The white house on Jewell Drive has been in Michelle Bryant’s family for generations, but now she says squatters have taken it over and they’re trashing the main house and a smaller home in the back.
“That apartment was built for my father, and my father is no longer with me,” said Bryant, who refers to the property as part of her family’s legacy.
Discarded pill bottles, broken glass and debris were scattered around the outside of the property. There are holes in the stucco of the Spanish-style house, and graffiti on some of the walls
Inside the small home in the back, all the copper piping had been stolen. Additionally, there was a bed on the floor with a blanket which Bryant said were not there the last time she inspected.
“Every day I keep boarding it up, and they keep coming,” said Bryant, who explained that last month San Diego Code Enforcement officers cited her for the poor living conditions.
Bryant jointly owns the property with two of her cousins. The last family member who lived there died in 2007. Since then there have been renters, but the property has been vacant. Until the cousins learned someone had taken up residency.
“I thought I was renting,” admitted Ashley Coleman who claims she paid $1,200 per month to the man who lives next door, a man she said posed as the landlord. “I was bamboozled.”
The man next door disagreed with Coleman and called her a liar. He argued that the house is a hive of alleged illegal activity — and that Coleman is reportedly at the center of it.
The San Diego Police Department revealed that officers were called to the property a total of 24 times in the past year. Most of those calls were related to trespassing, but police also responded to a call of domestic violence and two calls for auto theft.
Coleman said she would never do anything illegal, and that she’s been victimized by criminals that target the home, breaking windows, cutting the electricity, and committing other acts of vandalism. She said she wants to move out but has no place to go.
Bryant’s family has filed court paperwork to have Coleman evicted. This process can take time; therefore, the family is hoping a judge will sign the papers and send San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies to the house to forcibly remove anyone else who does not belong there.
Bryant’s family claimed damages to their home exceeded $40,000, and that the water bill alone is more than $2,800.
“We want to be able to get our house back into our possession and restore it,” said Bryant, who is hoping to find a family that will respect and take care of her family’s legacy.
For more information about your rights as a landlord or tenant in California, visit the state's website.