Rose Garden Resident Urges City to Ramp Up Code Enforcement, Even During Pandemic

Since the pandemic mandated working from home as much as practically possible, the San Jose Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Department a policy of only responding to requests that it deems urgent.

While the practice lessens Covid-19 spread among staff and prospective clients, it leaves some residents—including longtime local Steve Brachear—incredibly frustrated.

The 14-year Shasta Avenue homeowner says he’s been trying for months now to get the city to stop illegal construction at a next-door property—whose remodeling crew has reportedly been holed up at an adjacent address—for what seems like an eternity now.

Though code enforcement affirmed that work on the property is unauthorized, he says city officials say they can’t follow through with site inspections for the duration of the public health orders requiring people to shelter-in-place.

“I contacted code enforcement, and neither house has a permit,” Brashear claims. “They [code enforcement officials] basically said they’re not going to do anything and won’t inspect these properties until the stay-at-home order is lifted. But by then, all the horses will be out of the barn.”

In Brashear’s view, it wouldn’t take much effort for the city to send one of its employees to do at least a drive-by assessment of the situation. “An inspector wouldn’t even have to get out of his car to file a report,” he says. “He could just look and see the work being done and verify what I told them. But they won’t even do that.”

San Jose Planning Director Rosalynn Hughey says city staff has, in fact, been on the case.

“Our Code Enforcement staff have open, active cases for two properties on Shasta Avenue,” she wrote in an email to San Jose Inside. “Staff has contacted the complaining party. Staff has also contacted the property owners to outline the requirements for compliance; these requirements will be enforced. Regarding drive-by inspections, it is often not possible to determine violations by driving by a property.”

The city sent emails to Brashear notifying him that a case has been opened and an inspector has been notified, but “due to current Covid-19 procedures, code enforcement response may be delayed due to most inspections not being conducted at this time.”

With the exception of emergencies, Hughey said her code enforcement workers are not entering properties at this time to protect not only themselves but the public, too.

Brashear—whose property lies in the Rose Garden, a pricey neighborhood known for its tree-lined streets and architecturally distinct homes dating back to the 1800s—says he worries that the lack of enforcement will make parts of the district an eyesore.

The trouble with the eyesore he’s been complaining about for the better part of 2020 began this past spring, he says, when the previous owner at 1706 Shasta Ave. moved out, leaving behind a couple cars, parked curbside, with expired tags.

“In parts of my neighborhood, they’re hauling away abandoned cars,” he says, “so I don’t know why on my street they don’t want to tow them away.”

The abandoned cars, Brashear says, are parked in front of the house that’s undergoing un-permitted construction. That means the contractors working on the property are parking elsewhere in the neighborhood, taking up spots normally used by residents.

“Which means they’re parking their four vehicles in front of my house and some of my neighbor’s houses,” Brashear says. “When I back out of the driveway now, my view of the street is blocked, so it’s dangerous. Again, the city won’t do anything about this even though I’ve reported it. How hard would it be for city enforcement to tag the vehicles?”

Attempts to reach the owners of the property in question were unsuccessful.

But the city maintains that it has been doing what it can do address code violators.

As for abandoned vehicles? Those should be reported to the San Jose Department of Transportation, officials said.

In her email to San Jose Inside, Hughey said: “The public can report abandoned vehicles to the Vehicle Abatement Unit using the service request form [on sanjose.custhelp.com] or downloading the San Jose 311 mobile app.”

Code enforcement, however, will only respond to emergency service requests, which include imminent hazards to health and safety in housing or buildings, a sewage leak in a yard, in-progress removal of ordinance-sized trees, swimming pools without secure fencing, unsecured refrigerators left outside and vacant unsecured buildings.

To Brashear, that isn’t enough.

“It’s not just my case,” he says, “because this is widespread throughout the city, where code enforcement and other enforcement is not being done under the guidance of the stay-in-place order. I see police and firemen, but I don’t see other basic civic city duties being taken care of. … Calling the City Council used to work, but they’re not responding like they used to. Politicians tend to respond only when they get negative publicity. This is the only way to get something done, unfortunately.”

13 Comments

  1. Forget about Vehicle Abatement. Send in an request and your response will be that they’re not currently working. Were they before March?

  2. Expecting neighboring property owners to abide by the law does not make you a Karen. Non-compliance to code could result in a fire hazard that takes out your house and others around it. But if you’re okay with that, then don’t turn in your neighbor(s) and hope the work next door is done right.

  3. I wonder if those abandoned cars would receive expedited attention from the city were they attractively blanketed with PRO-LIFE, I SUPPORT THE NRA, or TRUMP 2020 bumper stickers?

  4. Everyone knows building codes are racist.

    https://www.nogalesinternational.com/opinion/guest_opinion/planning-zoning-building-codes-are-racist/article_465a749b-2a37-550e-adb9-2399410d7038.html

    Your transparent NIMBYism is on display.

    The numbers never lie, and the story they telling is d***ing!

    http://www.city-data.com/neighborhood/Rose-Garden-San-Jose-CA.html

    San Jose is a third latino, but Rose Garden is one sixth latino.

    San Jose is a third white, but Rose Garden is 6 tenths white.

    Since building codes are racist, enforcement of building codes results in racist outcomes, ergo proto gamma Rose Garden is disproportionately white due to building code enforcement.

  5. Since when is the Code Enforcement Department a non-essential business? How does inspecting an empty construction site put inspectors in danger of contracting COVID? Ms. Hughey’s lame excuse takes bureaucratic laziness to new heights, or should I say new lows. Fire her lazy butt and replace her with someone who will work for her paycheck.

  6. The properties are on Shasta, in the Shasta / Hanchett Park neighborhood, several blocks away from the Rose Garden.

  7. The Nogales International article takes issue with codes in New Mexico. Most of the article calls out planning and zoning codes, not building codes.

    The only issue the article has with building codes is that current New Mexico building codes don’t allow adobe construction. Therefore, it isn’t terribly applicable.

    The issue at hand is that the work is being done without building permits (and therefore, likely, not being built to current energy and seismic codes, being built without insurance, without workman’s comp insurance for the laborers, and the like…). Is that honestly preferable?

  8. Edward – Read your Kendi.

    You are either racist or anti-racist, and it doesn’t take Bertrand Russell to see racism in the demographics inequity of the “Rose Garden”, uggg that name is cis-gendered western normative colonialism itself. All non equitable outcomes are racist, all discrimination that perpetuates non-equity Is racist. Building codes in New Mexico are just as racist as the ones in the Rose Garden, what do you think because they are not in the USA they are worse? Because they are pueblos they are second class?

    Boldly confront your biases Edward.

  9. @Karen (Her/She)

    You may be a satirist or an anti-satirist. If the former, congratulations; if the latter, my condolences. In either case I imagine your friends and loved ones, none of whom understand you, have suggested professional help.

  10. Back in the 90s they were selling tickets over the phone for the Atlanta Olympics. It was the first time an average person, at least that I remember, could just call and get such things. Back then, the radio was the medium for viral hot takes. There was one that comes back to me once in a while. The caller was calling from New Mexico and the telemarketer kept saying “You can only order the tickets if you live in the US”. It went back and forth a bit, then the call got transferred to the manager. The ticket buyer tried again to buy tickets and the manager said, “New Mexico, Old Mexico, I don’t care, you have to live in the United States to buy these tickets.” (I am pretty sure they said America, but you get the gist)

    Now that may be a played out skit, but it was new to me and I haven’t heard it since. Its just one of the those things that glitches your brain that two (consecutive) people who live in the United States thought New Mexico was not in the United States. Every time I listen to anyone talk in this nonsense language, its that same glitch. If my satire is too much, sorry, my family and loved ones sometimes don’t understand me, but they won’t part with the money to get me any help.

    https://apnews.com/366bfcffe7e6abd34923a387d6b3ee98

  11. San Jose code enforcement was a joke even before Covid. I called a few years to ask about a vacant building in our neighborhood and the person who answered the phone was unbelievably rude to me. She demanded that I provide the street address, which I didn’t know because the building was so dilapidated, the address markings were gone. I said it was on the corner of street A and street B. She said there was nothing she could do without a street address. I asked her if they have city maps in the code enforcement division, which she could use to determine the address. She said “no, I we don’t have maps.” In the code enforcement division. No maps of the city. What a joke.