Problem properties: 'It's just making our neighborhood look bad'

Problem properties: 'It's just making our neighborhood look bad'

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Residents are complaining about a batch of vacant properties creating an eyesore and hazards in their neighborhood. It's an area near Pacific and Virginia streets in east Bakersfield. Neighbors say they worry about who's supposed to be living in some houses and how to keep people out of others.

"We have squatters that come around and want to stay in houses, they dump trash and stuff," Rosemary Heckathorn said Monday. "It's just making our neighborhood look bad."

Eyewitness News got a call about a white house on Pacific Street. The viewer worries about the conditions, who might own it, and who might be living in it.  Two women were leaving as a reporter walked up.

One woman said her brother was there fixing it up. She said he wasn't available to talk to anyone, because he was in back and there was a dog.

"They don't live here, nobody lives here," the woman said. The house has a number of windows boarded up, and a lot of trash along the side and in back.

Callers to Eyewitness News said people were seen there at all hours. Eyewitness News spotted a couple with children leaving the back of the property through the alley. The viewer worried the house was not in habitable condition.

Heckathorn said she's worried about a couple houses south of Pacific, along Virginia Street. A yellow house on the corner is boarded up and appears vacant, but the front door is open, and it looks like there's access through the back. The yard has yellowed and dry grass littered with trash.

Next to it, a grey house is badly burned with holes in the roof. It has a "no occupancy" sign from Kern County Code Compliance, it's been mostly boarded up, but there are large holes knocked open in some of the boards.

That property also has a lot of trash and debris. Both look like fire hazards.

It's the trash that also worries neighbor Victoria Cerda, and she thinks squatters throw that onto vacant properties. "When they throw it and the wind blows, then it comes right into our yard," she complains.

Eyewitness News contacted Code Compliance about those three properties. Supervisor Dave Wasserman said based on our report, cases will be opened. "We will send notices to the property owners requiring them to clean the property and board it up so it is not a public nuisance," Wasserman responded.

With that process, a notice gives a property owner 30 days to take care of problems. If an inspection at that point finds there's still a problem then a citation can be issued to the property owner. That citation allows another 30 days, and if the problems still aren't fixed the department can go to the Kern County Board of Supervisors to ask for additional penalties.

As for concerns about possible squatters, Wasserman said Code Compliance doesn't have an ordinance to deal with that. He said that would be a trespass issue for the sheriff's department. Wasserman encourages anyone spotting people breaking into a boarded up home, or tossing trash on vacant properties to call the sheriff's department.

But, for hazards like trash and vacant properties not secured, Wasserman said reports can be made to Code Compliance by calling (661) 862-8603.

Neighbors near Pacific and Virginia say that's what they want. They want an area that's clean and safe.

"I think it's really sad," Cerda said. "Because we have to pay for somebody else's mistakes."