A dozen quick thoughts on happenings at Fresno City Hall:
Back on Front Burner: Code Enforcement Appeals
1.) Independent Administrative Hearing Officer Michael Flores says the Summerset Village appeal hearing is now scheduled for the last week of September. That’s right – the entire week, Sept. 26 through 30.
2.) Summerset, of course, is the big apartment complex in central Fresno that was much in the news last November when tenants went days without natural gas service. The city hit Summerset owner Chris Henry with $290,000 in fines for 1,450 code violations. Henry appealed. The hearing has been rescheduled several times. Flores on Thursday told me he’s had his fill with requests for delays from both sides.
3.) The Summerset/Henry hearing is still slated for the Council Chamber. The council has no scheduled meeting in the last week of September.
4.) Ed Johnson is the city’s other independent administrative hearing officer. He told me Thursday that he plans in early September to begin individual hearings on a number of cases involving fines for blighted vacant buildings. Johnson wants to formally explore whether fines of tens of thousands of dollars are constitutional. Johnson’s three-year contract ends in October. He doesn’t expect to get through all these hearings before his time is up. But, he adds, that won’t stop him from beginning the search for important answers.
5.) The Summerset hearing figures to resonate in the public debate over regulation of residential rental units. Housing activists want City Hall to create an inspection program funded with landlord fees. Activists wonder why Mayor Ashley Swearengin isn’t moving fast to start the program. The Summerset hearing most likely will include heartfelt testimony from tenants.
6.) I’m betting Flores’ decision will have more impact on whether Fresno embraces an inspection program than comments from Summerset renters. I’m betting Flores fully realizes he has a political hot potato in his hands.