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San Diego Requires Abandoned Homes to Be Maintained

City staff said vacant properties eventually become blighted, are fire hazards and crime magnets, and lower values of surrounding properties.

The San Diego City Council today unanimously passed an ordinance requiring owners of abandoned homes to keep their properties in reasonable condition.    Under the new regulations, the city can send code enforcement officers to vacant houses and fine the owners – in many cases, banks. The regulations close loopholes that allowed abandoned properties to languish for years.   

“This is a good thing,” Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said. “We've had some problematic areas in our districts. Some of them took months and months and months (to fix).”

The previous regulations only applied to vacant properties that were boarded up or unsecured.   

City staff said vacant properties eventually become blighted, are fire hazards and crime magnets, and lower values of surrounding properties. Owners of blighted vacant properties could be prosecuted for misdemeanors under the new ordinance, or be held civilly liable.   

Owners will be required to – among other things – secure doors and windows of abandoned houses, maintain landscaping, clear debris and erect barriers to discourage illegal littering.   

A second proposed law targeting banks was scheduled to be taken up at a special night council session.   

The Responsible Banking Ordinance would have banks with which the city of San Diego does business file reports on neighborhood lending practices.   

The plan by council President Tony Young would have banks submit annual data on their home and small business lending, modifications of distressed loans, foreclosure information, community investment, employment diversity and their number of jobs.   

Young also wants two-year community reinvestment plans to be submitted for residential and small business lending in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.    His proposed ordinance also calls for the city to establish a Community Reinvestment Review Committee made up of council members and mayoral staff to recommend which banks should receive city deposits and handle financial transactions.   

Several other large cities have similar requirements, and Los Angeles adopted a similar law earlier this year, Young said.

–City News Service

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