City to place liens on properties it is forced to clean up

Christopher Maher, Jim Wells County Correspondent

SAN DIEGO - The City of San Diego is cracking down on residents who allow trash, high weeds and junk vehicles to clutter their property, with the initiation of a new property abatement program.

Andrea Salinas, code enforcement officer for the city, said Friday she has been issuing citations and sending letters to property owners since 2001, but those efforts have been largely ignored.

At the end of 2006, Salinas said, city officials authorized her to begin a property abatement program, in which city crews clean the property and a lien is placed against the home for the cost of the clean-up.

"The property owners are deceased or they just don't want to clean them," Salinas said. "So the city is going to place a lien against them and we are going to get our money back."

On Monday, crews were expected to finish clean-up on a lot on Theodore Street, the third property since December to be cleaned as part of the program.

"It's been about 11 years since that property was cleaned," Salinas said. "(City crews) cut brush, they threw away trash, they did a lot of stuff out there."

Salinas said she has at least six more properties scheduled for abatement in the next two months.

"We kept sending letters, we issued citations, the citations were never paid," Salinas said. "The city decided that in 2007 we are going to take it very seriously. We're not going to be playing any more games."

Salinas said under the new policy, the city will issue two letters of warning, and then the abatement program will be initiated.

Liens against the homes can range from $500 to $700, Salinas said, and in some cases criminal charges may be pursued.

Residents who have received notice of abatement but who have not yet contacted the City of San Diego are encouraged to phone Andrea Salinas at 279-2924 or 279-3341.