The landlords of Commodore Circle have submitted an eight-point plan to clean up Huntington Beach's most dilapidated street, but city officials have called it unacceptable and will ask them to try again.
In their "action plan" delivered to the city two weeks ago, the landlords agreed to work as a team to rehabilitate and maintain the 20 two-story apartment buildings if the city provided about $450,000 in federal grant money and additional "financial loan assistance of $200,000," and agreed to "black out . . . information to (the) news media until such time as an agreement is reached between the parties."
Moreover, nine of the 10 landlords of the crowded cul-de-sac asked the city for partial release of the grant money to hire an architect, an attorney and consultant "to assist in (the) implementation of the rehabilitation program" and to plan and pay for a relocation plan for the street's tenants, most of them poor Latinos and Vietnamese. Rents on the two- and three-bedroom units are upwards of $500 a month.
City officials contend that the property owners are, in effect, asking the city to take on the bulk of rehabilitation responsibility without significant commitment from the landlords.
Bothered by Plan
"The whole idea their plan seems to present is: 'City, give us the money, divide it up equally and thank you very much,' " said Richard Barnard, an assistant city administrator. "There's no participation by them financially. That bothers me a great deal."
Barnard said Tuesday that the city will now give Commodore Circle landlords until Jan. 10 to correct dozens of "the most serious" health and building code violations and to resubmit "a workable" blueprint to breathe new life into what has become known as the worst street in the city of 180,000. Barnard said the city expects to mail a letter to the landlords outlining its objections on Friday. Carlos Negrete, a spokesman for the property owners, said he could not comment without seeing a copy of the city's letter.
Tug of War
Barnard's and other city officials' comments this week opened the latest chapter in what is quickly becoming a tug of war between the Commodore Circle landlords and a city that has had minimal success in cleaning up the area.
On Oct. 18, Huntington Beach officials gave Commodore Circle property owners 30 days to correct hundreds of violations, including rotted plumbing, corroded fixtures, and roach and mice infestations.
An unprecedented two-hour meeting with all the landlords or their representatives followed three weeks later, at which the owners agreed to cooperate among themselves and present a unified plan of action to the city by mid-December.
The city officials, in turn, said they would ease their enforcement efforts until the plan was submitted. In addition, the city earmarked $450,000 in U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development block grant funds to help rehabilitate the deteriorated apartment buildings.
Greater Contribution Sought
Charles P. Spencer, program manager for the city's housing and redevelopment office, said the city has every intention of using the grant for Commodore Circle, but wants to make sure the landlords are involved, too.
"We want to do everything we can out there to help out but not give the ship away," he said. "We want the landlords to make a vast contribution to the project.
"Whoever drafted this (the landlords' plan) wasn't thinking," he added, shaking his head.
As for the enforcement of the remaining health and building code violations, city officials said Tuesday that an inspector will return to Commodore Circle in the next 10 days to see if there has been any improvement since his initial inspection in October.