House Proud

This house on Lorimer Street has been the subject of dozens of complaints dating back almost 20 years; the city is suing to seize the house, clean up the property and sell it.

In a different time, the house at Lorimer and Alisal streets in central Salinas was a sight to behold: a two-story mossy green Italianate with soft yellow window trim that stood out for its unique architecture, its charming balconies and its prominent corner location near Hartnell College and the county government center.

In the current time, the house remains a sight to behold, but for completely different reasons: Over the past 20 years, it has fallen into a state of abject blight, its yard overgrown with weeds, its windows busted out and then boarded over, its doors ripped open by squatters and its interior filled with garbage and stripped clean of anything of value that could be sold.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 28 in Monterey County Superior Court, the house at 304 Lorimer St. is referred to as “the subject property,” and it is now the subject of a receivership action by the city of Salinas. If the city is successful, a judge will appoint a receiver to oversee the rehabilitation of the circa-1937 home, then recoup its legal and repair costs when the receiver sells the home.

“The city has attempted over an extended period of time to work with the property owner, but the property owner has been unresponsive,” says Salinas City Attorney Chris Callihan. “A legitimate buyer came forward to buy it, but the property owner would not respond to the buyer or their agent.

“With the condition of the property being dangerous,” he says, “the city had no choice but to move forward.”

The city began receiving complaints about the property in 2002, when neighbors first reported the yard was overgrown and that someone was storing a number of inoperable vehicles in the yard and on the driveway. What followed was a number of citations and abatement orders to the owner, a now-elderly woman named Lola Glenn, who is believed to live in Gilroy.

In 2015, neighbors began complaining about the property in earnest, between the inoperable vehicles, rodent infestations that spilled over into neighboring properties and the repeat break-ins to the home; the city declared it abandoned property and again boarded it up.

Between then and now, even more complaints came in: more rodent infestation, more break-ins, the collapse of the garage roof, standing water leading to clouds of mosquitoes and the sound of gunfire on the property are all on that list. By Jan. 7, 2020, the city had sent in five rounds of violation notices to the owner.

When the owner’s daughter failed to appear at a city inspection of the property, inspectors executed an inspection warrant and went in on July 7, 2020. In all, the property was cited with 50 violations that the owners were ordered to remedy by Sept. 24.

City code enforcement manager Lorenzo Sanchez says the interior of the house was so loaded with junk it was hard to maneuver through.

“It is just full of debris, and boxes and mold. There are access points but no pathways, and the odor was terrible in some places,” Sanchez says. “We had to walk and crawl over items just to get through it. It’s in a very unlivable state.”

In 2019, Salinas City Council, with Councilmember Steve McShane leading the charge, passed a blight ordinance giving the city more power to compel property owners to maintain their buildings or face legal consequences. One such blighted property, the fire-ravaged Dick Bruhn building in Oldtown, was days away from being placed into receivership when ag industry leader Bruce Taylor bought it; it’s now being developed as 19 apartments over ground-level retail.

“We’ve only done (receivership) a handful of times. We don’t jump to it, and we give the owner every opportunity to comply,” Sanchez says. “We don’t do it if the grass isn’t cut. There has to be a health and safety issue.”

The case is set for an initial management hearing on June. 1.

Glenn could not be located for comment and it’s unclear if she has retained an attorney.

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