This tough approach is the largest overhaul of abatement regulations since they were imposed on the City in 1972
By Daniel Garay
At the City Council meeting on March 21, Ordinance No. 2346 was introduced by unanimous agreement from council members. This ordinance amends the abatement regulations in the municipal code to allow the City to enter vacant properties and rid the premises of ‘nuisances.’ These include things such as: landscaping, weeds, pests, wildlife, coyotes, and squatters.
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.
Jim Kasama, Community Development Administrator, gave the staff report and answered questions from council members on the proposed ordinance. Kasama also stated that this ordinance sets to update the City abatement regulations. This is the largest overhaul of abatement regulations since they were imposed on the City in 1972 with very few updates since then.
There is a registration period (yet to be officially determined); citations which increase each day there is no response from and owner; and the City will be able to enter and abate a property within 24 hours on contact. This can supposedly be done without a court order, but only after all attempts to contact the owner have been exhausted. The City Attornery, Stephen Deitsch, suggested to air on the side of caution and advised the Council that an investigative warrant should be obtained as well. Residential construction sites that cease activities will be subject to the new ordinance.
Council Member Tay, questioned if this affects residents who leave for a long trip. The answer, so far, is that they will have to register as well. But how to spread word of this new registry to the citizenry was not clear.
Some ideas floated around were using press releases, placing the notice on water bills, and having an online registration, all with their pros and cons.
There were concerns about a registration fee. The Council did not believe a fee would be fair for it would seem that the City is trying to punish homeowners. The language to place a registration fee, however, was kept on in the case the rollout of the registry gather few responses.
During the discussion session of the ordinance, City officials see this as a ‘win-win’ and something long overdue.
Council Member April Verlato threw her support for the ordinance. 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.
After agreeing that there will be no fee for the moment, (and a change in a pronoun for gender-neutral language) the ordinance was introduced unanimously.
The ordinance will go to a formal vote for adoption on the April 4 council meeting.