City can’t keep up with complaints
A northeast Portland home is the subject of a complaint for overgrown grass and weeds, trash and debris lying about. Photo by Jake Thomas.
If think you’ve seen more overgrown grass in your neighborhood, piles of garbage left on the sidewalk, and properties that are generally deteriorating, it’s probably because you have.
Thanks to the budget cuts brought on by the Great Recession and the loss of tax revenue, there is less money for property inspectors in the Bureau of Development Services, the city agency responsible for inspecting nuisance properties and enforcing code violations.
According to bureau spokesperson Ross Caron, the agency has reduced its staff that deals with residential inspections from 34 to 16, which has severely hampered how well the agency can deal with complaints.
He said that most complaints involve trash left out, overgrown grass and weeds, and disabled cars.
Since late June, the bureau has received 563 complaints of which 149 were in northeast; 104 in north; 4 in northwest; 225 in southeast; and 63 in southwest Portland. Others were in the public right of way.
Caron said the bureau will still respond fairly quickly to issues that pose clear health hazards, like rotting garbage left out. In high priority complaints, BDS staff will do an investigation within about two weeks. The resident of the property has about two weeks after being notified to fix the problem.
However, for other lower-level problems, like overgrown grass and weeds, complaints won’t be followed up on unless they are done online, said Caron.
BDS launched an online form last month for people to file complaints about properties with overgrown grass, the most common complaint during the summer months. So far it’s generated about 50 postings.
Caron said that the online reporting form, which requires a digital picture, saves staff time and resources since they don’t have to log a complaint over the phone or leave the office to inspect the property.
Some residents of Portland have noticed an increase in nuisance properties.
“I think it has gotten more noticeable,” said Belinda Clark, the co-chair of the Concordia Neighborhood Association in northeast Portland.
Clark said that some residents of the neighborhood have asked about what sort of recourse they have with the rise in nuisance properties.
When asked about the new online reporting system, she said that she’s optimistic, and just hopes that it does result in people’s complaints being addressed.
“At least people will feel like their voice is being heard,” she said.