Property owners appeal fees for blight cleanup 

Owners of sketchy properties in The City who have been penalized under a new blight ordinance can now attend hearings at City Hall to try to wiggle out of the hefty fees.

The hearings are emblematic of a new crackdown on slumlords who leave their properties unkempt and graffiti-laden in a way that is attracting crime and other seedy problems to San Francisco’s neighborhoods.

About a year ago, Mayor Gavin Newsom signed into law the Community Preservation and Blight Reduction Act, which allows The City to penalize property owners who consistently neglect city notices to clean up.

Graffiti, overgrown vegetation, litter and withering paint jobs are among the eyesores targeted.

After repeated notices to property owners, the law directs The City to clean up the blight without an invitation. Owners are then charged for the work and slapped with a $250 inspection fee.

The ordinance strengthens previous laws on blight enforcement.

The City has already sent 139 notices just for graffiti issues, said Christine Falvey, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

Owners of 24 properties are protesting the inspection fees and can do so at hearings set up at City Hall, Falvey said.

The first hearing was held Wednesday and included both comical excuses and legitimate concerns from property owners.

Some owners said they have been cleaning graffiti for years and it just keeps coming back. Other owners are elderly or ill and cannot keep up physically or financially, said people who represented them at the hearing.

But all the owners have to do is respond to notices, said DPW superintendent Larry Stringer. The City will help those with hardships, he said.

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