Donna Jenkins has roots in Mountain View. She grew up here, her family still has property here and neighbors from her childhood still live here, too, she said. But some things are different these days.
“On the side I live on, almost every street has at least two boarded-up buildings,” she said. “We need to come together as a community and make a change.”
She took action: She knocked on doors, spread the word and then, on Monday, she attended the Mountain View Community Council meeting with half a dozen neighbors and relatives, seeking to address the vacant, boarded-up buildings dotting the neighborhood.
By the time the meeting had ended, more than a dozen residents had signed up to form a new committee to solve the problem.
It’s a step forward on an issue that’s needled neighborhood residents for months. Some buildings around Mountain View have sat vacant for years. Several have burned. Neighbors worried about squatters and safety.
“I have the same concerns,” said T’shalla Baker at the April 8 meeting. “Is it possible, for these boarded buildings, that we could have a rule — a law — to force whoever owns it to be responsible for it?”
As it turns out, there are rules, said MVCC treasurer Daniel George, a professional real estate agent. Anchorage municipal code forbids public nuisances, including unregistered abandoned property and vacant buildings, and according to municipal code, vacant and abandoned properties must be kept clean and secure.
At Monday’s community council meeting, neighbors talked about municipal regulations, the situation throughout the neighborhood, the process for reporting nuisance properties and the process for reporting squatters.
It can be difficult to get police to respond, Baker said. Others agreed. Jenkins said she’d hoped to speak to a police officer at Monday’s council gathering — “I thought they normally attended these meetings as well.”
But it’s rare to see a representative of the Anchorage Police Department at the monthly neighborhood meetings, council members told her.
“We’ve passed resolutions requesting that they attend,” George said. “Usually right before an election we see something.”
Mountain View Library Manager David Adkins-Brown suggested residents contact the municipal ombudsman’s office if other options failed.
“If you have called the police and nobody’s shown up, the other option you have at that point is to call the ombudsman’s office,” Adkins-Brown told council members. “If you’re not getting the response that you need.”
Prompting action on abandoned properties often took multiple calls to multiple municipal agencies, residents reported. Jenkins listened and took notes. She came to the Monday night meeting looking for direction, she said, and she thought the new committee was a good start.
She said she was ready to organize her neighbors; send letters; make calls to lawmakers and administrators.
“If that’s what we have to do, that’s what we’ll do,” Jenkins said. “Now that we have this committee, as long as people follow through and do what needs to be done, we can make a change.”