Situation troubling

To the Editor:

My 87-year-old grandmother has been living in the same house on the north side of Fairmont for almost 40 years. To her credit, the house is in immaculate condition and she has no immediate plans to move out.

Nothing would require her to do so, except for the continuing threat of the condition of the house next door.

Every day when my grandmother gets in or out of her car, she is required to surmount thick patches of thistle and to tip-toe around long vines that encroach upon her property.

It is not uncommon for shingles from the roof next door to break off and fall onto her car and into her driveway.

Vermin have found a haven in the overgrown brush surrounding the house.

The house next door has been uninhabited for nearly nine years. My grandmother has called the city several times to complain. While no one has addressed her complaints directly, she has since witnessed someone occasionally mow the grass. That stopped over a year ago.

Unless something drastic is done, the house will ultimately be condemned as storm damage makes the house uninhabitable.

I went to City Hall recently and met with Leanne Zarling, community development coordinator. She was happy to discuss the issue.

She looked up the house in her database, said the property owner currently lives on southwest side of town and is up to date on her taxes. Ms. Zarling said she will contact the police department to send an officer to inspect the property and “keep us in the loop.”?When I asked her when we will notice any kind of appreciable improvement, she said she couldn’t say for sure: the city has numerous problems of this kind, does not have enough resources, and this sort of problem is only getting worse amid the economic downturn.

The city can dispatch a police officer to assess the situation, who can threaten to cite the property owner for not cutting their grass. When the grass grows again she can repeat the cycle if my grandmother complains again. I understand the city can send in a building inspector to determine whether the structure poses a danger, but it has given no timeline as to how this process works or how long it will take.

My grandmother cannot be the only citizen of Fairmont dealing an absentee property owner next door. The houses that are left to decay on various blocks are plainly visible to anyone driving by and are a nuisance for their neighbors. Having a blighted building next door not only decreases the property value of those who live in the neighborhood, but it brings down the morale of the affected community and, in my grandmother’s case, endangers her daily.

Each time someone calls to complain and an officer or building inspector is sent to a property, I understand the taxpayers of Fairmont foot the bill. Ms. Zarling mentioned that $60,000 is set aside every year to tear down dangerous buildings. This amounts to three torn-down buildings a year. This policy seems to only scratch the surface of the problem as the number of dilapidated buildings continue to grow in Fairmont.

Something needs to change.

Vanessa Blyth Marlin

San Francisco