Neighbors more relaxed after La Jolla eyesore is sold, cleaned up
By Dave Schwab
As work crews continue to haul the mess out of Rancho Relaxo, a “nuisance” Bird Rock property sold last week, neighbors reacted — most positively — to the change.
“I’m very relieved,” said Tracy Trudeau, returning home from a milk run March 21. “This same walk I was doing once with my 3-year-old son,” he said. “These (Relaxo) pit bulls came chasing after us and I had to hold him (son) in the air.”
Roderick Leong, who lives at 425 Midway St. just around the corner from the house at 5460 La Jolla Hermosa, said, “You don’t know who’s going to move in next, you know what I mean?”
But he acknowledged having mixed feelings.
“I knew him (owner Dan Blakely) when he was so young,” he said. “I’ve known a couple of them (former residents) several years. They’ve been fairly quiet as neighbors, although a lot of people have passed through.”
Last week, Stephen Cyfzkiewicz, owner of Crowne Builders in Coronado, closed escrow on the property.
He said Monday he’d been in talks with Blakely for a few months prior to purchasing the property.
“I’m definitely not tearing it down,” he said. “It’s going to be more of a cosmetic overhaul; putting a two-car garage in the back and converting the garage there now into living space.”
“We’re looking at at least another week of just clean up,” Cyfzkiewicz added.
On Monday, a couple on an early-morning walk with their dog, who requested anonymity, talked about the commune-style, 900-square-foot single-family home now completely surrounded by a green construction fence.
“The person who lived there is a good person,” said the man, who grew up in that neighborhood. “He just got overwhelmed by all these homeless people. He was a good kid. He befriended all these drug addicts, and they just took over his life. Pretty soon, they were actually running the place.”
“In some ways this gives him (Blakely) a second chance,” said his wife. “Whether he’ll take it …”
Courtney Bell, now a teacher, said Dan Blakely and his late mother Nan were both “good-hearted” people always willing to give troubled people a warm meal or a temporary place to stay.
“They were always very kind,” she noted.
For months, neighbors compiled a laundry list of complaints including illegal drug use and sale on the premises, building a case against the landlord they claimed had been operating for years as a lodging/rooming house in likely violation of San Diego Municipal Codes.
Eighteen neighbors subsequently banded together with the cooperation of San Diego Police, First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner and Supervisor Pam Slater-Price and a host of governmental agencies to bring a consolidated legal action against the property owned by the Blakely Nan M. Trust in a nuisance lawsuit heard in Small Claims Court Jan. 31.
A judgment of $136,000 was returned for neighbors a couple of weeks later, just prior to the property’s being set to be sold at public auction March 18 due to nearly $7,000 owed in back taxes. But the taxes were paid and the sale closed several days before the scheduled auction.
Joe Parker, Bird Rock Community Council president, said on March 23 that Blakely had settled with all 18 neighbors in the lawsuit against him, and that the monetary judgment determined by the court in the case had been “satisfied.”
Parker said the community has a sense of closure.
“After all the longstanding problems that the neighborhood has suffered for as long as 10 years, this result so quickly, the legal action with the cooperation of Leo Wilson and Safe Streets, the county tax lien — is a remarkable result,” he said. “It’s one volunteers in this community should be very proud of.”
Trudeau said Blakely had a cavalier attitude about his property.
“He was really laissez-faire about the whole thing,” he said. “I don’t think losing it really meant much. He thought, ‘I’ll file this appeal: No big deal.’ Then he realized it was a losing battle, and the tax sale was coming. He kind of like was, ‘I can’t believe my neighbors didn’t come and talk to me.’ I said, ‘You’ve just got to be kidding me: We’ve been talking to you for 10 years. You’re just not listening.”
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