Resident’s junk frustrates neighbors
March 20, 2009
City code enforcement officers handled 266 cases of eyesore nuisances on private property last year, with the top complaints being abandoned vehicles, accumulated junk or spilled trash.
But of all the cases, authorities said, nothing compares to 3226 Plum St.
The yard of the single-family home in the Bijou neighborhood is covered with objects of all kinds: pallets, lumber, plastic crates, boxes, power tools, and vehicles.
In what has become an annual ritual, the city has ordered the property owner to clean up the mess every year from 2005 to 2008. In three of those four years, city crews or contractors cleared out the refuse and sent the property owner the bill.
Neighbors are outraged that the problem cannot be permanently solved.
“It’s an embarrassment to the city. It’s an embarrassment to the neighborhood,” said neighbor Curt Emrie. “We’re just really tired of it.”
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Neighbor Robert Pruitt said when he moved into the home a few years ago, he was looking forward to enjoying the “clean air and the nice neighborhood.”
“I didn’t realize I was moving next to the worst place in South Lake Tahoe,” he said.
But city officials said they can only do what’s spelled out in “nuisance abatement” procedures in city code.
“There’s not much more we can do,” said South Lake Tahoe Community Service Officer Bob Albertazzi.
The City Council on Tuesday slapped a $1,005 lien on the property for the last cleanup by city crews. The owner listed in city documents is Odd Bakken; Albertazzi said he believes Bakken is the home’s resident.
Bakken has not offered any explanation for the state of his property, Albertazzi said.
The Tribune wasn’t able to interview Bakken in time for this article, but in a phone message, he stated: “I am working on cleaning up my yard.”
The nuisance abatement procedure typically starts with a complaint from the public about an eyesore on private property. Officers investigate, and if they determine that there is a nuisance, they’ll send a letter to the property owner explaining the problem and scheduling a hearing with the city zoning administrator after at least 10 days. The property owner is invited to the hearing but not required to attend.
At the hearing, the zoning administrator determines that either the problem has been corrected; the problem hasn’t been corrected but the property owner should be given more time; or that the city will take the cleanup into its own hands.
In the latter case, the city charges the property owner for the cleanup, adding a 25 percent fee for administrative costs.
And usually that’s the end of the story. Once a problem property is cleaned up, it typically stays cleaned up.
“We normally do not have recurring problems of a significant nature ” Plum (Street) being the exception,” Albertazzi said. “This is an extreme property.”
Fire Marshal Ray Zachau has also visited the Plum Street property and said that, for the most part, it is not a fire hazard ” with the possible exception of times during the dry summer months. Zachau described conditions on the property as a “moving target,” with various items coming and going.
Zachau said the situation could be different if the clutter were inside the home. In that case, the fire code requires that occupants have access to a window exit out of a sleeping room.
“I feel for the neighbors, really I do,” Zachau said. “It’s not that we’re not responsive to the neighbors’ concerns, we are. … I know it (cleanup effort) is probably not as fast as the neighbors would like. There are processes.”
§ 17-2 Nuisances affecting the visual and aesthetic health and welfare.
The following are hereby declared to be nuisances affecting the aesthetic health and welfare:
A. The existence or accumulation of litter, trash, scrap materials, junk parts, garbage, or refuse of any kind upon private real property; provided, that said refuse is visible to the occupants of an adjacent or nearby parcel of real property, or to the users of any right-of-way.
B. The existence of accumulation of dead or diseased vegetation.
C. Service stations which remain fenced or secured and inoperative and/or in a dilapidated or unsightly condition in excess of 180 days. (Ord. 50 § 1; Ord. 477 § 2; Ord. 608 § 1; Ord. 798 § 1)
For 3226 Plum St.
” Abatement ordered on Jan. 4, 2005. City conducted abatement on June 9, 2005 (delay due to winter weather conditions).
” Abatement ordered on Jan. 18, 2006. City conducted abatement on May 5, 2006 (delay due to winter weather conditions).
” Abatement ordered on March 7, 2007. Property cleaned up before city crews arrived.
” Abatement ordered on April 2, 2008. City conducted abatement on May 19, 2008.
“- Abatement ordered on Dec. 3, 2008. Abatement scheduled for mid-December, but postponed due to winter storm. Abatement scheduled for March, but postponed due to winter storm. City is working to reschedule.