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Wednesday, Aug 08, 2012 - Last Blog on Earth | News

What to do with a blighted foreclosure

Activists 'deposit' trash and debris on Bank of America's doorstep

By Hutton Marshall
bofa7 Activists unload furniture in front of Bank of America
- by Hutton Marshall
CityBeat's reported on the efforts by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and the Center on Policy Initiatives (CPI) to get a Property Value Protection Ordinance—similar to ones in place in Chula Vista, Long Beach and a number of other cities—passed in San Diego. From a November story

In tracking foreclosures by zip code, the CPI study highlighted the fact that the neighborhoods hardest hit are the city's poorest and most densely populated—City Heights, Southeast San Diego and Otay Mesa—where folks don't always complain for fear of retaliation if the home's been overrun by the sort of people Castellanos encountered.

Meanwhile, the city's Neighborhood Code Compliance Department is at its lowest staffing level in seven years, and a position created specifically to deal with vacant properties was eliminated in 2010, said Bob Vacchi, the department's deputy director. Right now, Vacchi has only 11 inspectors to handle all housing- and building-related issues citywide.

CPI and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), a group that advocates for low-income communities, think they’ve found a solution. Similar to laws in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Chula Vista, a proposed Property Value Protection Ordinance (PVPO) would require banks to register a property with the city—and pay a fee—within 30 days of issuing a notice of default, the first step in the foreclosure process, whether the property’s vacant or not. The fee's not been set, but other cities charge around $150. Should a bank fail to register a property within that time period, there would be a fine starting at $100 a day. Additional fines would be levied on lenders who fail to maintain vacant properties or don’t file with the city a document promising to repair, rehab or demolish the property.

Last month, a City Council committee voted to have the City Attorney draft an ordinance that's expected to go to the full council this fall. 

To drive home why such a law's needed, on Tuesday, ACCE organized a rally around a blighted, foreclosed home that's owned by Bank of America. CityBeat intern Hutton Marshall grabbed his camera and documented their efforts. 
—Kelly Davis



The property, located at 287 Southlook Ave. in Mountain View, was foreclosed by Bank of America more than six months ago. 



Neighbors say the that B of A has completely neglected the property and people come there to dump their trash.



On Tuesday, Aug. 7, members of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) gathered with neighbors to load up all the trash dumped at the house and take it directly to Bank of America’s doorstep. 



After a pickup truck was filled to the brim, ACCE's Dave Lagstein explained, “We’re here to tell big banks they need to take responsibility for their communities.” Lagstein and other speakers talked about the importance of a proposed ordinance to hold banks accountable for the upkeep of foreclosed properties. 



Juanita Clemons (left), who’s been living in the house across the street since 1955, says she no longer feels safe because of the “thugs, roaches and rats” the foreclosed house attracts. 



Meanwhile, over at Bank of America, several San Diego police offers were waiting for ACCE's arrival. Officer Diana de los Reyes said she didn't expect trouble, but that she might have to give out littering citations. Bank of America Security Manager Darrell Freeman had locked the bank and stood outside, telling customers to come back later. 



ACCE begins unloading their “deposit.” 


Chanting “Bank of America, you’re the worst, time to put the people first!” ACCE unloaded a couch and bags of garbage. 


Lagstein and others attempted to move everything into the bank's lobby, but found that the doors were locked. 


One ACCE member noticed Freeman standing nearby. “The bank is currently closed,” he said before walking away. 


The entire rally, and media, followed Freeman for comment. 


Realizing they wouldn't be able to get inside the bank, ACCE called it a day and left the items near the entrance. Officer De Los Reyes said police didn’t get involved because the garbage was close enough to the bank to be considered private property, and Bank of America decided not to press charges.