Jim J from the Excelsior asks: “My neighbor died. She was such a nice lady I miss her and I also miss how she used to care for her yard. Her son inherited the place,he was never any good to her and was always trouble growing up. He hasn’t gotten any better with age. Since he moved in he has been “collecting things” mostly old cars but also tires, rims and other auto parts. He uses the garage to fix up old cars that he then sells. Most of the junk just stays there and rusts. It’s a scrap yard. Weeds are growing and I have seen rats running in and out. It’s disgusting. What can I do about it?”
Dear Jim; you have a right to expect that your neighbor will keep their property reasonably clean.The conditions you referred to are commonly known as “blight” and San Francisco has an ordinance, called the Community Preservation and Blight Reduction Act, contained within the S.F. Administrative Code (Sec. 80.1), that codifies the responsibilities of a landowner to maintain their property.
The Board of Supervisors, in Section 80.2, determined that properties that are in a condition of significant deterioration or disrepair, attract vagrants, gang members and other criminal elements as prime locations to conduct their illegal criminal activities, cause general deterioration and instability and substantially endanger the health and safety of residents of the blighted properties and of the surrounding neighborhoods. The Department of Public works is empowered to issue notices of violation and take action to remedy blighted properties under the doctrine of nuisance.
The presence of any accumulation of filth, garbage, decaying animal or vegetable matter, waste paper, hay, grass, straw, weeds, vegetation overgrowth, litter, trash, cigarette or cigar butts, unsanitary debris, waste material, animal or human excrement is a nuisance prohibited under law. Likewise, “overgrown, dead or decayed trees, weeds or other vegetation, rank growth, rubbish, junk, garbage, litter, debris, flyers or circulars,” are recognized as a fire hazards and conditions that promote the spread of vermin. As to the “scrap yard,” Section 80.3 specifically identifies any property which contains, in the outdoor area, any refrigerator, washing machine, sink, stove, heater, boiler, tank or any other household equipment, machinery, furniture, or item, appliance or appliances as being blighted.
Whenever the Director of DPW determines that a property is blighted, the Director may require or take any necessary abatement or other enforcement actions to cause the property blight to be abated. The Director, or his appointee can inspect the property and require the owner to pay for a property inspection fee of up to $250.00. Under Section 80.4 the DPW can issue an abatement order requiring the landowner to, as soon as possible, and no later than 15 days after notice of the violation although they can apply for an extension. A person cited also can request a hearing challenging the citation in front of an administrative law judge.
The Director of Public Works can file a notice of abatement against the title of a delinquent property owner. If the owner fails to abate the nuisance the Director can order the DPW to do so and then place a lien on the landowners property. A lien is a notice filed in the County Recorder’s Office against the title that indicates a debt is owed to The City for the costs associated with the abatement. Upon sale or transfer of the property The City must be paid in order to secure clear title.
So Jim, I suggest that you contact the DPW either by dialing 311, or by going to the sf311.org website searching “blight,” and request that they come out and inspect the property. Hopefully they will do so, serve a citation, and cause the neighbor to abate the nuisance. In case the DPW fails to take action, you, as an owner affected by the blight, can request an injunction in the Superior Court. An injunction is an order by the court that someone either stop doing something they are doing, or an order compelling them to do something.
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