Listed below is the second in a series of stories submitted by residents about daily life in their San Juan neighborhood. Many who live in areas free from crime and blight may be unaware of the problems in other San Juan neighborhoods. It is our hope that bringing these issues to light will encourage the City to help these residents improve their neighborhoods through proper code enforcement and maintenance.
Quality of Life in the Villas: Part II
In the Villas we have small gardening businesses, food services and clothing sales being conducted out of some of the Villas units. I will buy someone a lunch if any of these guys are licensed, and if they are I don’t think they should be allowed to conduct these types of businesses in a residential community like this. In the early morning hours and on weekends their presence is especially noticeable.
The city has codes that prohibit excessive noise and that govern commercial activity. There are traffic and parking codes, but enforcement is difficult and expensive, because the problem has become overwhelming.
To make the rent of between $1,500 and $2,000, rooms are sub-let and we end up with as many as 11 people living in a three bedroom unit. Some garages are being used for sleeping quarters. The unit next to my mother’s has someone (maybe two) people living in the garage. When the urge hits in the middle of the night I suppose it is less disruptive to just step outside and let it go. Again we have that distinctive smell to contend with when approaching my mother’s front door.
I reviewed the Uniform Housing Code and using my unit as an example, the habitable floor space could technically accommodate five people. It would be crowded even if there were a few children in the mix, and by my calculation a three bedroom side unit should have no more than six people.
The burden of overcrowding is costing the city in law enforcement expenses – just check the Police Blotter to see how many police events occur here. In a seven day period a majority of the calls in the city are either in or around the Villas and the Casitas.
The Associations pay dearly for the additional water and sewer charges - the more people there are in a unit the more flushes and showers. As the tiered water rates kick in we pay proportionately even more. My two bedroom, one bath unit pays its share of close to $90 a month as part of the homeowner assessment.
The stress on our infrastructure from vandalism and graffiti is visually degrading, and discouraging to our landscaping efforts. A portion of our budget of $12,000 a year for landscaping upgrades is often diverted to repair damage. We also pay a fellow $1,000 a month to pick up discarded mattresses, appliances and furniture from the alleys. I assume this stuff is put there by the people moving out since there seems to be more of it around the end of the month.
Years ago the city did have an occupancy enforcement policy, but the effort didn’t last long. So, I have requested that the council consider resurrecting a policy based on the Uniform Housing Code, or any other method to address the root cause of the problem here which is overcrowding. It is costly to our collective budgets and is a health hazard both physically and mentally for those of us living here.
Dan Buckner has lived in San Juan since 1975. He and his wife have one grown son and two grandsons. Dan recently retired after selling his Property Management firm and stays active serving on committees with his HOA.
Editor’s note: To date, the Buckners have received no help with or response to their requests that the City Council adopt a policy based on the Uniform Housing Code. Their calls for code enforcement have gone unanswered.