City ordinance aims to up standards for Claremont housing complexes

The Claremont City Council unanimously approved a multi-family housing ordinance on Tuesday to better maintain and safeguard complexes designated under the city’s crime and healthy housing program.

Managers of the 28 multi-family complexes designated under the program—which includes the newly-established Courier Place affordable housing development and other complexes with 10 or more units—will now be required to obtain a Multi-Family Rental License. Those without the license will be restricted from renting vacant spaces until the license is obtained.

To obtain the license required by the new ordinance, applicants must provide written authorization from the complex’s owner and a 24-hour non-business phone number for use in emergencies. Though the licenses will expire in one year’s time, or sooner, they will be given free of charge at a cost of about $10,400 to the city, money previously budgeted for crime and healthy housing activities, according to a financial report.

As a part of the new ordinance, designated complexes will be subject to annual inspections. Noncompliance at any time will result in the revoking of the license. If a rise in crime within a complex is detected by Claremont police, the manager must work with enforcement officers to develop an action plan.

The council was pleased to see its passage, bringing to realization a longtime city council priority.

“It sets up these cooperative, working relationships between the various stakeholders…who may be having difficulty establishing a safe environment,” said Councilmember Joe Lyons. “Therein lies the potential success of this program.”

Adopting an ordinance has been more than a year in the making between city staff and members of the Committee for Safe and Healthy Housing. The committee was founded in 2006 by a group of Claremont residents, “to promote quality of life improvement and reduce criminal activity in multi-family complexes.”

In 2009, with the help of the committee, Claremont adopted a program coinciding with this mission. Subsequently, the city council made it a priority to adopt an ordinance to promote healthy and safe practices.

According to the ordinance, “It is found and declared that there exists in the city of Claremont substandard residential buildings and dwelling units, the physical conditions and characteristics of which are such as to be detrimental to or jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of their occupants and of the public.”

“While a majority of complexes are very well managed and maintained, there have been a few complexes in recent years where the property conditions have become deteriorated and where criminal activity has increased,” said Brian Desatnik, director of community development, adding that the ordinance aims at preventing such problems from occurring in the future.

However, some felt the ordinance and some of its requirements, already established as part of the code of the state of California, simply added another level of unnecessary bureaucracy.

“I work in my apartments 40 to 50 hours a week minimum 5 days a week I’m on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said David Frack, who owns and manages 71 units in Claremont. “I don’t want—don’t need—government intervention with my property. I can take care of it myself. My tenants are pampered I take great pride in my buildings.”

“If you have problem buildings and owners, take care of them, don’t hassle people like me,” Mr. Frack continued, calling for an exemption.

Deterioration and crime is not restricted to multi-family complexes, noted Paul Steffen of Claremont’s Wheeler/Steffen Property Management.

“The truth is a single-family home can be poorly managed and not meet code requirements. A duplex, a fourplex, a sixplex and all the way up,” Mr. Steffen said. “If you are going to do the ordinance, you should do it for all rental properties.”

Councilmember Corey Calaycay, who owns and manages properties in Orange County himself, recognized the due diligence of those like Mr. Frack and Mr. Steffen and the impact the ordinance might have.

“Unfortunately, the way these laws work, sometimes people who are doing the right thing end up getting punished, even though we are trying to address a problem group,” Mr. Calaycay said, adding an amendment to review the ordinance’s impact in a year’s time.

The priority is to first implement the ordinance and figure out what works, according to Mr. Pedroza, adding his support for Mr. Calaycay’s amendment.

“We all want the same for every single resident in this community, whether they are renters, owners, they own apartment complexes, or whether you don’t own anything,” Mr. Pedroza said. “We want the best of what Claremont has to offer and that is what this ordinance provides.”

—Beth Hartnett


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