Growing Caseload of Abandoned Houses

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NBC San Diego

The foreclosure crisis has left a long trail of fallout in the form of abandoned houses and commercial buildings. City neighborhood code enforcers are dealing with a caseload in the high hundreds.

Whether they're remodels that ran out of money, deserted offices and showrooms, or houses left haphazardly boarded up -- they tempt criminal elements and trash surrounding property values.

Neighbors and realtors are complaining and the city's responding with legal and legislative action.

All one abandoned place on South 65th Street lacks is a welcome mat for transients, drug users, pimps, prostitutes and pyromaniacs.

"That's a fire hazard. When you see mattresses like this lying next to dry, tall weeds, that's a serious fire hazard," said City Code Enforcement Engineer Tony Khalil.

Code enforcement officials have posted it as a public nuisance in line for forcible abatement at the owner's expense.

The City Council is looking at requiring owners of properties left vacant more than two years to file plans to put them to productive use.

"And as long as there's information that they're attempting, they're trying to sell, lease, rehabilitate it, that's just really the starting point of the dialogue," said Chief Deputy City Attorney Diane Silva-Martinez.

A relatively high-end, commercial example of all this is the old Casa di Baffi/Pernicano's restaurant site in Hillcrest, which has been vacant for nearly 30 years.

"My constituents are outraged, certainly, about the Pernicano's site, but other sites in my district," said 3rd District Councilmember Todd Gloria. "You know, if you're in the middle of a busy business district and you have a whole city block that's a blank slate, that invites homeless encampments, criminal activity."

In many cases abandoned properties are held by banks and other lenders, leaving city lawyers and code enforcers to deal with red tape snarls and delayed responses.

Prolonged failure to comply can bring fines of up to $5,000 a year.

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