While the ordinance was made to contact owners for nuisances, it may also help bolster public safety
By Daniel Garay
The passage of the new ordinance, which will create a registry of homeowners’ contact information, has received praise from local homeowners associations (HOAs).
Ordinance 2346 overhauls regulations the City has on ‘nuisances’ such as weeds, vermin, and squatters. It was passed on April 4 unanimously.
The ordinance was at first suggested by Mayor Tom Beck during the City Council meeting regarding the coyote-trapping measure on Feb. 21. Vacant houses, however, have been an issue simmering in the minds of residents who have seen them as part of the coyote problem, giving the animals food as well as a safe den while lowering the supply of coveted Arcadian housing, among other nuisances.
Construction sites in the area have also become an inviting place for living things, plants, and animals alike. Although they have their own regulations to follow for cleaning, some sites have done less of a good job at that. One such example was a site on 800 Hampton Road, where trash lies in mounds covered from view by a green fence. There are many sites in the area with similar heaps of garbage.
According to the City report on the ordinance, “Many homes throughout the City appear vacant or unoccupied. They include houses that have been built during the past few years that have never been occupied as well as homes that are occupied on a very limited basis because they are being held as investment properties or vacation/second homes. These vacancies disrupt the community fabric of the neighborhoods in which they exist.”
Three of the five HOAs contacted responded well to what the new regulations set to do. They believe that this will make it easier to keep tabs on the many vacant houses throughout Arcadia.
The most at risk buildings are the mansions. Some mansions in Arcadia are known to be notoriously empty and while their owners are away, the large lots fill with things like standing water, animals, mosquitoes, and even robbers, who come by to hit the house every now and then after a good find.
President of the Santa Anita Oaks HOA, Richard Midgley, blasted the empty houses as not good for the neighbors. He, however, believed the long overdue, but nevertheless, welcomed ordinance would help programs like the Street Captain Program, which concerned residents can be on the watch for any problems. Now, there will be a way to contact owners if there is an emergency.
Another HOA leader, Mrs. Sharon Kwan, President of the Rancho Santa Anita Property Owner’s Association, believes that the ordinance is much needed for the community. “When homes are vacant, they tend to be burglarized, Kwan said, regarding several incidents in the past. “If they have a gain, they come back over again.”
There have been a number of incidents in the area of Mrs. Kawn’s HOA that have been burglarized multiple times. She claims that in houses like the ones on Orange Grove Avenue and Singing Wood Drive are subject to multiple robberies. Empty houses on Orange Grove Boulevard make an easy, consistent catch; so do the quiet houses off the main roads, like Singing Wood Drive. Kwan said that once an empty house shows promise, it incentivizes and motivates criminals.
President of the Rancho Santa Anita Resident’s Association, Kevin Tomkins, reminded himself of times where there were homeless finding shelter in the empty homes and lots. Among the other problems the empty houses bring, Tomkins said he spend at least two-thirds of his time and as HOA president on them. He, too, looks forward to the new fix. “Whatever gives the City more power to do what they need to do is what the residents want.”
Other HOA leaders did not respond to calls for comment.
Council Member April Verlato knows how empty houses negatively affect the community; she ran because of it. Verlato, herself a former HOA leader for the Highlands, was hopeful for this ordinance saying that this is an opportunity to establish compliance.
Verlato backed the ordinance, along with the rest of City Council. She told a story about a neighbor who hardly occupied a residence (only to pay the gardener every 30 days). There was a leak at the property, where water ran for days until the gardener turned the water off. It was not until the end of the month, did the owner come back to see the damage that completely destroyed the inside of the house. There was no way to contact the owner to address the situation. This same home had also suffered two break-ins within a couple weeks of each other, according to Arcadia police reports.
While the ordinance sets to keep the properties groomed for city compliance, it also has the effect of making public safety work more efficiently in contacting owners. HOA President Midgley hopes that this will allow HOAs to keep track of their neighbors by supplementing their neighborhood watch programs.