The City of Turlock says a local homeowner should have picked up a pile of trash in his alley, while the homeowner says he shouldn't be responsible for the illegal dumping of others.
The homeowner was left holding a $153.97 bill from the City of Turlock this week, after the city eventually cleaned the alley at his expense.
Sukhbir Bal, of Folsom, owns the home at 200 E. Monte Vista Avenue as a rental property. But after a fire gutted the home, Bal has let the building sit vacant for years.
A pile of junk – mostly building materials – was left in an alley behind the home a few months ago. Bal says the debris isn't his fault.
“I don't have time during the daytime to go down and dump on my property,” Bal said. “Why would I do that? I don't do that”"
The home's location – next to a Shell gas station – makes it a convenient location for dropping wrappers and empty bottles. And an alley, behind the home, is a prime spot for dumping waste, leading to constant problems with unwanted trash.
“We feel like victims,” Bal said.
According to Turlock Police Neighborhood Services Supervisor Bob Boyd, the building in question has been vacant for at least 10 years. Problems with maintenance have dated back nearly that long, with neglected weeds, uncut grass, and boarded-up windows.
“That leads to the dumping in the alley, because the property looks abandoned,” Boyd said.
Past problems with graffiti led to a mutual agreement between the city and Bal, where Turlock will paint over tagging at no cost to Bal.
Other issues with debris have occurred as well, leading to prior Turlock Police Neighborhood Services enforcement actions. In the past, Bal cleaned the property before the city would have stepped in.
"This one, he didn't get there in time, and we cleaned it up," Boyd said.
Boyd sent three letters to Bal, notifying him of the maintenance issue. With no action taken, Boyd then sent a warrant to Bal. A week later the parcel was cleaned and Bal was charged.
“These property owners are given adequate notice, and if they do clean up the property there's no charge,” said Turlock City Councilman Steven Nascimento.
But after numerous previous cleanings, this time Bal decided to put his foot down.
“I told (Boyd), that is not my debris,” Bal said.
But Turlock code requires homeowners to maintain their property, even if debris isn't their fault. Boyd said that, in this case, the debris was in Bal's portion of the alley.
“How can it be mine when it's on four property lines?” Bal said. “And yet I'm the only one?
“The property looks neglected so therefore I must be responsible for it.”
Bal says some permanent solution is needed. The alley needs to be made less convenient to drive through, or the city should take time to clean his property if nothing is done to enforce anti-littering and dumping laws.
“I think it's unfair, and I think we need a reasonable solution to this alley,” Bal said.
The Turlock City Council approved the $153.97 charge without any discussion of a potential long-term solution. The fee includes the true costs of cleaning the alley – roughly $100 – and a 58 percent administrative fee.