Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

A short agenda made for a 90-minute Crescent City Council meeting Monday but brought to light some surprising information from code enforcement.

Following a declaration that the second week in October will be Code Enforcement Officer Appreciation Week, City Community Development Director Eric Taylor gave a slideshow of cleaned up and renovated properties around the city over the last five years. Taylor also serves as the City’s code enforcement officer.

Taylor said much of code enforcement in the city has been focused on substandard structures. In the last five years, the city has abated and renovated many such properties, some of which were described as “appalling” by Taylor. One such example was an apartment building which racked up more than 200 health violations.

“One of the worst things we came across was in someone’s hallway,” he said, noting that a large sheet of plywood had been laid out on the floor. “When I asked what was there, he lifted it up and it was actually an open cesspool in the middle of this guy’s hallway because the sewer line had broke. They came and jackhammered it and just left it, and it just continued to build every time they flushed the toilet.”

Taylor said the complex was cleaned and fixed up and has been successful since.

Hoarding in residential properties has also been a problem for code enforcement, with everything from books and clothing to garbage piled inside rooms.

Rotted wood walls, balconies, and houses have been either fixed or destroyed around the city with some projects still underway.

Taylor showed slides of the Gardenia Motel, which was purchased, renovated and reopened by Motel 6. He said some rooms had been occupied by hoarders and the smell was so intense he could only stand being in them a few minutes. Motel 6 now operates the renovated motel, providing transient occupancy tax to the city, as well as commerce and jobs.

“It’s an asset to the community,” Taylor said.

Just south of Elk Valley Road, at 444 U.S. 101, the 23-room Town House Motel is currently being renovated after falling into disrepair. It was ordered into receivership last year after being declared having several health and safety violations. At the time, those violations were said to have been ongoing for about three years.

Taylor noted the chain of events leading to blight in motels. Rather than fix issues, some owners will just lower their prices, which, in turn, attracts individuals who contribute to activities that create further blight, he said.

Showing photos of other area buildings that have fallen apart over time, Taylor reminded residents such buildings become part of the local landscape and go unnoticed by locals.

“Think about what other people see,” Taylor said. “When you really start taking a look, it’s pretty horrendous.”

Several business buildings have been renovated by the city, including the old KPOD building, which has been turned into a small apartment building. A former gas station on U.S. 101 north of Elk Valley has also been renovated and is awaiting its next use.

Another was destroyed and the property will become a 27-unit senior housing facility, he said.

Some vacant properties around the city had become magnets for drug use and squatting. Taylor said one residence had a black mold infestation so intense that, at first glance, it appeared the walls had been painted black. Another, which hosted huge piles of trash in an outdoor yard, was connected to a number of leaking propane tanks, he said.

Many structures have been demolished and the properties cleared for redevelopment, which Taylor said has been rebounding.

Taylor noted other properties have been burned to the ground by local fire departments for training.

Blighted properties drive down local property values and affect the quality of life in the community, Taylor said.

Taylor spoke of the conflicts that led to the eventual sale and renovation of an old fish market, which is now one of Crescent City’s most popular businesses, Sea Quake Brewery.

He said the city is working on a multitude of properties through code enforcement.

“We’ll keep working on substandard properties and I thank you for the recognition,” Taylor said.

Mayor Blake Inscore also recognized County Code Enforcement Officer Dominic Mello for his work in cleaning up properties around the city.

Public input

In a spirited presentation to the council under public comment, resident Eileen Cooper gave what she felt was a better option than for Crescent City Harbor to build a vertical evacuation center.

She proposed in the immediate future, the city establish an easement between Bayside Realty and Curly Redwood Lodge on US 101. The path would essentially be a straight walk to the Hambro mill site, about a quarter-mile away. Cooper said it would cut off valuable time for those evacuating the harbor in the event of a tsunami.

“This needs to happen yesterday,” she said, adding that it would take far less time to build than a vertical evacuation center.

“(The Federal Emergency Management Association) recommends not putting a vertical evacuation center right where waves are crashing,” she said. “To me, if we can make this trail even quicker, and the right of way already exists, we don’t have to buy land and we have Hambros’ cooperation, let’s do this. Let’s get it as a priority project.”

Other matters

The council also heard a declaration of surplus property by City Manager Eric Wier and had a short discussion regarding efforts being made to secure a crew from Pelican Bay State Prison to clean up the U.S. 101 median north of Crescent City.

Mayor Pro Tem Heidi Kime was absent the meeting.

City council meets again 6 p.m. Nov. 5 in the Flynn Center, 981 H. St.