Thanks to Cindy B. for attending the County’s foreclosure meeting and reporting back to us! Here is what her report:
There were only about 13 people there, most had only heard about it from the newspaper article. It was supposed to have been a meeting in their series of Neighborhood Leader Training sessions and the subject was supposed to be vehicles and parking, but because of the tall grass crisis, they changed the topic and got the word out as best they could. This information is also the same as what Michelle Casciato presented to the BOCS meeting last week (you can listen to the audio on the county website). She also showed a map of the county as part of her presentation that showed dots where the worst clusters of vacant houses are. There are almost 7000 “distressed properties” – or vacant houses in the county (doesn’t include occupied houses that are for sale). The county has, to date this year, received 400 tall grass complaints and 400 graffiti complaints. Because of the problem the county has suspended the popsicle sign program to put all inspectors’ time on the vacant house/tall grass issue. In fact, the TOP 5 priority code enforcement issues (putting health, safety and welfare first) are:
1. Unsafe/unfit properties (open to criminal activity)
2. Unsecured pools
3. Unsecured buildings (hazardous conditions)
4. Tall grass/weeds
5. Building maintenance (serious/extremely run down)
The county is looking into training volunteers to pull up popsicle signs
Legal action the county is pursuing:
1. Write ordinance to allow county agents to enter private property to abate graffiti
2. Amend Chapter 22 to allow public works to issue emergency notices for trash/debris at vacant properties and recover costs through tax lien
3. Pursue major property owners/lenders in court for noncompliance with county ordinance
Technically it is trespassing to remove trash on a property or mow the lawn. Call the agent/owner and ask permission.
County can’t afford to paint over all graffiti on private property. City of San Jose spends $2 million a year to clean up graffiti. PWC Clean Community Council uses a special formula to get rid of graffiti, but even they can’t go on private property without permission. County would like to get rid of graffiti within 3 days, but still dealing with obstacles.
County is working to streamline the process of an inspector going out to confirm tall grass, getting a contractor to do an estimate to mow, then mowing, then inspector following up.
If you see a lawn is mowed, call and let Neighborhood Services know.
County is disseminating this information to Neighborhood Watches, HOAs, etc.:
Neighborhood Network Activation
Vacant house check list for health, safety and welfare issues Disseminate to groups such as established neighborhood groups, neighborhood watches, and other concerned citizen groups upon request Solicit neighborhood volunteers to monitor vacant houses in neighborhoods to report unsafe conditions Neighborhood Services to address reported unsafe conditions from volunteers
Go ahead and ask the realtor if you can mow the grass. Someone in audience (about 13 people attended) admitted to just mowing a vacant property. She said when she did, the neighbors came up and asked if she was moving in, and then once they saw It was okay for her to do it, they helped out.
County calls realtors to explain to them how much it costs the county to mow a lawn and how that will go on a lien against the property and that may drive a buyer away.
If you get together as a group to take care of a vacant house (and get permission from the owner/real estate agent/bank), remember to greet the new neighbor when they move in and make sure they feel welcome, but also explain what the standards are for living in the neighborhood, such as regularly mowed lawns, etc.
County wants you to do this:
- Call police if you observe any illegal activity at a vacant property
- Consider starting or joining a Neighborhood Watch
- Volunteer to watch a home for a realtor. Establish a relationship, notify them when the grass is tall and notify them when the house has a structural problem (siding down, broken shutter or window, open doors, etc.)
- Volunteer to mow (avoid trespassing – obtain permission from the owner or call the realtor on the For Sale sign. Use the county “Mapper” on the county website to ID who the owner is.
- Report property code violations to Neighborhood Services (and call if the grass gets mowed)
- Complete the “Eyes and Ears” Checklist (this is on the county website)