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El Centro Mulls Fines for Owners of Blighted Properties

EL CENTRO — Property owners in El Centro may soon be required to register their properties containing empty buildings or vacant lots with the city because of numerous resident complaints and potential safety hazards.

An ordinance was proposed on a prescribed code for dealing with these properties by Community Services Department Director Adriana Nava at the city council meeting March 3.

There was no action taken as Nava employed an audio-visual presentation and the council waived a vote on the first reading. A second reading and final approval could be done on March 17. Should the new ordinance be adopted it would be administered by the Community Development Department.

Reasons for Ordinance

“There has been a lot of vacant buildings or lots throughout the city and litter in these buildings or lots creates a blight,” said Nava. “Property owners will be required to register their properties and security and maintenance are the responsibility of the owners or their agents.”

Many vacant properties are the responsibility of out-of-area owners, banks or lenders and the city has difficulty locating the current owner for the property, she explained. Even if located, there is difficulty obtaining an abatement even though some of these parcels are potential fire hazards and have the ability to jeopardize the safety of neighboring properties.

The ordinance will have thee specific purposes. First, owners must register with El Centro current contact information to track, inspect and monitor these properties and identify responsible parties if the property lacks maintenance or security.

Second, the ordinance states specific security and maintenance standards for vacant property so unwanted persons cannot enter, the property is not a nuisance and is maintained to the standards of surrounding properties.

Possible Fines

Third, a mechanism will be created through administrative citations and establish penalty fees for failure to comply with registration requirements, explained Nava. Violations could result in an administrative penalty with an initial violation of $100 per day that may escalate to $300 or $500 for each day of noncompliance.

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The draft proposal also provides for increased penalties of $1,000 a day if noncompliance happens more than three times in a year. In cases where there is a health or safety threat, the ordinance would permit a summary abatement with an assessment or lien against the property. It was also recommended fines could be imposed based upon square footage.

Should the ordinance be adopted Community Development will mail ordinance information to property owners and realtors. In addition, it will advertise through social media with the aim of alerting out-of-town property owners.

James Garcia, broker/owner of Capital Real Estate, made a public comment at the meeting supporting the proposed ordinance. “We hope to be a part of the solution because we’re very much in favor of the ordinance,” he said. “We all live in the community and love this community and we’d like to see it improved.”

“We hope to be a part of the solution because we’re very much in favor of the ordinance,” he said. “We all live in the community and love this community and we’d like to see it improved.”


This story is featured in the Mar 05, 2020 e-Edition.