Neighbor Wars – What to do When Yours is Difficult

The Cardiff Current enjoys shining a light on our neighbors with interesting stories to tell. But this month we are taking a turn to the darker side: What to do when you have a difficult, mean, or messy neighbor?  It can create tension throughout the neighborhood, cause hurt and angry feelings, and sometimes lead to violence.  There are no easy solutions when two neighbors disagree but there are ways to handle it that may help bring about a peaceful coexistance.

We have two stories of recent conflicts in Cardiff.  We’ve changed the names of all involved as our intent is not to inflame the situations but to inform others and share solutions.

San Elijo Avenue

“Sue” has lived on San Elijo Avenue for over 35 years.  She takes immaculate care of her garden and home and has cultivated many friendships with the other homeowners who live nearby.  But, when “Betty” rented the house next-door, Sue’s peaceful existence became one of frustration, anger, and resentment.  Betty liked to hang out on the other side of Sue’s fence, chain-smoking and talking on her cell phone.  The smoking meant hours of second-hand smoke drifting into Sue’s yard and the talking was more like a bar-room brawl based on the level of profanity used, both of which took the joy out of Sue’s daily routine.

Then, the piles of trash began showing up, all over Betty’s yard.  Old motors, miscellaneous pipe material, pizza boxes, and more. This brought the crows and other critters, who began showing up in the neighboring yards.

By now, Betty could be seen each day wearing her pink pajamas and riding her pink bike back and forth to the Shanty along San Elijo Ave.

None of this was something to formally complain about so the neighbors endured the frustrations and the eyesore in their neighborhood. But things got worse when Betty began collecting roommates.  She started renting out twin beds that were lined up in her living room for $500 each per month. Eventually, over 5 people were living in the one bedroom house, and nobody seemed to care about the mounting piles of trash or the overgrown weeds; and now there was even more smoking and profanity flowing over the fence.

The neighbors went to the City countless times to complain but learned there was little that could be done. So, they tried to contact the property owner who also lives in Cardiff, but calls and letters went unanswered. Then in April of this year, there were three separate Sheriff visits to the house. The last one was the final straw: five deputies showed up with rifles drawn and a loudspeaker saying “Come out with your hands up!” With this, the neighbors had enough and 25 of them signed a demand letter that was hand-delivered to the owners insisting that something be done immediately. Finally, the owners listened and ultimately evicted everyone. But the damage was done. Sue had already made the painful decision to move and was in escrow for her new house across town.

Poinsettia Heights
On a street in Cardiff’s Poinsettia Heights neighborhood, homeowners have been dealing with another problem neighbor for decades. She is a hoarder of human feces (confirmed by City Code Enforcement) and has been seen spreading the feces and other trash on properties near her home each week. She has been charged with felony vandalism and brandishing a firearm on a neighbor. One neighbor was able to obtain a restraining order against her but she has violated that many times.

One of the homeowners showed his frustration in a long email to The Cardiff Current, ”The city is slow to respond and slow to clean up the mess. The [city] staff is burned out on her – elected officials do not respond or are ineffective (one told me in an email to stop contacting him!). We’ve called the EPA who referred us to County Health who said it’s a ‘local issue’, Sheriff tried but is ineffective, State Assemblyman Chavez office says ‘local issue’, State Senator Bates’ office says city staff will not return phone calls so they dropped attempted assistance. You know… this all washes down to the ocean we swim in. Somebody is going to get very sick from this!”

Sheriff’s Lt. Ted Greenawald

Image result for san diego sheriffWe contacted the Encinitas Sheriff’s office and spoke with Lt. Ted Greenawald. He was well aware of these two properties and their history, saying, “On San Elijo, the renter was sub-letting to several people, two of them were bad news, and another was a psych problem.”  About the feces-throwing lady? “We’ve been dealing with her for years.  We’ve made many home visits and she’s been arrested for violating the restraining orders, but our deputies have not witnessed first-hand the spreading of trash and feces.” He went on to say that it can be “extremely difficult for the Sheriff to help the situation because present-day laws tend to be lenient and favor the offender.”

If you are dealing with a problem like these in your neighborhood, Lt. Greenawald recommends the following:

1. If your neighbor has chronic unsightly property or is a frequent nuisance, call the City during business hours and ask them to come out, keep calling if the problem persists;

2. Keep records of your complaints and the things that happen;

3. If you see illegal activity, call the Sheriff “when it happens”, and continue calling if you see more illegal behavior;

Dealing with a situation like the ones highlighted here doesn’t have to end badly.  Stay positive, don’t make assumptions, and be clear about your needs and expectations…

Need more help?  Read this and this.