San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Thursday he’ll increase funding to go after problem landlords after a Voice of San Diego and KPBS investigation showed tenants aren’t getting much help from the city fighting cockroaches, mold and other substandard housing conditions.

One landlord, Bankim Shah, owns nearly 90 properties, many of them in disrepair despite dozens of formal complaints against them.

“We have to send a very strong message and very strong enforcement that that kind of stuff will not be tolerated in any neighborhood in San Diego,” Faulconer told KPBS’s “Midday Edition.”

Faulconer also said he’d take a look at the city’s code enforcement strategy, which has left tenants in the lurch even after they’ve filed complaints with the city against their landlords.

Neighborhood Code Compliance Deputy Director Mike Richmond told KPBS and Voice of San Diego last fall his department doesn’t have enough resources to build big cases against problem landlords. Instead, it clears isolated complaints as they come.

Richmond also said inspectors can’t help with roach and rat infestations despite a law written by state Sen. Ben Hueso that says otherwise.


We Stand Up For You. Will You Stand Up For Us?

Though that law passed in late 2013, inspectors still haven’t been trained and certified to take on new kinds of enforcement.

Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Neighborhood Services David Graham said that’s because the department has been in transition, and because the existing workload (Richmond estimated inspectors went on 6,000 calls in 2014) and a backlog of medical marijuana cases have kept staff busy.

Development Services Director Bob Vacchi estimated that certification could be completed in the next six months.

Faulconer said on “Midday Edition” the city needs to get up to speed on state housing laws.

“When it comes to rules that have to be enforced, the city has to do that,” Faulconer said. “We’re protecting families, we’re protecting our neighborhoods.”

Council members David Alvarez, Marti Emerald and Myrtle Cole issued a memo in January calling for more resources to proactively enforce the state’s substandard housing laws.

The mayor’s draft budget is expected in April, and the final budget is due out in June.

    This article relates to: Government, Housing

    Written by Megan Burks

    Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her directly by emailing meburks@kpbs.org.

    6 comments
    bgetzel
    bgetzel subscriber

    Congratulations to Megan and VOSD! When a news organization's work helps better peoples' lives, it has really accomplished something. I hope VOSD will keep an eye on this issue, to see that the City follows through.

    Matty Azure
    Matty Azure subscriber

    First let's build a new stadium. Then we'll worry about the rats.

    Signed,

    "All Property Management"

    lorisaldana
    lorisaldana subscriber

    Paying for the staff needed to enforce these codes and inspect possible violations is always a challenge. In 2010, after serving as Chair of Housing/Community Development, I proposed a way to provide funding for more inspections and prosecution of negligent property owners, and authored AB 2317. It would have allowed local governments to recoup some of the costs of going after slumlords, by using liens and other financial measures.

    "AB 2317, Saldaña. Local government: nuisance abatement. Existing law authorizes the legislative body of a city or county to establish a procedure to use a nuisance abatement lien or a special assessment to collect abatement costs and related administrative costs.

    This bill would authorize, until January 1, 2014, the legislative

    body of a city or county to also collect fines related to the nuisance abatement using a nuisance abatement lien or a special assessment."

    However, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure:

    BILL NUMBER: AB 2317 VETOED DATE: 09/30/2010

    To the Members of the California State Assembly:

    I am returning Assembly Bill 2317 without my signature.

    It is important that the due process rights of homeowners are

    balanced against a local government's right to collect a nuisance

    abatement fine. The current system that requires a local government

    to seek judicial approval to impose a lien properly balances these

    opposing interests.

    For this reason I am unable to sign this bill.

    Sincerely,

    Arnold Schwarzenegger

    And so local taxpayers continue to foot the bill as property owners continue to flaunt the law.

    Felix Tinkov
    Felix Tinkov subscribermember

    Way to go, Megan!  Nice to see the news have an effect on the city.  Let's hope they straighten out the priorities of the code enforcement division to ensure that extra money is not spent on matters of less importance.

    msginsd
    msginsd subscriber

    @Felix Tinkov Like I said in another comment, it's not about spending more money, it's about establishing policies and priorities and seeing that they're carried out.  You know, leading.  You cannot lead when you're being led around on a leash by organizations like the Lincoln Club, the Chamber of Commerce, or the San Diego County Hotel Motel Association.


    "Neighborhood Code Compliance Deputy Director Mike Richmond told KPBS and Voice of San Diego last fall his department doesn’t have enough resources to build big cases against problem landlords. Instead, it clears isolated complaints as they come."


    Sounds like NCC needs new management who can prioritize rather than just address complaints "as they come".


    "Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Neighborhood Services David Graham said that’s because the department has been in transition, and because the existing workload (Richmond estimated inspectors went on 6,000 calls in 2014) and a backlog of medical marijuana cases have kept staff busy.

    Development Services Director Bob Vacchi estimated that certification could be completed in the next six months."


    That says it all.  "In transition".  Besides putting the evil weed ahead of ensuring that people have a healthy and safe place in which to live, it takes the city entirely too long to address organizational issues.  For example, look at the org chart of the IT department.  Half of the management are interim assignments (including the Director) or outright vacant.  They've been that way for a year.  Unbelievable.