Run-Down Units : Apartments Fixed Up by Commission

Times Staff Writer

San Diego Housing Commission workers on Tuesday began repairing a dilapidated Southeast San Diego apartment house after The Times reported that the commission had ignored numerous requests by city inspectors to clean up unsafe and unhealthful conditions there.

Elizabeth Morris, the Housing Commission’s acting executive director, said that workers Tuesday repaired the heat, oven, smoke alarm and medicine cabinet in a ground-floor apartment at 3154 Imperial Ave., an eight-unit building that has three tenants.

The Housing Commission inherited the building in its present condition last August in a foreclosure from former landlord Robert Blanchard, owner of Les Blanchards restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe.

Morris said workers talked to the two other tenants, who reported that they had no complaints about their apartments. Workers will visit the building again today to pick up garbage strewn about the property, and a contractor contacted by the Housing Commission Friday will finish boarding up broken windows in a vacant apartment by today, she said.


Only Emergency Repairs

The Times reported Tuesday that the Housing Commission had halted all but emergency repairs to the complex, leaving the remaining tenants to live in unsafe and unhealthful conditions during the five months it owned the building.

That decision was made in November, after Housing Commissioners voted to abandon attempts to recover more than $68,000 in rehabilitation loans owed them by Blanchard. Staff members decided not to spend any more public money on a building so neglected that it needs $42,500 in repair work.

But Paul Elias, senior building inspector in the city’s Housing Inspection Division, said that he has repeatedly asked Housing Commission officials to clean up the violations of health and housing codes and finally turned the matter over to the city attorney’s office for legal action.


No action will be taken, however, because the Housing Commission is scheduled to give the property to the Federal Savings & Loan Insurance Corp. Feb. 5. The agency, which holds the mortgage on the building, hopes to sell it to a new owner who will be encouraged to make repairs.

Nothing From Proceeds

The Housing Commission would gain nothing by selling the property itself because all proceeds would go to the FSLIC, which, under loan agreements, is first in line to receive any money from the sale. The Housing Commission’s rehabilitation loan is second in line for payments.

District 2 council member Ron Roberts, who is chairman of the Housing Commission, Tuesday asked Morris to compile a report on the building, said Roberts’ aide, Paul Grasso.


Morris said that the Housing Commission has no written records of complaints from Elias, even though the inspector turned over a detailed memo of the violations to Joseph Schilling, deputy city attorney in charge of code enforcement, after a Jan. 15 inspection of the building.

“I’m looking into what has been our communication link (with the housing inspection division) and whether it broke down internally,” Morris said.

She also said that Kim Earl, a tenant who complained to The Times about a lack of heat and a malfunctioning oven in her ground-floor apartment, never notified the Housing Commission about those conditions. Earl had requested that the Housing Commission repair a broken window at her apartment in November, but did not mention the heat or the oven at the time, Morris said.

Asked whether the Housing Commission was changing its policy and will make repairs to the building, Morris said that “we’re not going to make major repairs, but we are going to correct any code violations.” She had no figures on how much those repairs would cost.


The city is investigating the possibility of legal action against Blanchard for his operation of the Imperial Avenue property and others throughout the city, Schilling said.