Vacant house nuisance: 'trash everywhere, human waste in there'

Vacant house nuisance: 'trash everywhere, human waste in there'
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Some central Bakersfield neighbors want more action to clean up a vacant house that's drawing plenty of problems. It sits in the 1800 block of Orange Street, and code enforcement officers say they have an investigation underway.

Neighbors say transients continue causing lots of trouble in the house.

One man who lives across the alley says he's worried the house is both an eyesore and a health hazard.

"There's trash everywhere, human waste in there, drug paraphernalia," Tim told Eyewitness News on Tuesday. He only wants to go by his first name, because he's worried about some retribution. "I've found a meth pipe, a couple needles, syringes," he continued.

Tim says conditions deteriorated about 18 months ago when tenants moved out. Since then, he believes transients have been getting in and vandalizing the property. He says doors and windows have been broken, and a fire was started in the living room about 6 months ago.

"Just a couple days ago, I saw somebody coming out of the back fence," Tim says. The back yard is littered with trash and some pieces of furniture. Fire damage can still be seen on the back porch area.

And then, there's also frequently a bad smell that drifts over to neighbors' yards. "To me, it smells like something rotten," Tim said.

He says he's called the police department many times. Officers have run off the transients, and Tim says sometimes they catch them nearby. Tim also says one officer called for more help on one of those occasions.

"He actually radioed to the code enforcement guy to come over while he was here," the neighbor said. Tim hoped for more progress when a Bakersfield Code Enforcement Officer responded.

"He called the owner," Tim says. "And she met us over here. She gave me permission -- in front of the code enforcement officer -- to go on the property and keep it as secure as I can."

Tim says that woman gave him a business card, which identified her as a city building inspector.

Eyewitness News contacted Bakersfield City Code Enforcement Supervisor Wanda Neal, who said there is currently a case open on this house, and confirmed the name the man gave is actually a city worker. Neal says that makes no difference when investigating a complaint.

"City workers get the same due process as any other citizen in the city," Neal said. She said the type of action and number of responses would be the same, and that's happened in this case.

Eyewitness News also checked with the Kern County Assessor's office about the ownership of the property. Those officials list the owner as a Delano resident with the same last name as the city building employee. It's not clear what the relationship between them is.

Tim had hoped he could help the owner out in keeping the vacant house safe. Tim says he secured a big board against the front door, and screwed the windows closed. But, transients continue to break in.

The house is posted as unsafe for occupancy. A yellow sticker on a back window has a date of May 13, 2014 for that action.

Code Enforcement Supervisor Wanda Neal says her department's had 14 cases on this property going back to 2006. She says the cases have been for property maintenance, there have been on-going clean up efforts, but then new complaints have come in.

Neal says the house is on the schedule to be re-inspected Wednesday for the current complaint investigation. She says if it's found in violation, then a hearing is set. If the home-owner does not appear, an officer can issued a "notice and order for abatement," with a deadline for getting the house cleaned up and secured.

An inspection would be done after that deadline, and if there are still problems, the city can seek bids to get the work done.

"It's a long process," Neal admits. Neighbors are running out of patience.

"Me and a couple of the neighbors have called code enforcement even as recently as three days ago, to try and figure something out," Tim said. He calls the vacant house unsafe and an eyesore. "It needs to get handled before something bad happens."