people fishing through the recycle bins before trash pick-up. Officer Dillon said that people can call 311 or the non-emergency number but that these calls will not have priority over other calls regarding safety issues.

“Planning for the last quarterly meeting on November 4, 2010”, Open discussion

Bonnie Tovaas, GNA leadership team members discussed the possibility of using the last meeting in November as a planning meeting to discuss what residents are concerned about, would like to see more of, etc. There is also interest in planning some positive activities like a potluck. Those in attendance agreed that this would be a good use of our time at the next meeting and will bring ideas to discuss on November 4. We also hope to have RPD Police Chief Sergio Diaz at our next meeting. Members were asked to get the word out and to bring additional people with them.

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