Rick Ferroni calls it his “nightmare on Elm Street.”
In December, the investor from Escalon foreclosed on a residential property in the 4400 block of Elm Street in Salida, finding a lot filled with junk next door, a homeless man camped behind the home, abandoned vehicles on the street and front yards cluttered with old appliances.
Ferroni said an occupied motor home in front of a neighbor’s house was leaking sewage. It all created unhealthy and hazardous conditions for people living near the south end of Elm.
Ferroni said he poured money into repairs for the rental home and now has it for sale, but potential buyers “don’t want to live next to a dump.” A man who made an offer looked at the street last weekend and promptly backed out of the deal, he said.
“If Geer Road landfill was still open, it would look better than this,” Ferroni fumed at Tuesday’s Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting. He charged that the county had not done enough to require the property owners to comply with codes.
Ferroni’s complaints are familiar to Modesto-area residents who live next to drug houses, trashy lots, unkempt foreclosed homes and dangerous abandoned structures, and are unable to coax prompt action from local authorities. Code enforcement held a lower priority during the economic slump when the county made budget cuts to preserve essential services.
Today, two code enforcement officers deal with zoning violations in the 1,500-square-mile county.
In December, county environmental resources responded to a complaint about the junk-filled parcel next to Ferroni’s property in Salida. Officials talked with the older woman who owns the lot, and she agreed to rent a large dumpster and start clearing the junk.
Jami Aggers, environmental resources director, said the county has made good progress at the site compared with other code enforcement actions, which can take months or years to work through the legal process. Ferroni countered that code enforcement officers ignored the vehicles on the street and the mess around the motor home.
By Wednesday, the dumpster had been filled with refuse and hauled away. A county inspector spoke with residents about the motor home and other vehicles parked outside homes.
While there has been progress with the parcel next door, it’s not enough to wake Ferroni from his bad dream.
Aggers said code enforcement discovered Wednesday that it can’t take action on the vehicles because they are parked on private property, where abandoned-vehicle laws don’t apply. It turns out the public street ends near Ferroni’s house. The last 100 feet of the road, where the vehicles are parked, is in private domain.
“Given that, (the vehicles) are not subject to abandoned-vehicle codes and do not have to be moved at this point,” Aggers said in an email.
Aggers said the owners are violating the state Vehicle Code if their vehicles are left stationary. But the owners can simply move them every few days to comply with the law, and at any rate, the California Highway Patrol is responsible for enforcement, Aggers said.
A group of residents at the south end of Elm contested Ferroni’s complaints Wednesday. A woman who refused to identify herself said no one lives in the motor home and that it had not been leaking sewage. She said a truck and another car with expired tags were filed under the nonoperation option with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
She said she and other residents were helping the older woman remove junk from the parcel next to Ferroni’s property. Her father once had an agreement with the owner to store stuff on the vacant parcel and, after her father died, it became a local dumping ground, she said. After the first dumpster was filled, a pile of refuse, tires and an old boat remained on the lot.
“We are cleaning it all up,” she said. “We don’t like it, either.”
A person who lives in the neighborhood confirmed Ferroni’s complaints and said the mess around the motor home was cleaned after the county focused attention on the street.
Susanna Duran, who lives on one side of the junky lot, said she was glad to see the cleanup in progress. She formerly has had to move wood and other debris out of the way to back her car out of her driveway, she said.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Terry Withrow said he believes the county still can enforce an ordinance that limits the number of vehicles on private property. The county will do what it can to address Ferroni’s complaints within the constraints of the law, he said.
“People have rights and it takes time to remedy these situations,” Withrow said. As the county’s fiscal health improves, it can invest more resources in code enforcement, he added.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.