Chapter 45


5-45.01    Purpose of provisions.

5-45.02    Definitions.

5-45.03    Recordation of Assignment of Beneficial Interest.

5-45.04    Registration.

5-45.05    Maintenance requirements.

5-45.06    Security requirements.

5-45.07    Additional authority.

5-45.08    Maintenance and security by the City.

5-45.09    Fees.

5-45.10    Enforcement.

5-45.11    Appeals.

5-45.01 Purpose of provisions.

It is the purpose and intent of the City of Watsonville, through the adoption of this chapter, to establish an abandoned residential property maintenance and registration program to protect residential neighborhoods from blight caused by the lack of adequate maintenance and security of abandoned residential buildings or structures. The City Council finds that inadequate maintenance of vacant or abandoned residences during foreclosures can lead to neighborhood decline, create an attractive public nuisance, and contribute to lower property values in the neighborhood.

(§ 1, Ord. 1240-08 (CM), eff. October 10, 2008)

5-45.02 Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter, certain words and phrases used are defined as follows:

(a)    “Abandoned” shall mean a vacant building or structure for which a notice of trustee’s sale, sheriff’s sale, or deed in lieu of foreclosure has been recorded. Such abandoned status continues until the abandoned building or structure is again occupied as a residence. It shall also mean a vacant property showing “evidence of vacancy” as defined in subsection (d) of this section, where all attempts to contact the owner of record have been unsuccessful.

(b)    “Dangerous building” means any building or structure that is violation of any condition(s), standards and/or regulations contained in Title 8 of the Watsonville Municipal Code.

(c)    “Days” shall mean consecutive calendar days.

(d)    “Evidence of vacancy” shall mean any physical or other condition that on its own or combined with others would lead a reasonable person to believe that the property is vacant. Such conditions include, but are not limited to, overgrown and/or dead vegetation, accumulation of newspapers, trash, junk and/or debris, circulars, flyers and/or mail, past due utility notices and/or disconnected utilities, the absence of personal belongings including but not limited to window coverings, curtains, blinds and/or shutters, furniture or furnishings and/or other personal items consistent with residential habitation and reliable statements and observations of neighbors, the public, delivery agents or government employees.

(e)    “Foreclosure” shall mean the process by which a property is publicly sold judicially or non-judicially to satisfy a debt.

(f)    “Local property manager” shall mean a real property management company, real estate firm or realtor which maintains an office or place of business no more than twenty-five (25) miles from the subject property.

(g)    “Neighborhood standard” shall mean those physical conditions present on a simple majority of residential buildings or structures within a 300-foot radius of an abandoned building or structure. A property that is the subject of a neighborhood standard comparison, or any other abandoned property within the 300-foot radius, shall not be counted toward the simple majority.

(h)    “Owner” shall mean any person or entity with a legal or equitable title or interest in any real property.

(i)    “Securing” shall mean such physical measures as may be permitted or required by the City to residential buildings or structures inaccessible to unauthorized persons, including but not limited to repairing fences and/or walls, chaining and/or padlocking gates, repair or boarding doors, windows and/or other openings. Boarding shall be completed to a minimum of the current United States Department of Housing and Urban Development securing regulatory standards at the time such boarding is completed or required.

(j)    “Vacant” shall mean a building or structure that is not lawfully occupied.

(§ 1, Ord. 1240-08 (CM), eff. October 10, 2008, as amended by § 1, Ord. 1264-10 (CM), eff. November 11, 2010)

5-45.03 Recordation of Assignment of Beneficial Interest.

In order to allow the City to be able to know who is responsible for a building or structure, a successor beneficiary shall, within ten (10) days of receiving such assignment of beneficial interest, record it with the Santa Cruz County Recorder’s Office. Such document shall identify the new beneficiary or creditor, loan number, physical address and telephone number of the successor beneficiary.

(§ 1, Ord. 1240-08 (CM), eff. October 10, 2008)

5-45.04 Registration.

(a)    Promptly upon recording a writ of sale or notice of trustee sale with the Santa Cruz County Recorder’s Office, a judgment creditor or beneficiary of a mortgage or deed of trust shall inspect the property to be used to satisfy the debt or which is security for the deed of trust. If the property is vacant or shows evidence of vacancy it is for purposes of this chapter deemed abandoned and the creditor or beneficiary shall register the property with the City within ten (10) days of recording a notice of sale or writ of sale.

(b)    If a property with a building or structure pending public sale by a trustee of a deed of trust or the Sheriff by a writ of sale becomes vacant or shows evidence of vacancy, the property shall be deemed abandoned, and the beneficiary or creditor shall register the property with the City within ten (10) days of such inspection.

(c)    The registration shall contain pertinent information as directed by the City on the form provided including name of the creditor, beneficiary and or trustee, loan number, foreclosure number, court name and case number, physical and mailing addresses of the creditor, beneficiary or trustee, and the local property manager responsible for the security, maintenance and marketing of the property.

(d)    An annual registration fee shall accompany the registration form. The fee and registration shall be valid for the fiscal year (July 1st to June 30th) or remaining portion of the fiscal year in which the registration was first required. Subsequent registrations and fees are due July 1st of each year and must be received no later than July 31st of the year due. Registration fees will not be prorated.

(e)    This section shall also apply to properties that have been the subject to foreclosure but where title was transferred to the beneficiary or creditor by a deed in lieu of foreclosure or sale.

(f)    Properties subject to this chapter shall remain subject to the annual registration requirement security and maintenance standards of this section as long as the property remains vacant.

(g)    Any person or entity that has registered a property under this chapter must report any change of information contained in registration and required by this chapter to the City by written mailed correspondence, within ten (10) days of such change.

(h)    At the time of registration, the beneficiary or creditor shall cause the water utility to be registered in their name and shall maintain such utility in their name until the property is no longer vacant.

(§ 1, Ord. 1240-08 (CM), eff. October 10, 2008)

5-45.05 Maintenance requirements.

In addition to the requirements of Chapter 5-33 of this Code, properties subject to registration under Section 5-45.04 shall comply with the following:

(a)    In comparison with the neighborhood standard, the property shall be kept free of weeds, dry brush, dead vegetation, trash, junk, debris, building materials, any accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers, notices, except those required by federal, state or local law, discarded personal items including but not limited to furniture, clothing, large and small appliances, printed material or any other items that give the appearance that the property is abandoned.

(b)    The property shall be maintained free of graffiti, tagging or similar markings by removal or painting over with an exterior grade paint that matches the color of the exterior of the structure.

(c)    Visible front and side yards shall be landscaped and maintained to the neighborhood standard at the time registration was required.

(1)    Landscape includes, but is not limited to, grass, ground covers, bushes, shrubs, hedges or similar plantings, decorative rock or bark or artificial turf/sod designed specifically for residential installation. Landscape does not include weeds, gravel, broken concrete, asphalt, decomposed granite, plastic sheeting, mulch, indoor-outdoor carpet or any similar material.

(2)    Maintenance includes but is not limited to regular watering, irrigation, cutting, pruning and mowing of required landscape and removal of all trimmings so as to meet or exceed the neighborhood standard.

(d)    Pools and spas shall be kept in working order so the water remains clear and free of pollutants and debris or drained and kept dry. In either case properties with pools and/or spas must comply with the minimum security fencing requirements of the City and State of California.

(e)    Adherence to this section does not relieve the beneficiary or property owner of any obligations set forth in any covenants, conditions and restrictions and/or homeowners’ association rules and regulations which may apply to the property.

(f)    Unregistered, abandoned properties are, at a minimum, subject to subsections (a) and (b) of this section.

(§ 1, Ord. 1240-08 (CM), eff. October 10, 2008, as amended by § 1, Ord. 1264-10 (CM), eff. November 11, 2010)

5-45.06 Security requirements.

(a)    Properties subject to this chapter shall be maintained in a secure manner so as not to be accessible to any unauthorized persons. Secure manner includes but is not limited to the closure and locking of windows, doors (walk-through, sliding and garage), gates and any other opening of such size that it may allow a child to access the interior of the property and or structure(s). In the case of broken windows or doors securing means the prompt re-glazing or boarding of the window or door.

(1)    There shall be at least one operable door into the building or structure. If an existing door is operable, it may be secured with a suitable lock. All other openable doors may be closed from the interior by toenailing them to the door frame or by securing with a suitable lock.

(2)    Boarding of doors and windows shall only be utilized upon repeat breach of the building or structure. Boards shall be cut to fit the openings and painted to match the primary exterior color of the property.

(b)    A local property manager shall be contracted to perform weekly inspections to verify that the requirements of this section, and any other applicable laws, are met.

(1)    The building or structure shall be posted with name and twenty-four (24) hour contact phone number of the local property manager. The posting shall be on a form provided by the City at the time of registration. The form shall be posted on the interior of a window facing the street to the front of the building or structure, or secured to the exterior of the building or structure facing the street so it is visible from the street and to the public.

(2)    The local property manager shall inspect the building or structure weekly to determine compliance with this chapter. If the property is found to be noncompliant, or if notification of noncompliance is reported to the local property manager, the local property manager shall bring the property back into compliance within seventy-two (72) hours of notice thereof.

(c)    Unregistered, abandoned properties are, at a minimum, subject to subsection (a) of this section.

(§ 1, Ord. 1240-08 (CM), eff. October 10, 2008, as amended by § 1, Ord. 1264-10 (CM), eff. November 11, 2010)

5-45.07 Additional authority.

In addition to lawful remedies provided in the Watsonville Municipal Code or otherwise, the City Manager shall have the authority to require the beneficiary/trustee/owner and/or owner of record of any property affected by this section to implement additional maintenance and/or security measures including but not limited to securing doors, windows or other openings, installing additional security lighting, increasing on-site inspection frequency, employment of an on-site security guard or other measures as may be reasonably required to arrest the decline of the property or preserve the public health and safety.

(§ 1, Ord. 1240-08 (CM), eff. October 10, 2008)

5-45.08 Maintenance and security by the City.

(a)    If any person or entity fails to maintain or secure a building or structure which is vacant or shows evidence of vacancy, to the standards of this chapter within the time specified by written notice of violation, the City Manager may cause the property to be maintained and/or secured by City personnel or private contract, and may lawfully enter upon the property in order to maintain the public health and safety.

(b)    The cost of such maintenance and security and staff costs may be recovered in the manner set forth in the Watsonville Administrative Remedies Ordinance at Chapter 2 of Title 1 and in particular Section 1-2.114 and thereafter.

(§ 1, Ord. 1240-08 (CM), eff. October 10, 2008, as amended by § 1, Ord. 1264-10 (CM), eff. November 11, 2010)

5-45.09 Fees.

The fee for registering an abandoned residential property shall be set by resolution of the City Council from time to time.

(§ 1, Ord. 1240-08 (CM), eff. October 10, 2008)

5-45.10 Enforcement.

Violations of this chapter may be enforced in any combination as provided in Chapter 2 of Title 1 of the Watsonville Municipal Code and any other enforcement and lawful remedies available to the City.

(§ 1, Ord. 1240-08 (CM), eff. October 10, 2008)

5-45.11 Appeals.

Any person aggrieved by any of the requirements of this chapter may appeal insofar as such appeal is permitted under the Watsonville Municipal Code.

(§ 1, Ord. 1240-08 (CM), eff. October 10, 2008)