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Blight to Light

Monday April 27, 2015 was the Blight to Light Community Action Meeting. The purpose of this community meeting was to bring together hundreds of people in Fresno and call for strong action against the thousands of abandoned and disgustingly substandard rental properties located in our city. We want one healthy Fresno for all. A community gathering together is the first step in achieving that.

Community members shared their personal stories of living in slumlord owned properties. These members of our community often have to face more health problems than someone who is living in a properly maintained home. Their stories need to be shared and their stories need to be heard by their community, and in this community action meeting that is exactly what happened. It’s a lot more difficult for someone to ignore the injustice that is brought by blight and slumlords once there’s a face and a story attached to it.

The main action that was called for last Monday were for the following four points to be added to the blight ordinance:

  1. Implement and enforce a vacant building registration program for all buildings vacant for longer than 60 days.
  2. Require an internal inspection of all newly unblighted properties before they are rented to ensure properties are habitable under California law.
  3. Allow for non-profit and community groups to enforce the ordinance at no expense to the City by including a private attorney general clause in FMC Chapter 10.
  4. We call for a commitment by elected leaders to reconvene the Task Force by August 2015 for Phase II, to continue the work of reviewing the municipal code to deal with interior substandard housing conditions that violate California health and safety laws and endanger tenant families — including a commitment that tenants – particularly from low-income neighborhoods – be added to this “Phase II” of the Task Force.

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Council members Esmeralda Soria (District 1) and Clint Olivier (District 7) were in attendance.
They heard the community call for the above points to be added to the ordinance. They both gave a firm yes to number two, and a no or a maybe to the other three. Both council members said they are willing to do whatever is necessary to end blight in Fresno.

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On Thursday, April 30th, City Council (5-2) approved the introduction of an ordinance designed to rid Fresno of blighted houses. The first of many steps. This fight has been a long one, and it’s not over yet. It won’t be over until our code enforcers are no longer so much concerned on the height of our fences, but instead become more concerned with the effects a boarded up home has on a neighborhood’s real estate. When they become more concerned over the atrocious health disparities between those in North Fresno and those in South Fresno. When they remember what codes and laws are for. Laws are not to burden citizens. They are not to fill the pockets of the ones we have entrusted to uphold our city and its laws. They are to protect. Not just the select few, but they are to protect ALL members of our society.

One healthy Fresno is possible. All that is required is the partnership between a city and its people; a people and a city that yearn for justice.