An eyesore in a north central Modesto neighborhood is no more after a crew hired by the city demolished the home and cleared the lot of more than a decade's worth of debris, leaving behind nothing but a few trees, bushes and bare dirt.
Neighbors had complained dozens of times to City Hall about the single-family house on Huntington Drive after a July 1 fire caused $150,000 in damage to the residence.
City officials say Brad and Greg Jarrell, the brothers who owned and lived in the home, had made little progress in clearing the debris and repairing the fire damage.
In January, the front and side yards overflowed with auto parts, furniture, scrap wood, and plastic bins and barrels filled with detritus.
Time ran out Thursday when a Modesto Sand and Gravel crew demolished what was left of the home and removed the debris. The job took all day.
The Jarrells who had continued to live on the property in a 1970s-era motor home parked in the front yard missed a Jan. 14 deadline to remove the debris from the property and a Feb. 4 deadline to repair the home or board it up and secure it.
The city started an enforcement action against the Jarrells on Aug. 23 and gave them nearly six months to come into compliance. The city had the home demolished after receiving court permission.
The Jarrells' father bought the home 40 years ago, and they inherited it after he died 10 years ago.
"This was emotionally wrenching for our code enforcement officers," City Manager Greg Nyhoff said Friday. "This was heartbreaking and you hate doing it. But on the other hand, it is blight in the community and a public safety hazard and you have to do it."
It's not uncommon for the city to raze blighted structures, but it is uncommon to do so when the owners still live on the property.
Nyhoff said city officials gave the brothers time to come into compliance and tried to help them before starting a code enforcement action against them.
On Friday, Greg Jarrell, 50, stood on the sidewalk, facing the street, as he looked over his shoulder at the vacant lot. "It still tears me up when I turn around and see this, because this was a house for 40 years."
As Jarrell spoke, a mail carrier who'd been making his way down Huntington approached and handed the property owner a few envelopes. There was no mailbox to drop them in.
Jarrell said there was a lot of history in the house, such as family photos, family Bibles and home movies that got scooped up by the heavy equipment and hauled off.
But Will Crew, the city's chief building official, said Thursday's demolition work was delayed by about 90 minutes to give the brothers time to remove personal belongings. Crew added that last week, he reminded the brothers of the Feb. 4 deadline and that the city could take action if the brothers were not in compliance.
Neighbors offered different perspectives Friday.
Yolanda Garza, who is a renter, said she understands homeowners were concerned about the blight and how it affected their property values. But she thinks the brothers should have been given more time.
"They really tried at the end to clean up," she said. "Why they had to go through all that work and then have the city give them the axe, I don't know."
But another neighbor, who declined to give her name, said the Jarrells had been a problem long before the fire. The power and water to their home had been shut off before the fire, and the Jarrells had used her water hose without permission.
City officials have said they had several code enforcement actions against the Jarrells since 2006 for such issues as having garbage and debris in their yard.
The brothers said in January they were unemployed and were making ends meet through recycling, odd jobs, food stamps and help from friends.
Greg Jarrell said Friday his brother took the motor home and is staying with friends in Hughson. Jarrell said he also is staying with friends. "Basically, they're forcing us to be homeless," he said of city officials.
As for what's next, he said: "We don't have any alternatives but to get hold of a Realtor and put it up for sale."
Bee City Editor Deke Farrow contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.
Video from demolition scene: