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Restoring sanity & safety in our neighborhoods

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POSTED April 21, 2010 2:26 a.m.
The real estate agent unlocked the door telling me to remember that it was a foreclosure.

I was prepared. I had seen what many foreclosures looked like doing stories for the real estate section. This was different, though. It was the first house I was looking at to buy after qualifying for a mortgage.

I had picked out eight houses to check out the next day with my agent but when I happened to see this particular house available in the Magna Terra neighborhood behind Doctors Hospital I called the listing agent to see if I could get in that evening.

As he was leading me through the dated kitchen with faded burnt orange, avocado and brown colors, I had no problem looking past the missing cupboard door. The dingy carpet in the front room didn’t faze me nor did the fact the previous occupants did a number on the bathtub, toilet, and sink in the main bathroom. I was figuring based on stories that I had done to have to dump an additional $20,000 into whatever house I bought.

I was really warming up to the idea of making the house a possibility until he opened the garage door. The initial gush of air was heavy with marijuana smoke. There was a ratty couch inside with empty liquor and beer bottles strewn about as well as some pornography.

I found out from neighbors that several rentals just a few doors down had kids who were out-of-control that would break into the garage after school and do what they pleased. The police were always coming by but were unable to do much thanks to uncooperative parents and an over-burdened juvenile justice system.

It was enough to cross the house - and neighborhood – off my list.

The quality of life issues raised by uncivilized neighbors is something I learned shortly after buying my first home in Manteca.

The neighbors’ relatives owned the house they lived in. You think that would matter but it didn’t. They had six inoperable cars with weeds growing around them that attracted all sorts of rodents in their back yard. They leaned bulky and heavy junk against our grape-stake fence effectively wrecking it. To top it off they had a vicious dog that routinely tried to break through our fence and did so one time cornering our granddaughter in the back yard where she was playing. At least twice a month, they’d have loud parties that would go into the early morning hours backing right up to our fence and bedroom window. They had a guest staying with them for an extended period of time who we found out after police arrested him was a sex offender from the State of Washington who had failed to register.

To top it all off, the guy drove a semi-truck diesel cab that he’d fire up at 5 a.m. to warm up – just outside our bedroom window – while he’d go back inside to have breakfast.

Polite requests were ignored. The city couldn’t do much as the problems we were having were quality of life issues although they involved a multitude of municipal violations. We gave up trying to get the nuisances addressed. Eventually they moved.

Live and let live is one thing but both parties have to act like there is someone else besides them in the world that matters.

That is why Manteca’s leaders should be applauded for taking the next step needed to go after problematic property in the city.

There are laws on the books but good luck getting them enforced in the San Joaquin County judicial system that is so overloaded with much more pressing criminal issues that the time and the end result involved is as aggravating as the actual problem.

What Manteca has done is put in place an effective mechanism known as the “Responsible Property Ownership” ordinance that allows the city to go after property owners to correct health, safety and qualify of life issues.

Some who have a situational libertarian streak would argue that such people should be able to use their property as they please. However, they shouldn’t interfere with everyone else’s reasonable expectations to be able to use their own property.

That is why there are laws governing behavior and property maintenance. They only work if everyone complies.

Manteca has made it clear. They will hold those who refuse to be civilized and play by the rules – whether they are owner occupants or landlords – responsible.

Yes, landlords should be held responsible as they are running a business that is designed to make them a profit. Others shouldn’t suffer because they can’t manage property while pocketing money.
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