Dear Red Phone:
There is a house on Third and Benassi streets in Gilroy with two inoperable cars sitting in the driveway that haven’t been moved for years, a large section of broken down fence and four feet high weeds. What can be done about this eye sore?
Thank you, good caller, for asking about this house that is well-known to Red Phone. We have noticed that in an area of generally well-kept homes, this corner house has fallen into worsening disrepair for a number of years, impacting housing values and, in general, is just a sad looking property. Red Phone has been working diligently with Code Enforcement and the weed and vehicle Abatement departments for the last several months to see what, if anything, can be done.
Like many other things, it’s complicated. Because the house is on private property, the process to make code corrections can be long and difficult. The homeowner who lives there has been non-responsive to phone calls, letters and citations that have been left on his door. Unless there is a safety issue that causes imminent danger, a homeowner has the general freedom to maintain a home to his or her liking. So although there are specific blight codes about the storage of inoperable vehicles and out-of-control weeds, there are no blight codes about damaged fences.
Scott Barron, of Code Enforcement, is working on the fence issue. “The city needs to follow due process before going onto someone’s private property. We are still trying to get the owner’s compliance. Since the fence is not posing a life threatening or safety issue and is not in the public’s way, it would be unusual for the city to make the fence repairs. It would take quite a bit of work including staff reports, public hearings, council approval, property liens, writing the scope of work, getting contractor bids, requesting bids and then overseeing the work itself.”
The good news is that the weed abatement department had the tall, dry weeds mowed down in early summer as the weeds presented a safety issue to drivers whose vision was blocked by them as they made their turn onto Third Street.
Last week, after a series of letters and citations without any response from the owner, the city’s vehicle abatement department finally towed the two vehicles that had become permanent fixtures on the driveway for so many years.
Mary Escamilla, who lives across the street, expressed her gratitude, “Thank you to the city for taking these much needed steps in cleaning up this house.”
The remaining item is the fallen-down fence which faces the busy Third Street. Red Phone wondered if a volunteer task force, comprised of concerned neighbors, might be able to repair the fence. “It is completely legal for neighbors to help – but they should get the owner’s approval, first,” explained Barron.
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Dear Red Phone: