After years of inaction, Point Lomans are hopeful the city will now finally hold property owner Francisco Mendiola’s feet to the fire. They expect the city to ensure the property owner will meet his court-ordered deadlines and finish his abandoned remodel at the corner of 1676 Plum St. and Lowell.
Local reaction to the latest developments on Plum Street have been guarded. “We understand the legal constraints the city has,” said neighbor Jerry Lohla, who’s been working for seven years to get the Mendiola mansion either kick-started toward completion or razed. “But we don’t think they’re (the city) pushing as hard as they could.”
Noting Mendiola has demonstrated a “pattern” of starting housing construction projects that are left unfinished, Lohla noted, “The bigger story here is, ‘How does this guy keep doing this time after time? And how does he keep having city officials give him do-overs on this thing?”
“The patience of the neighborhood is going to be put to yet another test,” said Jon Linney, a member of the Peninsula Community Planning Group (PCPG), which makes land-use recommendations to the city.
Noting “this problem will not be solved tomorrow,” Linney added, “If the judge says the property owner has until Sept. 28, the property owner has every right to that time.”
Linney gave kudos to Lohla for “doing a tremendous job in organizing the neighborhood and bringing the deplorable situation the neighborhood has suffered for years to the attention of the authorities. But the Plum Street house is just one of many unfinished eyesores all over San Diego. The court system cannot possibly respond to them all on a case-by-case basis. That is like trying to put out a raging forest fire with a fly swatter."
Linney feels the real answer to the situation is “a stronger city policy or municipal code provision to prevent these abuses from happening and with a mechanism that guarantees construction will be finished. We ask City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and District 2 Councilmember Lorie Zapf to join in that effort.”
A total of seven misdemeanor counts have been filed in San Diego Superior Court against Mendiola.The counts all carry a sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Charges against Mendiola include maintaining a construction fence and storing materials on the street, as well as maintaining steel for a retaining wall and stairs on the public right-of-way in front of the property without a public right-of-way encroachment agreement, in violation of the municipal code.
The seven counts also include allowing the existence of a vacant structure that created a public nuisance.
“[Mendiola] didn’t diligently pursue the work to completion,” states the court case against him. “He also did not remove and demolish the building and structure within 180 calendar days from the date of written notice from the city, as required.”
At a court status hearing on April 28, Mendiola showed proof that he was thus far in compliance with the terms and conditions of the plea agreement. He obtained a public right-of-way permit on Monday, April 27.
In order to remain in compliance with the court order, he must remove the staircase and other encroachments from the public right-of-way and replace the sidewalk by July 27. He must also complete all work on the property by Monday, Sept. 28.
In order to ensure his ongoing compliance with the terms and conditions of his probation, and to monitor his progress, the next status hearing is set for Aug. 4 at 8:30 a.m.in Department 3 of the San Diego Superior Court, Central Division.
The city’s chief administrative officer will continue to diligently monitor the case to ensure Mendiola is compliance with the law.
Attempts to contact Mendiola were unsuccessful. It is believed he lives in Mexico.