"They would climb up onto the roof, defecate in the corridors, leave trash and urinate in alcoves and have left needles in the flower beds. My gardener refuses to handle the plants there. He's afraid."
He showed me a new addition to his concerns, a possible bullet or BB gun hole in a ground floor window of the offices of one of his tenants, Fey real estate, and called the police while I was there to report it. His onsite manager, who lives at the property told me that he has heard what he thought were gunshots, late at night.
The City Manager wrote to the Bureau of Indian Affairs on April 9th. to politely request permission from the likely beneficiary of the late Mr. Saubel's estate, (the late Mr. Saubel owned the Magruder property), offering to pay the demolition costs. On May 6th a near 800-signature petition was presented to the City calling for the demolition to go ahead. The public was told that a reply was expected within two weeks. It is now coming up on TWO MONTHS since that letter was sent and the hope that a polite approach would be met with a sensible response is fading and the Magruder building is still sitting there. Yet it needn't.
The City's Municipal Code makes this clear:
"11.72.197 Abatement of dangerous or substandard buildings.
Where any condition which would otherwise constitute a violation subject to abatement pursuant to the procedures authorized by this chapter also constitutes a dangerous building pursuant to the Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings or a substandard building pursuant to the Uniform Housing Code, the director may in his discretion abate such dangerous or substandard building pursuant to the procedures authorized by such uniform code. Recovery of administrative costs or fees may nonetheless be collected pursuant to the procedures authorized herein. In this regard, in addition to those items required to be included in any notice commencing proceedings pursuant to such uniform code, such notice shall include a statement substantially similar to that contained in Section 11.72.200(6). (Ord. 1443 § 2, 1993)."
This begs the question: Is the Magruder building a "dangerous building" under the Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings? The answer according to that code is clearly "Yes" as the Code states that a building is defined as a dangerous building...:
"Whenever the building or structure ... has become so dilapidated or deteriorated as to become (i) an attractive nuisance to children; (ii) a harbor for vagrants, criminals or immoral persons; or as to (iii) enable persons to resort thereto for the purpose of committing unlawful or criminal acts." (Emphasis added)
In addition, the Code also states that a building is a dangerous building when the fire marshall determines that it is a fire hazard.
Under the City's Municipal Code if a building creates an immediate threat to public health or safety the City can act swiftly to remedy the situation:
"11.72.245 Summary abatement.
Whenever a public nuisance or code violation is maintained or exists in the city which creates an immediate threat to public health or safety, the director may summarily abate that public nuisance without complying with the provisions of Sections 11.72.190 through 11.72.230. In such circumstances, the responsible party shall be afforded as much advance notice and opportunity to be heard as is reasonably possible under the circumstances." (City of Palm Springs' Municipal Code)
Thus the City has the authority to take action to demolish this building as according to the Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings the Magruder building is a dangerous building and the City's Municipal Code applies to the derelict Magruder building because under the terms of the City's 1977 agreement with the Tribal Council of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Indian allottee land and buildings are subject to the City's code.
But, is this building "an immediate threat to public health or safety"? Well, here's what our examination of Code Enforcement documents about this building covering the last three years indicates - some words are in added bold for emphasis:
- On February 7th, 2014, Lieutenant Combs of the PS Police Department reported: "...we received a report that transients had been setting fires inside of the old Magruder's. The Chief instructed us to conduct nightly property checks at that location. On February 5 at about 0230 hours Officers checked the location and found several windows and door unsecured and the gate on the south side unsecured as well. Maxwell security also reported the same issue in their nightly report. During the last three nights we have not found anyone at the location... (a)lthough... they did discover black marks on the ground which indicated to them that there was once fire activity there. We need to get this location secured quickly as possible before there's an even greater issue."
- In February 2014 the City forwarded the following report by Maxwell Security who it appears had been hired to patrol the building - again we presume at the City's expense - about the Magruder building to the member of the Saubel family believed to be handling issues associated with the property: "...there must have been bolt cutters used to cut the lock on a 10 foot chain link fence, there are various dwellings inside, multiple broken windows, several camps inside and graffiti everywhere... there is also garbage and blankets inside".
- In March 2014 the police reported the building "was not secure" and the code enforcement office sent a complete copy of the City's Municipal Code dealing with "Long-Term Boarded and Vacated Buildings" to the late Mr. Saubel's daughter.
- In June 2014 the Deputy Fire Marshall, Michael J. Smith, of the PS Fire Department expressed concerns about the state of the interior of the property which "posed a safety hazard for fire fighters".
- At that time the City proposed to clean up the exterior of the building at its own expenses.
Yet throughout the entire three year period for which we asked for records, not one Notice of Violation nor one citation involving a fine was issued by the City to the property owners. This is in marked contrast to the way the City has handled the owners of the adjacent Rock Garden development, who only acquired that property a little over a year ago. Not only have they received a Notice of Violation, but also a $100, a $250, a $500 and another $500 citation making a total of $1,350 in fines.
How is it that owners of one property standing vacant for a year or so get fined and the legal process of a Notice of Violation is applied to them, while the owners of the massive eyesore and public nuisance just next door that is the Magruder building, which has stood empty now for seven years, are not, when that building remains unsecured, is a fire hazard and now it seems may be the source from which pot-shots are being fired at neighboring property?
We simply cannot understand the reason for this double standard and even today it appears that the City's Code Enforcement department is so lackadaisical about the Magruder building that they have again allowed the owner's failure to register this vacant building - another requirement of the City's Municipal Code - to go by unnoticed.
Enough is enough. The local people who live near to and are affected by this situation on a daily basis have tolerated it for too long and the problems associated with this building are getting worse. Both the police and fire departments have reported serious concerns. The owners are apparently incapable of securing the building. The Magruder building is a dangerous building, a public nuisance and an immediate threat to public health and safety and It is beyond time now for the City to tear it down.