Dozens of Highland Park residents concerned about nuisance-causing properties on their streets attended a meeting of the on Thursday to learn more about the abatement process.
Deputy City Attorney Vanessa Alvarado informed meeting attendees that her office works in collaboration with the Los Angeles Police Department to prosecute owners of nuisance properties.
"We're trying to get the property owner to do what they need to do to remove the nuisance for the property,” Alvarado said.
The abatement process begins with neighbors contacting the city attorney's office to initiate a complaint. Alvarado, whose jurisdiction includes Northeast Los Angeles, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (213) 978-7986.
Alvarado said the most important step neighbors can take in ensuring a successful abatement process is to report any incidents on the property to LAPD. Those reports, she said, will be used in prosecuting property owners.
“It is definitely 100-percent based on police reports, because LAPD officers will come to court and testify because it is part of their job. I can subpoena a police officer to come to court and testify as to what went down,” Alvarado said. “If he's a drug recognition expert, he can provide testimony as an expert. It's much harder to rely on community members, because you live next door and don't want to go to court to testify against a neighbor.”
Neighbors should note, Alvarado said, that calls to Senior Lead Officers are not tracked like police reports, and cannot be used in abatement prosecutions.
Alvarado said the abatement process can work in two ways. The quicker option is to hold a case conference with the property owner to inform them of the nuisance on their property and outline a course of action to correct it. Alvarado said she has seen positive changes made as the result of case conferences within 30 days.
“Property owners are usually pretty responsive because they don't want to spend $300 dollars per-hour on abatement,” she said.
If property owners do not take the actions outlined in a case conference, litigation will be filed. If property owners are found negligent, they can face severe fines or have they property condemned for a year, which often leads them to sell for fear of losing rental income.
Many of the community members who attended Thursday's meeting said they've been struggling for years to have the city address problem properties on their street.
Alvarado told meeting attendees that her office would was hamstrung by budget cuts, and was not able to prosecute every abatement complaint they receive.
Gemma Marquez, a local school teacher who lives near one such house, chastised Alvarado for “making excuses” about cuts to the city attorney's budget and urged the department to be more proactive.
“I'm hearing excuses,” she said. “We need your help and I don't want to hear excuses, I want to see something done.”
Patch Asks: What has been your experience with abatement? Have you ever tried to initiate an abatement claim with the city, or have you been calling your Senior Lead Officer to make complaints. Now that you know the official process for filing a claim, will you try it?