The neighborhood eyesore

Locals don’t ask for blue shutters and a tire swing – just not blue tarps, junky trailers, suspicious foot traffic

jpawloski@theolympian.comJune 5, 2013 

A couple on Brown Street say they’re fed up because an Olympia landlord has failed to maintain a group of neighboring properties she owns on Boulevard Road. An unsightly blue tarp covering the roof of one of the buildings is emblematic of what they say is a pattern of neglect.

“The roof’s caving in,” Cooper Wilson said Monday, pointing toward the tarp-covered roof visible from his kitchen window.

Wilson lives with his girlfriend, Samantha Dobyns, and their two small children directly behind the Boulevard Road properties they say are eyesores.

“It’s been a problem property for 20 years,” he said.

Dobyns said the foot traffic in and out of one of the properties behind her home is alarming. Once, she said she discovered a man exposing himself behind one of the properties.

“It’s not a good environment for my children,” she said.

Another neighbor, Kimberly Reid, said that in March a renter at one of the properties tore down part of the fence separating their residences, and her dog, Luna, escaped through the hole. The wandering dog was struck and killed by a car. “It was terrible,” she said.

Reid said she, too, is unnerved by the volume of suspicious foot traffic in and out of one of the rented properties.

“Quite frankly, the neighborhood is tired of it,” she said.

An Olympia police spokeswoman said the department has stepped up its patrols in the 1500 block of the road.

As for the accusations of neglect, Olympia’s head building official with Code Enforcement, Tom Hill, said the city is sensitive to the neighbors’ concerns. But he added that the process of getting landlord Suzy Yi to fix the four adjacent Boulevard Road properties is “ongoing.” Hill said that earlier this year, Yi applied for federal grant money to repair the properties, but that request was denied.

On May 22, Hill sent Yi a notice informing her that the city has deemed her properties at 1519, 1521, 1523, and 1527 Boulevard Road as “hazardous and unsafe.” The “notice of violation” letter states that the roofs of all four properties are in disrepair, causing water damage, and that the exterior siding of the buildings is falling apart.

If Yi fails to fix the properties, the city of Olympia can prosecute her under its municipal code, according to the letter. Penalties could include fines of up to $5,000 or a year in jail, the letter states.

Ultimately, Hill said Monday, if Yi does not fix the properties, Olympia could condemn them and order them torn down. But he added, “it’s not an overnight process; it’s an incremental process.”

Hill said that Yi has 14 days from the time the May 22 letter was sent to apply with the city for a remodel permit. If she fails to apply, the city can begin fining her between $100 and $250 per day for each building code violation, he said. If 60 days have passed from the time the letter was sent and nothing has happened, the city can move to condemn the properties and “abate by demolition,” Hill said.

Yi said in a phone interview Monday that she is trying to work with the city to come up with a solution. Reached Tuesday afternoon for follow-up questions, she declined to comment.

Olympia police are aware of neighbors’ concerns about suspicious foot traffic, police spokeswoman Laura Wohl said. Wilson and Dobyns said police patrols have noticeably increased, and, as a result, the high volume of foot traffic has decreased, they said.

“It’s actually a lot better than it used to be,” Wilson said. “The police are on top of it now.”

On May 16, Olympia police conducted a “knock and talk” operation at the properties and arrested a man on suspicion of methamphetamine possession and unlawful possession of a firearm. A second man was arrested there for a misdemeanor violation of a no-contact order.

According to court papers, Olympia police officers know one residence at the Boulevard Road properties is occupied by a subject “with an active felony warrant and a history of narcotics involvement.”

Wilson and Dobyns say they’ve been trying to work with Yi for three years to clean up the site. Wilson said he’s even mowed the grass at the properties and loaded his truck with debris for dump runs, at no charge to Yi, to try to get the ball rolling with improvements.

Last year, Dobyns said, the city ordered the removal of a fifth-wheel trailer. Yi’s properties next to Wilson and Dobyns’ home include a rented trailer that was grandfathered in as a nonconforming use because it was there before the zoning laws prohibiting trailers. Dobyns and Wilson said it’s their understanding that the trailer is rented for $250 a month.

Wilson and Dobyns said they are happy the city has begun the process of trying to enforce building codes, but added that at times, it has been difficult getting a response from the city.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445

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