Wednesday, May 27, 2009

City of Berkeley Fails to Enforce Blight Ordinance

Sadly, the City of Berkeley fails to enforce it's own blight ordinance. Multiple requests for enforcement of the blight ordinance and removal of abandoned and inoperable vehicles in South Berkeley have failed to produce much, if any results. The lack of enforcement appears to be a systemic problem within the City ranks. In an effort to shed light on this lack of enforcement, two public records act requests have been made of the City Manager, Phil Kamlarz. One request relates to all City documents that pertain to the City of Berkeley policy not to enforce the removal of acid etching from windows becauseCity staff believe it is too great an economic hardship for residents and businesses. Deputy City Manager Lisa Carona stated that the City does not enforce the removal of acid etching as a form of graffiti. However, she could not provide any specific reference to existing City policy that allows the City staff to essentially ignore this form of blight. Nor could she provide any specific guidance on applying this affordability standard across businesses. What this means is that large amounts of graffiti go unabated for years, attracting even more graffiti and blight. There is nothing specific that we could find in the City regulations, laws, ordinances, or policies that specifically direct the City staff not to enforce abatement of acid etching. There does not seem to be any guidance for the application of this underground regulation. In addition, a public records act request has been submitted for all blight enforcement documents that relate to 3058 Shattuck Avenue, Motor City Auto Repair. This property has several significant blight issues including overgrown weeds, cracked and lifted sidewalks, peeling paint, inoperable vehicles, graffiti, acid etching and temporary signs. Despite requests for enforcement at this property, the City has apparently has done very little to get the property owner into compliance since the property remains pretty much the same since it was reported to the City over a year ago. It is unfortunate the City has chosen to spend its time and effort on public record act requests rather than on enforcing the blight ordinance.