Friday, May 22, 2009

Green Lawns and Community Pride

Community Member Question:

My question is how do you think we can get residents to protect their right to a clean community and make them realize that a cleaner community is safer and has higher investment value, not to mention the pride one gets from the complements of friend and neighbors and the feeling of great accomplishment?

City Manager Response:

I believe it is intuitive for most residents that the proper maintenance of their property is perhaps the single most important factor in improving the value of their investment in Fontana. With that said, you can drive through many neighborhoods in Fontana and see both good and bad examples of people taking pride in the appearance of their property. In a discussion about what the City can do about the properties in disrepair, it is first worth understanding some of the causes behind property maintenance issues.

In the current economic market, many homes have fallen into disrepair because of financial difficulties and foreclosure problems with the owners. Fontana has several City codes that require an appropriate level of property maintenance. When a foreclosed property falls into disrepair, our Code Enforcement Division of the Police Department makes contact with the banks and notifies them of their need to maintain the property. Some banks act as responsible partners and step up to maintain the properties while others do not. Those who do not correct deficiencies are cited and liens are placed against the properties that require corrective action before the properties can be resold. Many properties in the City have been brought to a point of compliance using this tactic. In extreme circumstances in which health and welfare become issues, the City may pursue and obtain a court order to fix the noted problems and then to place the cost of such work as a lien against the property that must be paid prior to resale as well.

The second challenge for poorly maintained properties comes from homes that are bought for investment purposes and are rented out by an individual who may not live in the City. Such properties are often purchased for tax advantages or cash purposes and proper maintenance of those properties is often a secondary consideration. Code Enforcement is also a tool in these instances to address such deficiencies. Code Enforcement Officers will make contact with the property owner and initiate whatever action is necessary to try to achieve compliance with the standards the community has come to expect.

A third challenge comes from owner-occupied properties that are owned by individuals who may not be financially or physically able to maintain their property. The City has developed a Community Assistance Program (CAP) in partnership with the Water of Life Church who may be able to find resources and/or assistance to help such owners with free services. Some service clubs in town have also stepped forward to help needy families with landscaping and maintenance needs who are in special circumstances.

The bottom line in dealing with these issues is for the residents to take pride and ownership in their neighborhoods. Not only with the properties they own, but also in notifying the City when properties in your neighborhood need some special attention. Contacts for both Code Enforcement and the Community Assistance Program (CAP) can be found on the City’s Web page at http://www.fontana.org/. Fontana is a big place and the employees of this wonderful community need your help. When you have concerns about the condition of a property, please contact us. By working as one community we can accomplish great things.