Tue June 24, 2014
Boarding Home Shutting Down In Settlement Case
A boarding home owner is settling out of court with the city to repair a home with dozens of code compliance problems.
The home is in the 1100 block of Pasadena, just off Blanco, north of downtown.
Matt, the home's maintenance man, is frustrated. He has paid to take care of this boarding home and the residents. He needs the tools to do his job but hasn't gotten them. The grass has never been this high, he said.
Matt spoke from just inside the gate of the home, which had a "Private Property" and "No Trespassing" sign on it.
R. LOYD: "Is it nice inside?"
MATT: "It's clean. [It] needs to be fixed in a couple places but she's got contractors coming and looking at it."
She is Doreen Silva, the owner of the Los Angeles Heights neighborhood home where 11 residents live. According to the home's current zoning, only six should be living here. But that's just the beginning of the problems.
San Antonio Development Services Department Director Rod Sanchez said the city has cited nearly 100 violations that haven't been taken care of yet, even after a year of notices.
In order to resolve the issues, the city sued Silva. But instead of going to court, Silva settled and will now shut the home down. All of the residents must be relocated.
"We have structural violations, we have plumbing violations, we have electrical violations, we have mechanical violations, even fire violations," explained Sanchez. "They don't have a sprinkler system. So you got to remember, this is a vulnerable population. They're disabled, they're elderly, so in the event of a fire they need some extra help to get out of there. So without that sprinkler system, we could have a mess on our hands."
The property manager is Stephen Kennedy. He is worried about where the residents will go when they leave. Some of them, he said, have lived here for more than a decade.
Kennedy agreed some of the repairs need to happen and doesn't fault the city for pushing for that. But he said the residents don't have to move because the fixes can be made with them there.
"If they were life threatening a year ago, and they're the same complaints they're making now, why didn't they do anything to protect the residents?" Kennedy asked. "The reason is they're not life threatening. There are not rats in there. There are insects. Everybody gets insects. We have a bug control guy come by and spray them."
While Matt, the maintenance man, and Kennedy both explain the favorable conditions the residents are living in, not everyone is on board with their testimony. Across the street, Lupe Villarreal thinks the city's move is a good one.
"That lady ain't doing (expletive) for them, just taking their money. I know that," Villarreal said.
And the driver from one of the local treatment centers, who dropped off a resident during TPR's visit to the home but didn't want to be identified, said she doesn't like bringing her patient here because of how the residents are living.
The city's new boarding home ordinance, adopted by the city council in late 2012, doesn't aim to punish the boarding home owners. That's why Sanchez said the city didn't pursue a court appearance, but rather the option that'll get the place in better shape faster.
"From our standpoint, it shuts down the home and we put these people in safer places and get them out of harms way and we do it quicker, so we were happy to settle it," Sanchez said. "Had we gone to court, I think the same would have happened. It may have taken a little longer."
Since 2012, the city reports that 100 residents have been placed in safer conditions. The ordinance requires boarding home owners and operators to follow fire, health and zoning requirements.
The city has inspected more than 2,000 homes and has already closed seven properties since the ordinance passed. A majority of boarding homes, Sanchez said, still need to come into compliance.
"There's still quite a bit of work that has to be done to get all these other homes into full compliance with our ordinance," he said.
Silva's two other boarding homes are on the brink of being shut down. The city will likely file cases on those homes soon, Sanchez said.
As Matt, the maintenance man, walked around the house frustrated, he said he felt like he's doing the right thing trying to take care of the residents and get the house in shape. But by shutting down the house, city leaders believe they, too, are doing the right thing.