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Quality of Life

San Diego Mayor Pledges More Funds To Help Tenants With Problem Landlords

Sherry Godat reveals a plywood board in her window frame Nov. 20, 2014. Bankim Shah promised to replace the missing window before she moved in. A friend installed the plywood after months passed with no repairs.
Brian Myers, Media Arts Center San Diego
Sherry Godat reveals a plywood board in her window frame Nov. 20, 2014. Bankim Shah promised to replace the missing window before she moved in. A friend installed the plywood after months passed with no repairs.
San Diego Mayor Pledges More Funds To Help Tenants With Problem Landlords
Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he would beef up code enforcement following a KPBS and Voice of San Diego investigation that shows the city is leaving tenants in the lurch despite state protections against substandard housing conditions.
Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Thursday he'll increase funding to go after problem landlords. The pledge was in response to a KPBS and Voice of San Diego investigation showing tenants are getting little help from the city fighting cockroaches, mold and other substandard housing conditions.

The story centers on one landlord, Bankim Shah, who owns nearly 90 properties, many of them in disrepair despite dozens of formal complaints against them.

"We have to send a very strong message and very strong enforcement that that kind of stuff will not be tolerated in any neighborhood in San Diego," Faulconer told KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Cavanaugh.

Faulconer said he also would take a look at the city's code enforcement strategy, which has left renters in the lurch despite filing complaints with the city against their landlords.

Mike Richmond, deputy director of Neighborhood Code Compliance, told KPBS and Voice of San Diego in an interview last fall that his department doesn't have enough resources to build big cases against problem landlords, but instead clears isolated complaints as they come.

Richmond also said his inspectors can't help with roach and rat infestations despite a law authored by state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, that says otherwise.

David Graham, deputy chief operating officer of Neighborhood Services, said in an interview Thursday the code compliance department has been looking into training for its enforcement officers since the Hueso bill passed in late 2013. He said the officers need to be certified to take on new kinds of enforcement responsibilities.

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Development Services Director Bob Vacchi estimated that certification could be completed in the next six months.

When asked why inspectors hadn't yet started training, Graham said the department has been in transition, with shifting leadership and new hires. He also said the existing workload (Richmond estimated inspectors went on 6,000 calls in 2014) and a backlog of medical marijuana cases have kept staff busy.

Faulconer said on Midday Edition the city needs to get up to speed on state housing laws.

"When it comes to rules that have to be enforced, the city has to do that," the mayor said. "We're protecting families, we're protecting our neighborhoods."

Council members David Alvarez, Marti Emerald and Myrtle Cole issued a memo in January asking that the city's budget for fiscal 2016 include more resources to proactively enforce the state's substandard housing laws.

The mayor's draft budget is expected in April, and the final budget must be approved by the end of June.

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