City leaders to decide if Fresno apartment owner should be fined

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The city's effort to collect nearly $300,000 in fines from the owner of an apartment complex where gas leaks left a thousand residents out in the cold is a first. (KFSN)

The city of Fresno's pledge to crack down on slumlords is being put to the test. The city's effort to collect nearly $300,000 in fines from the owner of an apartment complex where gas leaks left a thousand residents out in the cold is a first.

A hearing was held Monday to determine if the owner of the Summerset Village apartment complex should pay the city of Fresno $290,000 in code violation fines at city hall. The complex is in City Council Member Clint Olivier's district.

"I think it would be appropriate for the hearing officer to throw the book at the owner of the Summerset apartments just to show the city is serious about going after substandard housing," Olivier said.

The case is a test of just how serious the city is. Under questioning by an attorney the property manager Brad Hardie testified he was told by the city's code enforcement manager Del Estabrook, and City Manger Bruce Rudd that once repairs were made the fines would be waived.

"Whether accurate or not, you perceived Del to have the ability to waive fines?" a supervisor asked.

"Yeah, I thought so," Hardie replied.

"And, certainly, you perceived Mr. Rudd to have the ability to waive fines?"

"Yes."

"So their authority was apparent to you at least?"

"Yes."

"Nothing further."

However, the city claims no such promises were made and Estabrook said he lacked the authority to waive the fines.

"Do you have the authority to waive fines that have been issued by code enforcement?" an attorney asked Estabrook.

"No I do not," he replied.

"Are you anywhere of anyone within the city of Fresno who has the authority to waive code enforcement fines?"

"Yes."

"And who would that be?"

"Could be the appeals officer," Estabrook said. "Or the administration and/or the city manager."

Under questioning from the city's lawyers, Hardie acknowledged he had nothing in writing from city manager Bruce Rudd. Hardie claims property owner Chris Henry has spent close to $2 million.

"This has never happened before that the city has never issued fines against anybody before," Pahoua Lor said. "If that's true, there definitely needs to be accountability on the city's part to hold slumlords responsible."

And city council member Clint Olivier, whose district includes the complex believes an example needs to be made.

"I think it would be appropriate for the hearing officer to throw the book at the owner of the Summerset apartments just to show the city is serious about going after substandard housing," Olivier said.

Property manager Brad Hardie said the owner has gone above and beyond the code violations, spending $1.6 million in repairs so far. The hearing officer has 21 days to decide whether to impose, reduce or eliminate the fines.

Related Topics:
gas leakfresnoapartmentFresno - Southeast
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