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A plan to shut down slumlords proposed by two city councilmen may prove to be Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s last stand. The outgoing mayor says she will “vehemently oppose” an ordinance to be introduced Thursday by councilmen Steve Brandau and Olivier. She has yet though, to propose an alternative.
Speaking at the apartment complex that launched substandard housing into Fresno’s consciousness, Brandau and Olivier detailed their anti-slumlord plan. The legislative pair wants to dedicate a code enforcement team just on apartment complexes that are known to have created problems in the past. The news conference took place at the Summerset Village Apartments in southeast Fresno, where last November nearly 1,000 renters were found to be living in deplorable conditions.
The Brandau/Olivier plan will create the Anti-Slumlord Enforcement Team (ASET) of 14 members. On the proposed team will be a manger, six code enforcement agents, three attorneys, an ombudsman (sort of a neutral referee) and three support staff. Six of those positions will be transferred from the Mayor’s current Strike Team on Problem Properties (or STOPP) program. Another eight will be hired at $718,000 a year. Brandau estimates the total budget to be $1.27 million. Fines would help offset the costs.
Swearengin, in a written statement, opposes the plan. “Unfortunately, this resolution would water down the Administration’s STOPP efforts by inspecting minimal units on egregious properties. If that was intentional, then the Administration will vehemently oppose this resolution. We need to be adding tools to our tool box to combat slum housing, not taking them away.”
In August, City Manager Bruce Rudd hosted a workshop, well attended among the city’s landlord community. They balked at ideas of mandatory inspections of all units and questioned who would pay for such a plan.
When asked about City Hall’s plan, Brandau replied “City Hall’s plan is to talk ad nauseam, about mandatory inspections, percentages, registry, what they are doing elsewhere. We are tired of that. We’ve done that. We are at the one year mark here at Summerset. We are ready to tackle problems.”
Olivier addressed the fact that ASET would only inspect certain properties. Paraphrasing from a Brandau quote earlier this year on the issue, Olivier told reporters “you don’t use a shotgun to kill a fly.”
The proposal calls for ASET to target properties using a set of criteria including: a history of violations at the property, the number of police and fire calls, and likelihood of compliance from the landlord using the legal process versus administrative enforcement. Once ASET decides to act, they will inspect on a sliding scale:
|Unit size||Number inspected|
|3-10||50% (minimum 2)|
|11-50||25% (minimum 5)|
|51+||10% (minimum 13)|
Olivier says the ombudsman would handle renter complaints and solve problems. “It’s to provide a lifeline to people who live in sub-standard housing.” He further said the ombudsman would not handle rental deposit problems, nor provide legal advice.
The council will take up the issue at Thursday’s meeting.