HAYWARD -- Property owners who allow criminal activity to take place at rentals and other housing could face fines up to $5,000 under an ordinance approved by the City Council.
"This ordinance is intended to deal with property owners who either refuse to work with the city or, worse yet, are participating in chronic problem behavior," police Lt. Mark Koller said after the council's unanimous vote Tuesday.
No one spoke against the ordinance, and one speaker, former Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele, dramatically showed the council why she felt the city needed to do something about problem-plagued properties.
From a paper shopping bag, she pulled out roofing nails, beer cans, liquor bottles, a dirty diaper and two large pieces of concrete that had been thrown onto her property from apartments next to her house in North Hayward.
"The kids are totally unsupervised. They dumped oil in front of my house and rode their bikes in the oil," she said, showing the council a plastic jug with oil residue. She has not gotten much help from police, she said.
"You need to fix it," Steele told the council.
Her neighbor, Ann Cygielman, said mattresses and other large items are being dumped outside the apartments. Music from the apartments often is so loud she can't hear her television, she told the council.
"It's sad to see what's happened in our neighborhood," she said. "I don't feel safe in my home."
The new ordinance will address such problems, City Attorney Michael Lawson told council members after they voted to adopt the new rules.
Activities the ordinance is intended to curb include drug dealing, gang activity, prostitution, violent crimes, loud parties and brandishing or firing guns. Previously, the city would send letters to property owners, managers and landlords asking them to fix the problem. If they didn't, Hayward's only recourse was to take the owners to court, an expensive, lengthy process.
Under the new ordinance, the city first will send a courtesy notice to the property owner. If the owner doesn't fix the problem, the city can issue an abatement order and assess penalties up to $5,000. The owner can appeal any penalties at an administrative hearing.
Hayward police handle an average of 5.5 chronic social nuisance complaints on private property a month, according to a staff report.
As an example, the report included two problem locations, a house and an apartment complex. Over a five-year period, Hayward police responded to more than 230 complaints at the two places, requiring 800 hours of staff time at a cost of more than $86,000. A court finally ordered the house demolished, and the apartment complex was sold and has been cleaned up by the new owners, Koller said after the meeting.
Hayward based its new rules on nuisance ordinances in Stockton, Vallejo and Woodland. In those cities, most problems are taken care of after a letter is sent to property owners, according to the staff report.
The Rental Housing Association -- which represents about 600 landlords in southern Alameda County -- agrees the ordinance is needed, said Timothy May, its executive director.
"We don't support any property owner who allows criminal nuisance to continue," he said before Tuesday's meeting.
Steele said Wednesday that children from the apartments near her residence have shot mud clods from slingshots at her house, and shards of glass from a smashed beer bottle were scattered in her garden.
"I have a live-and-let-live attitude," Steele said. "My neighbor and I try not to be picky-picky, but this is just too damn much."
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473, or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.