The houses are unoccupied, neglected. The parched grass grows high, bottles and cans are everywhere, and their owners are seemingly oblivious to their blighted properties.
This is not a slum. This is Columbus Avenue between Hamlin and Kittridge, where some absentee owners have allowed large parcels of land to fall into abuse, or permitted and set up illegal businesses towing and storing cars.
For many years, complaints from residences about the eyesores have flooded into Former Councilman Tony Cardenas’s offices and are now on the desk of Nury Martinez, whose Field Deputy, Guillermo Marquez, joined LAPD Lead Officer Erica Kirk for a walking tour of the shabby, un-chic area.
Both Officer Kirk and Field Deputy Guillermo Marquez are consummate professionals: responsive, articulate, hard-working and complete attributes to our area. They spent hours yesterday listening to the gripes and the stories of crime and neglect.
Yet responsibility for the empty houses goes back to the owners who created, selfishly and without logic, properties that do not produce income and bring down the value of other homes around them.
In Los Angeles, it seems impossible to find affordable houses for purchase for people who make less than $100,000 a year. And others sleep in their cars, or in RVs, or on park benches. Rents are over $1500 a month, for two bedrooms, even in Van Nuys.
And the law says you cannot clear homeless people and their belongings off public sidewalks.
And the law also says you cannot compel errant property owners to fix up their private homes and rent them out or sell them.
So all around our neighborhood, where the average house sells for over a half million, some have decided that just letting their houses sit empty and open for crime and vandalism is the best policy.
And that is why we went on a walk yesterday, a walk that went around in a circle along Columbus, Haynes and Hamlin and ended up in the bright, hot sun with promises and handshakes.