PARAMOUNT — After months of intense lobbying from west side residents who complained that not enough is being done to improve deteriorating conditions in the city, the City Council Tuesday approved an expanded rehabilitation and enforcement program costing nearly $500,000.
"We're looking at a massive code enforcement effort with a goal to cover the entire city in two years for $493,000," said Richard R. Powers, director of community development. "It is staggering. There are at least 7,000 (code violations) in the city."
Under the program, Powers said, the city will concentrate on removing junk, debris, weeds, hundreds of inoperative vehicles, and people living in illegally converted garages and trailers; demolishing some abandoned and deteriorating properties, and rehabilitating the exteriors of dilapidated housing.
Many of the deteriorating properties have absentee landlords, officials said. Most of those landlords, after lengthy hearings, comply with the codes, with only about 1% being taken to court for non-compliance, Powers said.
50 Complaints a Month
The city receives an average of 50 complaints a month from citizens, with 50 violations uncovered by city staff, Powers said. Those violations, he said, range from chickens in backyards to unsafe buildings.
More than $260,000 for the project will come from the general fund and $207,000 from a federal Housing and Community Development Block Grant. It is estimated that the city will recover about $24,000 in court costs.
About $75,000 of the money will go toward public information and advertising, which will include a 10-minute videotape, mailers, bumper stickers and a newsletter "to educate the public on how the program works and how they can participate," Councilman Charles R. Weldon said.
The program calls for hiring at least one more full-time person who will be assigned "sweep duties to go through the neighborhood, door to door, to cite violations," Weldon said.
Citizens will also be asked to volunteer to clean up their neighborhoods. The city will purchase trash bins, which will be placed in neighborhoods during volunteer cleanups.
$125,000 Spent on Enforcement
Last year, Weldon said, the city spent about $125,000 on its code enforcement program, but with "the additional money we can speed things up."
Much of the push for the speedup came from a group of residents who live in the western portion of the city known as the "Sans" area because many of the streets start with San, such as San Jose, San Marcus and San Luis.
"The Sans was very vocal in wanting a more vigorous code enforcement," Mayor Gerald A. Mulrooney said.
"Many residents were looking at our shiny new redevelopment projects downtown and asking what we were doing about their own individual neighborhood," Mulrooney said.
The city started a redevelopment program on Paramount Boulevard downtown in 1981, which now includes a $10-million shopping center anchored by a Vons market on the west side of the boulevard. Construction on the east side of the boulevard is under way for a 17,000-square-foot office building, which is expected to be completed in 1987.
'We'll Be Back'
Sans resident Daisy Majak, who led a three-month fight to get the council to speed up the code enforcement program, said, "I'm happy with the steps the council is taking."
But she quickly added that "I'm skeptical. I will wait and see if this is just a pacifier to keep us quiet. I'll wait a month to see if it is really working. Then we'll be back."
Majak said she and about 20 others spent more than three months complaining to the council and writing letters about deteriorating conditions in the Sans area.
"The area was looking like a ghetto. We took pictures to documents our complaints that included debris, furniture in the streets, weeds and abandoned cars," Majak said.
The complaints also included charges of illegal parking of vehicles that blocked driveways, drainage problems, street gangs and drug trafficking.
"We spent $3 million on law enforcement this year. When I came on the council in 1981 we were spending $1.6 million. So we are spending more. We are responding the best we can," Mulrooney said.
He said he believes that the new code enforcement effort will "indirectly contribute" in the community's effort to fight crime.
"With new pride being instilled in our neighborhoods through the cleanup," Mulrooney said, he believed crime would decline.
The city, which has a population of 42,000, contracts with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for police protection.