Big increases in the penalties charged to landlords who fail to fix serious health and safety violations at their rental properties are up for approval by the Fresno City Council on Thursday.
The council is considering the increases as part of a comprehensive update to the city’s Master Fee Schedule, which lays out charges for everything from admission to major parks to green fees at municipal golf courses and from bus fares to zoning and tract-map fees paid by developers.
But it’s the code-enforcement penalties that are the most notable additions to the list in the wake of Fresno’s efforts to crack down on substandard housing – efforts that intensified after revelations a year ago of squalid living conditions at the Summerset Village apartment complex in central Fresno and a four-month investigation by The Fresno Bee into the city’s struggles in dealing with slumlords.
The fee system, if approved by the council, would make a distinction between more run-of-the-mill violations, such as overgrown weeds or trash on the property, and more serious violations that pose a threat to health and safety. Under the old system, failure to correct a problem noted in a citation on a first notice would incur a maximum $200 fine, $500 on a second notice, and $800 on a third notice, no matter the severity of the problem.
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In the new schedule, fines for the lesser violations would start at $250 and go up to $1,000. But for serious health and safety concerns, there’s an $800 fine for a first citation, $1,200 for a second, and $1,600 for a third. Additionally, changes to the city’s ordinances approved two weeks ago allow for those fines to be doubled for landlords who are deemed “egregious violators” with three cases of building or safety code violations on any of their properties within a 12-month period.
The higher code enforcement fines would take effect immediately if they are approved by the council.
Most of the other fee changes would become effective in July.
Among changes most likely to be felt by residents are:
▪ In the Parks and Recreation Department, a new $3 per evening charge for open basketball play at some city community centers, a $35 annual vehicle pass for senior citizens to enter regional parks such as Woodward Park and Roeding Park, and an increase in a ticket surcharge at Woodward Park’s Rotary Amphitheater from $2 to $3.
▪ A new “skip” fee for city trash service when a resident requests a driver to return to empty a container that wasn’t out when the trash truck came through on pick-up day. The first two skips in a year will carry no charge; the third skip and any more after in the year would be subject to a $11.29 fee.
If you go
▪ What: Fresno City Council meeting.
▪ When: 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 3.
▪ Where: Fresno City Hall, Council Chamber (second floor), 2600 Fresno St., downtown Fresno.
▪ Details: The meeting agenda is available online at http://bit.ly/Fresno110316.
▪ Online: The meeting will be broadcast live by CMAC on its local government channel, CMAC 3. It is available on Comcast Channel 96 or AT&T Channel 99, or online at http://cmac.tv/watch/stream-3.