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Brandau, Olivier prepare push to simplify code enforcement

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Steve Brandau and Clint Olivier have an idea to simplify code enforcement.

Then again, they may further complicate something that’s already a mess.

The two Fresno City Council members will hold a news conference on Monday to unveil a plan to hold landlords accountable for their substandard rental housing.

At the heart of the proposal is the Anti-Slum Enforcement Team. A key part of the team is the Landlord-Tenant Ombudsman program.

Details are found in a 12-page resolution that goes before the City Council on Thursday.

I’m no lawyer, but I’m guessing a council-approved resolution is a clear signal of legislative sentiment but not binding on a mayor with administrative authority protected by the City Charter.

Still, the resolution has the potential to redefine a high-profile issue that has tormented City Hall throughout Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s two terms.

The authors are confident in the value of their resolution.

“What we’re doing is going straight to the root of the problem,” Olivier told me on Saturday.

The essence of that problem in Fresno – certain landlords seemingly indifferent to the substandard and, on occasion, potentially lethal condition of their rental units – got national attention at this time last year.

That’s when the Summerset Village crisis hit. The 220-unit apartment complex in Central Fresno lost its natural gas service. The blame lay in institutional and landlord failures too numerous to count.

More than a thousand people in the days leading up to Thanksgiving had no safe and reliable source of heat and hot water.

Brandau and Olivier plan to hold their Monday news conference at Summerset.

“We’re coming up on the first anniversary of Summerset,” Brandau told me. “Clint and I decided it was time to act. What we’re proposing will empower City Hall to truly fight slum housing.”

There’s too much going on here to give it all justice in one piece. Allow me to dip into three parts: The resolution, the Mayor-Council Code Enforcement Task Force, and a legal procedure called “notice and order.”

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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