LIVERMORE -- The City Council has toughened rules for landlords of alleged drug houses, adopting an ordinance designed to help close them down.
The anti-drug house ordinance is intended to be used when landlords refuse to abate their tenants' illegal drug activity and allows the city attorney to exercise his "prosecutorial discretion" against them. This can include imposing fines, evicting the tenant or closing down the property.
The process starts with a referral from police after a drug arrest, and the city is required to provide property owners or occupants sufficient documentation that shows illegal drug activity is occurring.
The ordinance passed Monday with a 4-1 vote. Councilwoman Laureen Turner cast the lone vote against it and later in the meeting expressed concerns that it would simply move drug dealers from one area of the community to another, rather than reduce the amount of drug trafficking.
One Livermore resident voiced opposition to the ordinance. Ken Bradley, a property manager who handles more than 200 units in the Tri-Valley, said he fears the new rule gives the city too much power.
"There is a downside to punishing people without convicting them," Bradley said. "I hope someday to have a police department that can work with us for a better community. I love Livermore, but a city that ignores citizen rights and ignores the law is truly frightening."
Mayor John Marchand said the drug ordinance would be a valuable crime- fighting tool and that the city would use discretion when implementing it.
"We will notify everybody; the landlord, the owner and the tenant," Marchand said. "We'll work very closely with the housing association, which supported it, and the police department."
During a report to the city on Livermore's quality of life issues, police Chief Mike Harris sounded hopeful that the ordinance would work and said Livermore police have served 126 drug-related warrants in the past year, 25 percent of which were against residents with a history of criminal activity.
The drug ordinance takes effect 30 days after Monday's vote. Turner asked Harris to return to the council in six months to a year and give a report on the ordinance's effectiveness.