East Bay city approves new stringent standards for unsightly vacant buildings, sites

Unkempt vacant buildings and sites in Brentwood could face fines
if not brought up to new standards under regulations the City
Council unanimously approved.

Prompted by numerous resident complaints about the
“unsightly” appearance of Deer Ridge Golf Club and clubhouse,
which closed in 2019, Councilwoman Karen Rarey asked for stronger
measures to address blight.

While the city’s nuisance ordinance already covered vacant
properties, it did not address all of the issues, including ones
residents had about the materials used to board up buildings, and
other blight such as orange plastic temporary barriers at the golf
course.

“While the closure of the Deer Ridge Golf course and its
boarded-up clubhouse spurred the initial agenda item request in
January, it was meant to address all boarded-up buildings
throughout the town,” Rarey later said.

Casey McCann, community development director, said that unkempt
sites “can be a major detriment to the community, so this intent
is to improve the city’s overhaul quality of life.”

Currently, citations are issued for code violations not taken
care of within 10 days of notice. Citations are $100, $200, and
then $500 for all subsequent notices.

McCann, who introduced the amendment to the city’s ordinance
at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, said the proposal adds
“substandard and dangerous buildings” to the list of city
nuisances, which already include junk and debris, overgrown
vegetation, vermin, vehicles and hazardous materials.

Vacant
buildings will be subject to new stringent requirements in
residential neighborhoods where plywood can no longer be used to
board up buildings, nor can plastic or concrete barriers or
chain-link fences be set up unless construction is being done.

The amended ordinance will also strengthen and expand the
current scope of rules, including the type of acceptable temporary
fencing, screening and material for boarding up buildings.

“Not all vacant buildings are bad, some may be up for sale or
lease, others may be under repair or remodel under unapproved
building permit and some may be neither but they are properly
secured and maintained,†he said.

Current rules make it illegal to have an abandoned, partially
destroyed or substandard building, but the new regulations would
expand that to include any building vacated for more than 30 days.
Under the proposal, no more than 20 percent of the exterior’s
painted surface can be peeling, it must have weather protection and
windows and doors cannot be deteriorating, broken or missing and
trash must be removed weekly.

New stringent standards also are proposed for vacant buildings
in residential neighborhoods or those adjoining such areas except
during construction. Not allowed would be chain link or similar
metal fences, portable plastic or concrete barriers to secure
properties.

“The reason is these types of materials are unsightly in
residential neighborhoods and create a negative visual image and
they undermine the overall quality of life and contribute to
blight,†McCann said.

Also prohibited in residential areas will be plywood or other
wooden materials to board up formerly occupied buildings. Only
clear or semi-clear polycarbonate materials will be allowed.

Councilman Johnny Rodriguez, however, noted that since Brentwood
has grown tremendously over the years, some properties that might
have plywood are now in residential neighborhoods.

Resident Bailey Neff, for decades the owner of a large property
on Minnesota Avenue now in a residential neighborhood, said it and
others like it should not be subject to the new rules.

But McCann said his sheds would not be affected by the new rules
that are only for vacant buildings “approved for human
occupancy.â€

“Under these conditions, those (sheds) would fall under normal
blight regulations that are already in existence,†he
explained.

Even so, Mayor Bob Taylor was cautious.

“Once we do this, it’s tough to go back — are we all OK
with this and the citizenry is not going come after all of us
because there are some agricultural areas out there?†he said.
“I want to make sure we don’t go off the deep end here.â€

But Rarey said the Deer Ridge neighborhood has waited long
enough for fixes.

The former golf course owner, SunCoast Properties, has racked up
$27,100 in other code streetscape landscaping fines so far, though
on Friday they agreed to remove the orange barriers and paint the
clubhouse wood, Rarey said.

“We have residents that reach out to us all the time about
concerns about vacant buildings and buildings with broken windows
and such,†she said. “ We’ve come a long way on this
ordinance.â€

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McCann said the city’s code enforcement officers would send out
courtesy notices for non-complying properties and would give them
time to make fixes. “In many instances, our code officers will
use their judgment to see if they are making substantive
progress,†he said.

Neff questioned if the regulations are too much.

“Do we enforce things that are not complained about unless
they are a public hazard?†he asked. “If the neighbors are
concerned, then there should be action. If there’s no complaint,
then why are we spending money on doing things that are not
complained about?â€

But City Manager Tim Ogden said the intent was “to address
blighted properties …it’s not going out and looking for every
little petty little thing throughout the community and trying to
find issues.â€

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
East Bay city approves new stringent standards for unsightly
vacant buildings, sites