La Jolla neighbors seek relief from 'Rancho Relaxo'

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

It might be the beginning of the end for “Rancho Relaxo.”

That’s what Bird Rock residents have dubbed the house at 5460 La Jolla Hermosa they say is a nuisance to the neighborhood.

Neighbors have been compiling a laundry list of complaints against a revolving door of tenants on the 900-square-foot, single-family residence, whose landlord, they claim, has been operating for years as a lodging/rooming house in an alleged violation of the San Diego Municipal Code.

Recently, 18 neighbors banded together with the cooperation of San Diego Police, First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner and a host of governmental agencies to bring a consolidated legal action against the property owned by the Blakely Nan M. Trust.

A judicial decision on that case in Small Claims Court is pending. But San Diego Police Lt. Jim Filley told Bird Rock Community Council members at their monthly meeting last week the outlook on “remedying” the nuisance situation is positive and hopeful.

“It’s a flop house with a commune-style environment,” said Filley, noting a police raid there several weeks ago revealed 11 people living on the premises, some in cars in the front and back yards. “He’s (homeowner’s) a hoarder so the inside of the house is a mess. He also has issues with dogs labeled vicious: He can’t get mail there anymore.”

Filley said complaints on the residence stretch back 10 to 15 years.

“There’s been virtually every kind of nuisance that you can imagine — noise, dogs; at one point they even had a senior citizen living in the garage with no electricity,” Filley said. “There have been rats and cockroaches moving through the property: It’s just been really challenging.”

The Bird Rock community worked with Leo Wilson, director of Safe Streets Now: San Diego, to put together a case against "Rancho Relaxo."

“Safe Streets is a program where communities can get individuals to file petitions together for a small claims action seeking relief,” said Wilson. “The maximum reward per individual is $7,500. If this action is successful, the court could find that each of the plaintiffs is eligible.”

In a statement of facts submitted by plaintiffs in their nuisance lawsuit in Small Claims Court heard Jan. 31, it was documented that the latest San Diego Police Department raid on Rancho Relaxo on Jan. 14, 2011, resulted in three arrests. One person was charged with felony possession for sale of several narcotic substances, including methamphetamine.  Two others were arrested for parole violations.

A letter from the City Attorney's Office to the court noted the presence of “known convicts and drug users” loitering and staying overnight on the subject property.

“I think we’re going to get a favorable verdict,” said Filley. “If he (owner) has the money, and I don’t think he does, it would be about a $127,000 verdict for the plaintiffs.”

“I applaud you (community) for your efforts,” Filley added. “It’s a very courageous thing for people to get together and take an action. Oftentimes we (police) get told: It’s your problem, go fix it. This time it was ‘our’ problem. Anybody who lives next to a nuisance property that doesn’t go away understands how uncomfortable it can be.”

“It’s a serious and significant safety issue,” said BRCC president Joe Parker. “There has been fighting, yelling and screaming at all hours of the day and night, extremely aggressive dogs, loud music, dilapidated cars … it just goes on and on. We’re tired of it.”

Parker talked about what they would like to see ultimately happen with Rancho Relaxo.

“We want him (owner) to sell his house and leave,” he said. “He’s made it clear he has no intention of changing what’s going on.”

   
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