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Del Webb offers a lesson in how to fight blight

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POSTED January 3, 2011 3:28 a.m.

It is a never ending story.

Neighborhoods are built. Years go by. Homeowners - or landlords - start letting maintenance slip. Undesirables move into neighborhoods. A house becomes rundown. A yard is turned into a trash heap. Graffiti appears and gangs expand. Things start going downhill. Blight sets in. Crime goes up as do taxpayer costs.

What is the best way to prevent neighborhoods built today from slipping into blight 20 or so years from now?

The answer to that question could save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future plus protect the lifetime investment that many families make not just into their home but into their neighborhood and community as well.

The answer can be found in Manteca north of Lathrop Road and between Union Road and Airport Way in a neighborhood known as Del Webb at Woodbridge.

Actually it can be found at Del Webb communities all over the country including Roseville and Lincoln in Placer County. The first Del Webb community in Roseville near Fiddyment Road looks as good as the day the first home was completed.

The reason is simple. Del Webb has an effective homeowners association.

It isn’t the weak and ineffective HOAs of yesteryear. They have teeth. They have purpose. And they are effective.

Granted, there are more than a few people who find the Del Webb HOA a bit of overkill. It does, however, effectively battle the creation of blight, countless junkers parked in driveways and on the street and even manages to put a lid on loud parties and music.

While some of Del Webb’s restrictions may go a bit too far such as requiring permission to wander from an accepted look in the front yards, it provides the nucleus for an effective way to keep blight from happening and therefore reduce future crime potential and preserve property values and neighborhood safety and cohesiveness.

It requires a paid position to enforce the HOA requirement. Del Webb - which includes a clubhouse, fitness center, and parks - is less than $200 a month. You should be able to do an HOA minus such things for $100 a month.

It would be well worth it if home buyers did not have to worry about downward slide of property values or other missteps that kill the quality of life in a neighborhood from lack of property maintenance to abusive use of property for junk yards or driveway auto repairs.

The city should enforce property rules where they legally can but it is cumbersome, time consuming, and slow at best. That isn’t the city’s fault. It’s just the way government has to work.

A private HOA is entirely different.

There is no reason why they couldn’t even be set up the way that landscape maintenance districts are now in an aggregate form with multiple neighborhoods under one HOA enforcer.

In fact, enforcement of CC&Rs - the conditions, covenants and restrictions that are often as worthless as the paper they are printed on unless one wants to enter a protracted and costly legal battle to enforce them on your neighbor - could be done by the city. That’s because the HOA would invest the power and money to do so just like the landscape maintenance district does.

Using Del Webb’s HOA as the model, it could be a solid way to reduce future crime and prevent blight.

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