ENCINITAS — City Council voted unanimously to demolish buildings on privately owned land along Quail Gardens Drive on Dec. 8. City officials and neighbors told the council the property located on the east side of Quail Gardens Drive north of Encinitas Boulevard has become a haven for transients and drug users.
The 11-acre property has 11 dilapidated structures that were declared a public nuisance in October of this year. Three of the structures contain hazardous materials. Many of the buildings are littered with drug paraphernalia according to Patrick Murphy, director of Planning and Building. He told the council that transients living in some of the structures have been responsible for thefts and disturbances in nearby neighborhoods.
Problems with “transients and vagrants” came to a head in July of this year as city staff and the sheriffs department met with the owner after citations for code violations were ignored.
Lisa Schafer, who lives close to the property, said she supported the demolition of the structures. She also suggested that when development permits are given in the future, that the behavior of the owner be taken into consideration. The property is currently zoned for 33 residences. “They (Pacific Coast Properties, LLC) have done a great disservice to the community,” she said.
Another neighbor, Glen Johnson, asked the council to cancel the developer’s right to build on the land because of its failure to conform to the request of the city to clean up the buildings. “I’m pissed off. Excuse me, I’m usually a nice guy,” he said.
Neighbors and city officials, as well as law enforcement, have been pushing the city for months to force the property owner to clean up the site. Murphy said the owner, Pacific Coast Properties, LLC, showed a lack of cooperation to clean up and secure the structures in a timely manner.
He told the council that the landowner wants the city to do the work and place a lien on the property rather than pay for the job itself.
Council members agreed to appropriate up to $35,000 from the city’s general fund to cover the demolition costs and file a lien on the property for the exact amount plus 4.5 percent interest. It also directed staff to review the city’s code to find ways to expedite the process of cleaning up similar properties.
Demolition of the structures on the site is scheduled for early next year.
Murphy said the agreement with the owner includes that the owner concurs with the violation and does not contest the lien, agrees to pay the full cost of cleanup plus interest and reimburses the city within five years or if the property is sold.
Council members sympathized with residents who spoke at the meeting about their frustrations with the impact of the neglected property on their neighborhood.
“I feel terrible that it’s taken this long for this matter to come before this council and for us to take this action,” Councilman Jerome Stocks said. “We should have done it sooner. Why it took so long, I honestly don’t have a good answer for you, but at least we’re here now.”
Stocks asked how the demolition bids were procured. Murphy said the developer chose Caspar through a competitive bid process. One of the points in the negotiation with the developer was that the city uses the demolition company of its choice.
Councilwoman Teresa Barth said she attended a neighborhood meeting with staff in September. She apologized that it took so long to take action. She asked whether there were any remedies to penalize the developer. City attorney Glen Sabine said criminal remedies were possible but would take time and money.
“I’m surprised the property wasn’t condemned instead of just found a public nuisance,” Deputy Mayor Maggie Houlihan said. “I just find it frustrating.”