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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 1:13 pm | Fair 67º


Ron Fink: Failure to Address a Blight in Neighborhoods

What do fainting goats and the Lompoc City Council majority have in common? A fainting goat is an animal whose muscles freeze when it feels panic.

On April 4, City Council members discussed whether they wanted to regulate parking of oversized vehicles on Lompoc streets; many homeowners’ associations already do just that. This topic was discussed during several meetings seven years ago, and the council decided to do — nothing.
In August 2010, the “council directed staff to return at a future date with clear, distinct recommendations on regulating personal property on City streets, and draft ordinances to address the issues of unhitched trailers including fifth wheel and/or semitrailers parked on City streets; and the establishment of an administrative citation system with progressive fines for repeat offenses.”
On Oct. 19, 2010, then-Mayor Mike Siminski pulled the item “for discussion at a later time.” This stopped any further action since it was never returned to the council.
The “oversized vehicles” to be regulated include camp trailers, boats, utility trailers and motorhomes that litter city streets.

Even though the code-enforcement officers try to have such vehicles removed after they’ve been there for weeks, the owners just move them a couple of inches and the clock starts again.

I travel the same streets frequently, and it is clear to see where vehicles have been marked numerous times and still they remain. Many constitute a blight because they are very old, the paint is faded and in some cases, they are severely rusted, and some camp trailers are being used as residences.
In my neck of the woods, a boat has been in the same spot for a couple of years; so long in fact that the weeds under it are over a foot high. This boat hasn’t seen the water in a long time.

Another is a camp trailer; it’s obvious someone is living in it because it’s on stabilizing stands and is electrically connected to a tow vehicle in the evening.
Both have been marked by the code-enforcement officer on numerous occasions as evidenced by the faded paint markings around their tires.

But, those vehicles are someone’s treasure, so they remain parked on the street. To me and many others, they represent a blight on the neighborhood.

The current council majority has a spotty history when it comes to enforcing the rules, or even adopting consensus standards.

In March, they delayed adoption of the current Uniform Fire Code, even though the staff report clearly stated “cities and counties throughout the State are required to enforce the 2016 code provisions on and after January 1, 2017.”

One council member has several properties around town that are poorly maintained. In one of his prominent buildings the stench of mold and body fluids can be clearly detected when you walk in the door; another, on the main street of town, has severely stressed landscaping.

He also manages property at the eastern entrance to town that is both blighted and includes an unpermitted “recreation facility” that continues in operation despite orders by the county to remove it.

So, what did the council do? There was a relatively brief discussion, then Mayor Bob Lingl made a motion to see if the council wanted to move forward and provide recommendations to the staff.

The second part of the motion was to determine if, after the staff spent time to develop an ordinance, they had the political will to enforce it. Faced with the prospect of enforcing the ordinance, panic set in and the council refused to move forward; in fact, his motion didn’t even get a second.

One of the council priorities was “hiring a consultant to identify how to resolve the jobs/housing imbalance;” continuing to harbor near blight conditions doesn’t seem to be a way to help resolve this issue.

Does it seem plausible that the reason developers are constructing large projects in other cities and not building much of anything in Lompoc is because some council members lack the ability to see that blight discourages development?

Folks, Mayor Lingl wants to improve the quality of life in Lompoc, but he is a lonely man surrounded by fainting goats. Many homeowners’ associations around the city are far better at handling blight than our elected officials appear to be.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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