The city’s proposed slum task force |

The city’s proposed slum task force

A thorough plan of attack against shabby, run-down housing in South Lake Tahoe is being hatched by city staff members.

The enemy?

Delinquent property owners.

“Looking around town – from a health and safety, and a law enforcement point of view – we have a monumental problem. If we’re going to try to salvage our community, it’s going to take more than redevelopment,” said Councilman Bill Crawford. “Good housing is falling apart before our eyes, yet we’re spending our money on public housing.”

A group of 13 city staff members, representing fire, police, planning, county building, city council and housing, are developing a plan to create a task force. If approved by the City Council, the team would address neglected private housing in the city, holding owners of such properties responsible for immediate repair work and continued maintenance.

“This would be a very public program, a strike team made up of city staff and other agencies, such as environmental health,” said Patrick Conway, city housing coordinator. “I envision this program working both inside and outside of homes. Starting with the top offenders, then going down the list, being pro-active in addressing these problems.”

Should such a task force receive council approval, finding the worst offenders wouldn’t require much work. Conway already has a list of 167 problem properties and their owners, ranked from worst to not-so-bad.

However, the legal ramifications of this type of action would require some changes and additions to the city code.

“If the city wants a comprehensive approach to attacking the inside and outside of a residence, we will need to amend and add some paragraphs (to the city code),” said Cathy DiCamillo, city attorney. “As it stands now, without a complaint by the owner or tenant, the city code does not allow access into a home.”

The task force would not be very popular among property owners, Conway said, and would therefore need substantial community support. Complicating the matter, creating such an inspection unit could infringe on civil liberties, cautioned Merle Bowman, division chief and fire marshal.

“We’re coming dangerously close to legislating morality,” Bowman said. “We’re talking about deciding what we think looks good and what doesn’t. We need to establish some serious standards to make this work.”

A team of three city staff members will assemble a proposal for review by the City Council later this year.

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