Vacant building registry returns to Council

The hot topic for tomorrow’s Council meeting is the adoption of Instant Runoff Voting for this year’s election, which means that we won’t have June primaries and will only vote on City Council and Mayor once, in November. If you want to read about IRV, the staff reports for the agenda items are here (PDF) and here (PDF), and Becks has a blog up about it today. But IRV is not the only important thing on tomorrow’s agenda. We’ve also got the return of the vacant building registry (PDF)

A previous stab at creating a vacant building registry came before the Council last March (PDF). The proposal, introduced by District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks, would have required the owners of vacant residential and ground floor commercial units to register their property with the City (PDF) after it had been vacant for 45 days. The proposal also included a fairly complicated fee escalation program, which would charge property owners anywhere from $175 to $5,000 for registry, depending on how long the space had been vacant. The properties would then be listed in a database maintained by City staff.

The concept isn’t unique to Oakland. Similar registries exist in Chula Vista, Fresno, Riverside County, Stockton, and San Jose. The idea is that by maintaining such a registry, cities will be better equipped to deal with the blight impacts of all the foreclosed properties they’re stuck with.

While I recognize that the large number of foreclosed and vacant properties in Oakland creates problems for the City with respect to blight and blight enforcement, I did not think, back in March, that the proposal was particularly well thought-out, and never really saw how it was going solve any of the problems it was supposed to address. A number of property owners who spoke on the item in March raised concerns that, because of the way the ordinance was written, property owners who the registry was not really intended to target would be caught by the registration requirements and fees, such as a commercial building that has even a simple vacant ground floor retail unit, empty for only a brief period of time.

In the end, the Council agreed that the proposal simply wasn’t going to work as written, and several Councilmembers said that they wanted to take a stab at their own version of it, which they would bring back later.

Now, most of the time when that happens at Council, it means that you’re never going to hear a word about it ever again. Maybe in like, three years or something. But I’m happy to report that the vacant building registry is back, and – gasp! – better. OMG.

The new ordinance, sponsored by Councilmembers Larry Reid, Desley Brooks, and Rebecca Kaplan, will require registration of residential buildings (PDF), up to four units in size, that have been foreclosed. The registration requirement kicks in once the property has been vacant for 30 days following foreclosure, and is the responsibility of the foreclosing lender. As part of the registry, the property owner must provide a maintenance plan detailing how they will keep the property compliant with the City’s minimum standards (grass no taller than 6″, no pests, no debris, no graffiti, no broken doors and roofs, etc.). In a multi-unit building, if any of the units is legally occupied, registration will not be required.

Happily, the bizarre fee escalation system has been dropped as well, replaced by a flat annual $390 registration processing fee for every building, plus an annual inspection fee of $110, for a total of $500.

So this version is clearly less burdensome and will apply to a smaller number of properties than the previous one. But how does it solve the problem of address blight in foreclosed properties? Well, that will be helped by the annual inspection. But also, the registry will ensure that the City has current information for whoever is responsible for securing, cleaning, and otherwise maintaining the property. This will make it easier to enforce existing blighted property regulations.

Isn’t it refreshing to see the City do something right?

22 thoughts on “Vacant building registry returns to Council

  1. bennett

    I like the sound of this proposal. There is a house two doors down essentially inhabited by Racoons – not even a foreclosure.

    As I understand this disaster from speaking with a director level City Staffer in the Housing Dept, they are truly ‘scratching their heads” over how to resolve this crisis. He mentioned there are about 1000 bank REO (bank owned)/ foreclosures in Oakland. He cannot compell the Banks to do anything, and they stall taking the loss on their books until they are sold which seems to work for the way they ‘cook their books.’

    After trying for months to get a modification ourselves, we are now giving up (of course) as Mods are about as real as a mirage. We are now trying the “short sell hail Mary” — This situation overall is a true tragedy – and tax base killer as well

  2. Daniel Schulman

    Wow, those fees that the cities charge are all over the place – $70/year in Chula Vista to $420/quarter in San Jose. Fines also vary a lot.

    It seems like under the proposal, the only incentive a property owner has to register is fear of noncompliance fines. I wonder, though, how worried they have to be about them – what is the likelihood they would be caught? I’m sure in the most blighted cases neighbors would report them (if they know to who), but if the registry is going to be successful it should forestall properties from becoming blighted.

    I do not know whole real estate works very well. When a property goes into foreclosure is recorded at the county or somewhere? If so, will some staff member be tasked with checking this list and comparing it against the existing registry?

    Maybe part of the fees should support a website that contains the registry and lets people know how to report foreclosed properties not on it. It might also make sense to offer part of the noncompliance fines as a whistleblower program to encourage people to report.

  3. len raphael

    it is a substantial improvement over the prior version.

    Not so so sure making the registry public and requiring prominent signage on the buildings gives a net benefit to the neighborhood. Don’t want to make it too easy for organized thieves to strip the plumbing fixtures etc. But then, there are probably web sites that list the same info with a little more effort.

    if the signage requirement hurts neighbors trying to sell, but if the city really enforces the maintenance requirement, that might be a fair trade off.

    A quarterly inspection and higher fee is needed to keep up with the expected rapid buildup in foreclosed residential buildings. Plus it will help keep CEDA inspectors employed.

  4. Bob LaMartin

    I didn’t read the last proposal, so I can’t speak to whether this version is a big improvement over the last one, but I have to agree with Mr. Raphael that the posting requirement could create more problems than it will solve. There are many vacant buildings where the owners go to a great deal of trouble to make sure they don’t look vacant, but they would be required to register and post along with all the predatory banks and their minions.

    Ownership information is public from the county, and yes, all foreclosures are required to be recorded with Alameda County Clerk. Finding the current legal owner of any building is not that difficult, unless you’re an inspector with CEDA, scratching your ass about how to “resolve this crisis.”

    Anyone can call 238-3381 and make a complaint, an inspector is scheduled to come out to inspect it within 1-3 days. If they find a violation (and too many inspectors don’t even know what constitutes a violation), they send a notice to abate within a specified time (usually 15-30 days) to the owner. The owner either abates the nuisance and the inspector signs it off, or they don’t and they get fined. Fines need to be increased to meaningful levels, but how is this registry and another layer of bureaucracy going to help this process?

    Does anyone have any feedback about how the “Blighted Properties in Oakland” list is working? 3 months of additions to this list is available at http://www.oaklandnet.com/government/ceda/revised/blighted-properties/cover-blight.html but I don’t see a master list anymore (didn’t there used to be one on the CEDA site?).

    There is no shortage of work for CEDA inspectors, just a shortage of competent inspectors, so I don’t think we need to worry about make work projects for them. Just get them to do the jobs we’re paying them for already.

    I would suggest using a process many other cities use, which is abating the public nuisance and liening the property, but the city has spent millions of dollars on repairs to vacant or abandoned properties to “protect the tax base” over the last two decades, then failed to lien the properties, or collect those amounts when the property is sold, so I’m not so sure we can count on them to use the systems that are in place, much less some new system.

    The fact that OHA, the largest single cause of blight in the city of Oakland is exempt is enough for me to not take this ordinance seriously. At least it creates the appearance of doing something.

    Bob LaMartin

  5. V Smoothe Post author

    I’m not sure what you mean about OHA being “exempt” from this ordinance, Bob. This ordinance is about foreclosed properties – it has nothing to do with OHA.

    The City does, in fact, currently employ a lien system to collect blight fines. The problem is, this is a very inefficient way to manage both blight and fine collection, and is particularly ineffective with respect to foreclosed properties. Typically, the property owner will simply allow the liens to accumulate and leave the property in a blighted state, and the City doesn’t really have any recourse until the property changes hands. Sure, we get the money eventually. But it doesn’t solve the blight problem. This is why many jurisdictions with high foreclosure rates have adopted these new systems, which work better.

    It isn’t the current owner of a building that is difficult to locate – it’s a party responsible for maintaining it. Often, the reason this is difficult is that no such person exist. It is the intent of this registry to address this problem.

  6. Bob LaMartin

    V. Smoothe,

    I guess I brought up OHA because I thought this ordinance was about blighted properties (that’s the underlying reason for the list, according to the ordinance). If it’s about blighted properties, and OHA is exempt, then the list is a joke.

    I also don’t see anything that suggests this list will be accessible to the public. The Public Records Act section makes it clear that it’s a public record, but no mention of whether community groups and citizens will be able to access it. Does that mean we will have to invoke Oakland Sunshine, California Brown or FOIA?

    The reason the lien system doesn’t work is that the city does not know how to manage those liens. They don’t do the necessary paperwork to properly place liens on the property, they don’t collect them at sale, and they don’t foreclose on them. So we DON’T get the money eventually. It just gets flushed down the Oakland toilet! There’s a huge scandal waiting to be exposed.

    I guarantee that if the city started foreclosing liens, as they are legally entitled to do, they would find both the owner and the party responsible for maintaining the property (aren’t they one in the same?). What is this nonsense about the owner of a property not being responsible to be in compliance with the zoning and building ordinances? The problem here is the belief that the owner has no responsibility for maintaining their own properties.

    Unless you’re talking about OHA, which is not held to the same standard as other property owners because of the incompetence of the inspection department which gives them a pass on all their violations.

    I’m sure there are lots of owners who tell the city that they aren’t responsible, even though they are the owner of the property, and a lot of gullible city employees who go off and scratch their heads trying to figure out what to do next, but the fact is that if the inspectors were doing their jobs, you wouldn’t need this list. On the other hand, it’s probably less harmful than harmless, so who cares? Again, it creates the appearance of doing something, and that seems to be the raison d’etre for most city action right now.

    Bob LaMartin

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    Bob, it’s about foreclosures, not blight in general. It only applies to foreclosed properties. We have existing mechanisms to address blight. The problem is that those mechanisms work particularly poorly on foreclosures, for a variety of reasons. Which is why other cities with high foreclosure rates are adopting a similar system, and why we should too. OHA is a different problem.

  8. Bob LaMartin

    OK … fair enough, it’s aimed at preventing blight at foreclosed properties.

    I still think the posting and signage requirements are going to do more harm than good, but having a master list of foreclosed properties (at least a list of those who are willing to pony up five hundred bucks to get on that list) might be helpful. Let’s see how long it takes to implement, how many property owners comply, how comprehensive the list is, and whether citizens have regular access to it.

    It’s item 19 tonight, first reading, well see if there is any discussion, but I presume it will pass.

    I tried earlier to touch on some of the reasons that the mechanisms we have in place aren’t working to address blight, and where the responsibility lies for that failure. I guess I was hoping to broaden the conversation into a more comprehensive discussion of blight in Oakland. There are parts of Oakland that are looking more and more like the set for “The Wire,” and I find that depressing.

    OHA is indeed a different problem, but they always seems to be exempt from addressing their blight, either by being specifically excluded from blight ordinances, or because they get a free pass from CEDA inspectors.

    Bob LaMartin

  9. len raphael

    BLM,

    The landscaping and outsides of the OHA projects on 49th/Manila; Tele and 52nd Street are well maintained at this point.

    People situation at 49th/Manila is ok too.

    i have problems with the high cost of OHA housing vs section 8, and the concentration of OHA housing in the flatlands.

    Are there specific OHA sites that are in bad physical shape or noise/drug dealing etc. people shape?

    -len raphael
    temescal

  10. Bob LaMartin

    Mr. Rapheal,

    The short answer is yes, there are numerous OHA sites in bad physical and social shape, and are still a nexus for crime and drug dealing.

    The long answer is you be the judge. There are 1736 OHA units in 275 buildings in Oakland

    Citywide OHA Properties
    CP Beat Address # Units
    Street Number Street Name

    4x 570 16th Street
    4x 620 17th Street
    4x 1619 Harrison 0 (administrative building)
    4x 1621 Harrison 101 (above admin)

    5x 1114 14th Street 6

    6x 541 29th Street 5
    6x 678 29th Street 4
    6x 561-65 29th Street 7
    6x 675 30th Street 5
    6x 873 32nd Street 12
    6x 714 34th Street 4
    6x 944 34th Street 4
    6x 725-29 34th Street 4
    6x 727 37th Street 8
    6x 866 37th Street 5
    6x 725 39th Street 5
    6x 624-630 Apgar Street 5
    6x 2933 MLK 15
    6x 3025 MLK 7
    6x 2922 West Street 3
    6x 3017 West Street 8
    6x 3217 West Street 6

    8x 523 32nd Street 4
    8x 537 32nd Street 12
    8x 454 36th Street 4
    8x 554 37th Street 9
    8x 3839 Clarke Street 5
    8x 85 Garland 3
    8x 421 Oakland Ave 8
    8x 59 Pearl Street 12
    8x 734 Rand Ave 5
    8x 3855 Shafter Ave 4
    8x 3901 Webster 14

    9x 676 Fairmount 6
    9x 4520 Montgomery St 4
    9x 4203 Terrace Ave 4

    10x 972 61st Street 4
    10x 920 62nd Street 4
    10x 1037 62nd Street 10
    10x 1126-30 62nd Street 8
    10x 987 63rd Street 5
    10x 1039 63rd Street 5
    10x 1131-35 63rd Street 8
    10x 6309 Baker 6

    10y 950 40th Street 27
    10y 881 41st Street 4
    10y 764-768 41st Street 7
    10y 717 43rd Street 4
    10y 945 44th Street 5
    10y 565 45th Street 6
    10y 880 45th Street 6
    10y 933 46th Street 5
    10y 827 52nd Street 5
    10y 816 60th Street 4
    10y 837 60th Street 4
    10y 5125 MLK 6
    10y 56515661 MLK 4

    11x 656-666 53rd Street 14
    11x 680 55th Street 4
    11x 659 56th Street 1
    11x 648 57th Street 5
    11x 578 58th Street 12
    11x 533-39 59th Street 9
    11x 594 63rd Street 4
    11x 755 Alcatraz 10

    12x 557 46th Street 6
    12x 582 48th Street 10
    12x 357-365 49th Street 24
    12x 5120 Shafter Ave 7
    12x 4821-25 Webster 8

    12y 368 62nd Street 5
    12y 5805 Canning Street 4
    12y 5825 Canning Street 14
    12y 5914 Colby Street 6

    14y 734 Rand 5
    14y 869 Walker 4

    15x 320 Haddon 4

    16y 2001 MacArthur ? (senior building)

    17x 1606-12 11th Avenue 20
    17x 2015-21 11th Avenue 4
    17x 2011 7th Avenue 6
    17x 1227 E. 17th Street 9
    17x 1236 E. 17th Street 10
    17x 610 E. 18th Street 12

    17y 2511 11th Avenue 4
    17y 2607 12th Avenue 4
    17y 2529 9th Avenue 4
    17y 2530 9th Avenue 15
    17y 1120 Buella Vista 5
    17y 1031 E. 24th Street 4
    17y 1305 E. 25th Street 4
    17y 1324 E. 32nd Street 5
    17y 1246-48 E. 34th Street 10
    17y 1323 MacArthur 7

    18x 1930 16th Avenue 9
    18x 1900 Commerce Way 5
    18x 1622 E. 19th Street 7
    18x 2247 E. 19th Street 5
    18x 2240-46 E. 19th Street 7
    18x 1716 E. 20th Street 4
    18x 2005 E. 21st Street 8

    18y 2527 21st Avenue 4
    18y 2333 23rd Avenue 1
    18y 2272 E. 19th Street 4
    18y 1750 E. 21st Street 5
    18y 2000 E. 21st Street 4
    18y 2212-16 E. 21st Street 4
    18y 2219 E. 22nd Street 4
    18y 1900 E. 24th Street 4
    18y 1951 E. 24th Street 5
    18y 2017 E. 24th Street 4
    18y 2146 E. 24th Street 4
    18y 2229 E. 24th Street 3
    18y 2003 E. 25th Street 4
    18y 2030 E. 25th Street 5
    18y 2630 E. 25th Street 3
    18y 2032 E. 26th Street 9
    18y 2155 E. 28th Street 5
    18y 2170 E. 28th Street 11

    19x 1737 E. 15th Street 6
    19x 1919 E. 15th Street 7
    19x 1126-28 E. 15th Street 7
    19x 1127 Foothill Blvd 11

    20x 1180 25th Avenue 0 (service center)
    20x 1815 28th Avenue 11
    20x 3014 E. 16th Street 5
    20x 2919-25 E. 16th Street 12
    20x 3000 E. 18th Street 7

    21x 2218 24th Avenue 6
    21x 2021-23 24th Avenue 6
    21x 2110 25th Avenue 6
    21x 2435 26th Avenue 6
    21x 2474 26th Avenue 7
    21x 2711 26th Avenue 7
    21x 2381 E. 21st Street 4
    21x 2439 E. 21st Street 3
    21x 2440 E. 21st Street 8
    21x 2626 E. 21st Street 4
    21x 2323 E. 22nd Street 6
    21x 2430 E. 22nd Street 5
    21x 2353 E. 24th Street 3
    21x 2402 E. 27th Street 8
    21x 2002 Mitchell Blvd 7

    21y 3336-52 Arkansas Street 14
    21y 3468 Coolidge 5
    21y 2925-33 E. 22nd Street 4
    21y 3244 Galindo St 3
    21y 3228 Logan St 4
    21y 3291-93 Lynde St 8
    21y 2943 Nicol Avenue 6
    21y 3265 Pentiss St 4
    21y 3102 Plietner 4
    21y 2995 School St 5

    22x 3590 Lincoln 4

    22y 2961 Georgia St 4

    23x 1500 38th Avenue 4
    23x 1726 38th Avenue 6
    23x 1853 38th Avenue 15
    23x 3314-20 E. 17th Street 4

    24x 2056 35th Avenue 9
    24x 2558 35th Avenue 12
    24x 2115 38th Avenue 4
    24x 2157 38th Avenue 1
    24x 3634-40 Foothill Blvd 16
    24x 4005 Lyon 6
    24x 4118 Lyon 8

    24y 2820 35th Avenue 14
    24y 3716 Allendale 3
    24y 4068 Allendale 5
    24y 4100 Allendale 3
    24y 3302 Brookdale 6
    24y 3311 Viola Avenue 1

    26x none 0

    26y 1240 77th Avenue 1
    26y 1168 78th Avenue 1
    26y 1245 95th Avenue 1
    26y 1263 95th Avenue 1
    26y 1270 95th Avenue 1
    26y 1231 97th Avenue 1

    27x 2181 48th Avenue 4
    27x 2228 48th Avenue 5
    27x 4527-31 Bond 6
    27x 4903 Congress Ave 3
    27x 4908 Congress Ave 4
    27x 5009 Congress Ave 3
    27x 5726-30 Elisabeth 20
    27x 4516 Fairfax 4
    27x 2126 High 9
    27x 5018 Melrose 4
    27x 2451 Renwick 4
    27x 4737 Ygnacio 6
    27x 5250 Ygnacio 4

    27y 1422 47th Avenue 7
    27y 1434 50th Avenue 4
    27y 1445 50th Avenue 6
    27y 1617 50th Avenue 1
    27y 1458 52nd Avenue 4
    27y 1599 54th Avenue 4
    27y 1723 62nd Avenue 4
    27y 5944 Bromley 4
    27y 5945 Bromley 4
    27y 6121 Harmon 3
    27y 6229 Hayes 6
    27y 6122 Hilton 8
    27y 1430 Seminary 8
    27y 1959 Seminary 18
    27y 2139 Seminary 12
    27y 1459-65 Seminary 8

    28x 3522 Pierson 5

    28x/29x 6238 Seminary 4

    29x 3366-3370 62nd Avenue 6
    29x 3330 72nd Avenue 8
    29x 3350 72nd Avenue 6
    29x 6645 Brann 1
    29x 6631 Lacey 6
    29x 7000 Lacey 6
    29x 6631 Laird 6
    29x 6650-56 Laird 8
    29x 5378 Walnut 1

    30x 1715 67th Avenue 1
    30x 1449 73rd Avenue 3
    30x 1486 77th Avenue 4
    30x 1448 79th Avenue 1
    30x 1644 81st Avenue 3
    30x 1763 82nd Avenue 3
    30x 2309-2317 98th Avenue 16
    30x 6916 Arthur 6
    30x 7107 Favor 4
    30x 6291 Fresno 5
    30x 7204 Holly 3
    30x 7209 Holly 5

    30y 2500-08 76th Avenue 16
    30y 2509 77th Avenue 6
    30y 2349 82nd Avenue 6
    30y 7636 Ney 6
    30y 7908 Ney 6
    30y 7950 Ney 10
    30y 7510-20 Ney 10

    32x 1844 101st Avenue 1

    32y 10438 Shaw Ave 2
    32y 10221 Stanley 4

    33x 1236 87th Avenue 1
    33x 9615 E. St 5
    33x 1061 Elmhurst 5

    34x 1639 84th Avenue 4
    34x 1730 85th Avene 6
    34x 1711 88th Avenue 3
    34x 1815 88th Avenue 3
    34x 1739 89th Avenue 6
    34x 2238 90th Avenue 6
    34x 1521 92nd Avenue 5
    34x 1733 92nd Avenue 4
    34x 1928 96th Avenue 4
    34x 9506-14 Birch St 10
    34x 9008 Cherry 4
    34x 9024 Cherry 3
    34x 9703 Cherry 4
    34x 8021 Plymouth 4
    34x 9427 Plymouth 4
    34x 9746 Plymouth 3
    34x 9320 Sunnyside 6
    34x 9711 Sunnyside 5
    34x 9220-24 Sunnyside 10
    34x 9500-10 Sunnyside 16

    35x 2282 83rd Avenue 1
    35x 2225 84th Avenue 4
    35x 2255-61 84th Avenue 12
    35x 2329 85th Avene 4
    35x 2325 86th Avenue 5
    35x 2416 88th Avenue 6
    35x 2425 94th Avenue 6
    35x 2226-30 94th Avenue 6
    35x 2308 96th Avenue 7
    35x 8330 Bancroft 4
    35x 9332 Bancroft 9
    35x 9233 Hillside 4

  11. In Sane

    Yep, $2 million more tossed into the Fox. $2 million here, $2 million there – pretty soon that adds up to real money, right?

    And that Fox is an empty box – checking their calendar, vacant nearly 90% of the time over the next four months.

    Empty like 9 out of 10 storefronts which surround the place.

    Remind me, how much did the city pay to relocate the Sears Auto center, deemed so crucial to Forest City? That which is still a fenced-off empty lot? Newsflash: since high-fives were slapped, nothing happened. Natch.

    Of course, this will all change once the city pays for a $20million+ bronze eyesore “gift.” Or so we are told. It’s all bought and sold. Redevelopment!

    But things are looking up, and if your gaze shall follow – our new proud “University” is also getting into the eyesore racket. Who the hell approved that!?!? Fork out some cash to rub shoulders with Kaplan and the Perata machine at the distinguished event. Get it on, bang a Don, pass the bong!

    Whatta mess!

    Let’s buy the developers a photocopy machine and lend them a yuppie food stamp. Find an alternate means of lining their wallets without fooking up this place.

  12. len raphael

    re the Fox bailout: despite the late hour, i got the impression that cc members were quite worried about how this one would turn out. even Pat K stuck to her guns and insisted that the selection of a performance and financial auditor of the project be made by the City Auditor’s office, not by the RDA managers of the Fox project.

    They kept talking about how complex the financing was. Not very clear who owns what and who’s on the hook for which cost overruns.

    As JQ rightfully pointed out, if we can’t run a small project like this, imagine the risks to the city of doing the Army Base.

    Running for mayor seems to have had a healthy effect on JQ.

  13. len raphael

    at tonight’ cc meeting, before the foreclosure ordinance, Sanjiv H got his ten mins or more. Just when i was ready to agree w his worst critics and throw a rotten tomato at him, he brought up a couple of items about the Port that are either off the wall or worth looking into.

    One was an allegation that the current civilian board is completely out manauvered by Port management, while at the same time the Port is is dangerous financial condition. The second is that the Port is placing much hope in doing biz with a company who’s viability is diretly tied to the Dubai economic situation. Basically, 8 toes on a banana peel.

    i still want to gag him, but i suspect there’s something to his allegations just because the council’s financial decisions and appointments have been so poor over the last decade, that i would assume the worst of the Port Board competency until proven otherwise.

  14. Max Allstadt

    I’m glad this came back, and I’m glad it’s more workable. I was supportive of Desley Brooks when she originally proposed this, because I felt somebody had to do something about a pandemic problem in this city. I was concerned about the method proposed, and I came to understand that the original proposal was overly broad.

    There are multiple types of long-term vacant buildings. This new proposal addresses one type, and does it well. Brooks was right though, in her original desire to tackle a broader problem than addressed by the current proposal. Because different types of vacancies demand different remedies, we should try to pass further legislation at a later date to tackle problem properties not covered by Kaplan’s proposal.

    This is a good start, and likely the most significant step. But what about say, a house built on spec that is still empty two years after completion, but not in foreclosure? There’s one on my block, and guess which house people choose to make drug sales in front of? We should seek ways to disincentivize long term vacancy in favor of rental. And that’s just an example. There are also plenty of houses that are vacant but have prop 13′ed tax rates so low that their value for land bankers is greater empty than it would be with the hassle of managing tenants. In short, there is more to do, and we should do it.

  15. Michelle

    You know, there is a problem in the City. But Code Enforcement is working against, not towards, a solution to the problem. Did you know that many homes are actually vacant because CEDA has forced dozens of buyers to sign agreements that don’t allow them to occupy the property until all rehabilitation has been completed?

    Does that sound “American” to you?

    http://www.auditoaklandceda.com

  16. Michelle

    The problem of addressing blight on foreclosed properties is somewhat unique to Oakland, where Code Enforcement refuses to call bank asset managers directly to have their maintenance crews address blight. In other Cities around the Bay Area, municipalities rely on the banks to keep the properties clean. Here in Oakland, Code Enforcement NEVER contacts the bank asset manager (this is documented in dozens of cases in AOC’s audit report at http://www.auditoaklandceda.com). They simply contract the work to either C&C or Lukate or Desilva or Juguyen (non of which are licensed business in Oakland) and we spend tens of thousands a day paying for blight abatement that should be performed by the property owner.

    We have blight because CEDA chooses to manage the blight itself rather than calling the property owner. This is TRUE and can be verified by any one of you reading this note. If you can find a case where CEDA/Code Enforcement has actually spoken with an asset manager and requested they clean up a property, please inform me directly.

    CEDA is backfilling pools (rather than calling Vector Control) and liening dead property owners rather than calling the asset manager.

    Municipalities around the Bay Area are dealing with this problem well by working directly with property owners, banks, to maintain their own properties.

    Oakland is hemorraging thousands a day with Code Enforcement contracting daily to do what Banks are already paying property managers to do themselves.

    See for yourself at http://www.auditoaklandceda.com

  17. V Smoothe Post author

    Okay, enough Michelle. You’ve had plenty of opportunities to promote your website and your cause. Now, it’s over. I’m sure you can find other ways to generate traffic for your blog than coming here and spamming mine.

  18. Bob LaMartin

    Well, at least there is a broad range of opinion in this thread.

    It appears that Michelle is primarily concerned with overzealous enforcement by CEDA, where my chief complaint is not enough enforcement. If people can’t maintain their properties to meet minimum code standards, and ignore these problems for so long that the city has to step in and do the work for them, I have absolutely no sympathy for the solution the city comes up with. If you don’t want the city to decide how to solve the problem for you, then demonstrate that you don’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do the minimum to prevent your property from becoming a nuisance. It’s really not that difficult.

    Calling “bank asset managers?” To what end? To ask them to pretty please keep their properties well maintained, eat well, and brush their teeth before bed? What are we, nannies? The city sends a letter to the owner, the owner either responds or they don’t. If they don’t respond, someone has to change their diapers for them. My gripe is that the city does the work, then screws up the lien so that taxpayers get gypped.

    Pools filled with stagnant water when the owners refuse to do anything that would stop lethal mosquitos from breeding? I say, Jeeves, didn’t this pool used to be filled with a clear substance where I could take my morning swim? Call the pool boy immediately! If you don’t want your pool filled with dirt, uh, how about draining the pool or keeping the water clean? I think vector control has better things to do than hold people’s hands on something so basic. This isn’t rocket science.

    Clearly banks are not paying property managers to do this work. Or maybe they’re paying, it’s just not being done. As far as I’m concerned, CEDA spending thousands of dollars to hold property owners responsible for maintaining their properties, up to and including preventing people from moving in until the work is completed, inspected, and the home is habitable sounds as American as apple pie. It’s called taking responsibility.

    It doesn’t sound very Oakland, but I don’t think it’s un-American.

    Bob LaMartin

  19. Michelle

    What the report finds is that CEDA makes no effort to contact the legal property owner. There is not a lot of kicking and screaming and dragging because property owners are not being informed. If the owner is the bank, they have a right to know that the City has a request. In the complaints AOC has audited, there is a period of usually just a few weeks from the time the complaint is verified by an inspector to the time a lien of $50,000 or more being placed upon the title. That simply is not legal. Other municipalities are having a lot of success dealing with bank asset managers; CEDA has found a very lucrative way to pad the coffers and keep several contractors very happy.

    In all cases due process must be offered. In most cases that we have audited, no due process has been provided. Many owners have been pushed into foreclosure. And CEDA has banked $12,000,000 in liens. That is a staggering number.

    If you can find an example of an honest attempt by CEDA to notify the legal owner of a property, please bring it to my attention. So far, we find improperly addressed (i.e., Property Owner at “Macarthur Blvd, Oakland” no street number; numerous cases of notices being mailed to DEAD people).

    CEDA is blocking Oaklander’s efforts to improve their properties. CEDA is inserting itself into escrows and preventing sales of homes by processing illegal liens. The liens themselves are illegal for numerous reasons (i.e., they lack reference to OMC, they are recorded prior to abatement notices being served on property owners, they are recorded despite conditions being abated, they are recorded for matters that are beyond the scope of CEDA).

    I am not comfortable with how CEDA is making its money. I am watching people lose their homes because of these policies.

  20. Jim

    I’m not sure that they ever get ahead blighted properties. I noticed a friend’s property is on the list Bob referenced. He has been on the list many times! The city cleans up the property and bills him. It rolls into a lien and is left on his tax bill until he decides to sell his property.
    He allows junk to build up in the yard again and complaints roll in. The process starts over. The city needs to work with property owners to keep control of the problem.
    Perhaps an offer to waive liens if the owner can keep the property clean for a period of time or sell it to a responsible person?
    I have friends who want to use the first time homebuyer program the city has. How about the city trying to deal directly with empty and blighted property owners to get responsible buyers into those houses?

  21. NA

    This is joke; any one who thinks this will help is crazy. This is like taking a pain killer when your arm is broken. It does nothing to solve the underlying problem. First and foremost blight is a joke enforcement is a joke in this city, it only effects people who are not politically connected, Just as with zoning and planning. If you want any thing done you need the paid support of a counsel member, and after you get it you baicly have free rain to do as you will. But I am getting off topic.

    Is I deal with bank foreclosed houses every day I know that most banks will have trouble keeping up with this law. Then the city will place a lean on the house, then the city will start charging several thousand dollars for $20 worth of work, and when that is not paid the city will charge a ridicules interest rate. The result, the house will with leans at a reduced price. Thus a reduced tax base and long term loss of tax revenue. Plus any short term fees collected by the city will with out a question be squander away.

    My company has have invested 1.5 million in Oakland the last year, but are now pulling out because it is simply impossible to work with the city. So good buy Oakland and good reidens. I can’t wait until the state has to come and take over.