Perhaps you’ve noticed, as you’ve walked around your neighborhood in recent weeks, hot pink signs adorning blighted properties.
We spoke at length with Maura Kennedy, the Director of Strategic Initiatives at L&I, who gave us the lowdown on a new program currently being implemented that should help clean up our city. Working off the idea that a property owner taking care of their properties isn’t a “revolutionary idea,” L&I is beginning to insist on a new baseline level of maintenance for vacant properties.
L&I is currently a couple of months into this project, attempting to eradicate blight from neighborhoods. Their first step was to cull their databases for violations that indicated blight, first concentrating on property owners who own multiple blighted properties. They’ve been able to map these violations to find where blight is concentrated, and (this makes us very happy) are letting the market drive the process.
One of the major challenges, of course, is actually locating the property owners. It’s one thing to slap a violation on a property, but to get any sort of legal enforcement, serving notice properly is critical. And considering the often outdated owner contact information held by the OPA, this task can be extremely difficult. Because of this, these violations are all being addressed by hand to ensure proper notice is served.
The pink violation notices refer to the Doors and Windows Ordinance, a recently enacted law that requires all structures on blocks that are at least 80% occupied to have actual doors and windows where they’re supposed to. Plywood is not sufficient. Owners who fail to comply are subject to fines of up to $300 per opening per day. From the date of first inspection, it takes L&I about ninety days to send the violation to court.
The first court date was last month. L&I filed 48 petitions, and 35 property owners showed up, with almost all of those who responded entering into a consent agreement. The hope is that everyone who signed a consent agreement will install doors and windows, become tax compliant, and get a vacant property license. For the 13 who didn’t show, L&I asked for 1% of the potential fine amount (or $3 per opening per day) and to continue the cases for 30 days. If any of the 13 don’t show up this month, L&I will seek more aggressive fines. As a result of the first month of petitions, L&I collected about $90K in license fees, back taxes, and fines. Not bad.
Do you have a blighted property on your block? Are you sick of looking at boarded up doors and/or windows? Worried about what might be going on in these boarded-up but possibly not vacant properties?
Call 311 today.
Be as precise as possible, and clearly state where the doors or windows are missing, be it in the front or the rear of the property. And don’t worry about anyone finding out- your identity will be protected.
Like L&I, other city departments are working on blight and vacant land issues, and will hopefully be rolling out new and valuable programs of their own in the near future. In the meantime, L&I seems to be doing just fine so far.
Case in point: