Regular commenter Thomas Lord has some thoughts on the city council agenda, if it wants to turn from “ineffectual statements about world affairs”:

There are a heck of a lot of unoccupied, neglected properties around my neighborhood in West Berkeley. Some are empty, foreclosed places. One is an 8(?) unit condo that was never even completed – just boarded up after most but not all construction was completed.

One of the foreclosure homes recently had a tree fall down in its back yard. The tree is diseased and so the crown, which is now on the ground, contains a lot of dry wood – a bonfire waiting to go off.

I’ve called the City a few times about this and have yet to get more than a promise someone will call me back in a few days (which doesn’t happen).

Who can I get in touch with to see to it that the City ensures the hazard is removed and dings the bank which owns yet neglects the place?

(Or, should I fix it myself and in exchange take adverse possession of the house in question? Has any reader ever obtained ownership of a Berkeley property by that means?)

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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  1. I’ve had bad luck in the past trying to get a response from my councilperson but in fairness that was about an insight I had into a matter before council rather than a simple “customer service” issue. I will probably give his office a call about this matter tomorrow (and thanks for the suggestion).

    I’d have been happier if I got a flurry of replies to the effect “Go for it! Yeah, free house! Happens all the time!” but, I didn’t much expect that so I can’t complain 🙂


  2. TN, I was going to suggest the same. However, in my case, I had very poor constituent service from my former councilperson, the late Dona Spring. (Apologies to those among you who were Dona’s fans. I’m sure in some respects she was a wonderful person. She never showed up to a couple of fractious, contentious neighborhood meetings regarding an issue that was 1.5 blocks from her home. She was always there for the Tree Sitters, who dwelled 2 or more miles away in someone else’s district.)

    Thomas Lord’s neighborhood problem exists throughout the City, including the property just over my backyard fence, where no one has dwelled for about 6 years. Is Berkeley a city that elects or defeats councilpersons based on their responsiveness to issues such as Mr. Lord’s? Gee, I hope so. But I kinda doubt it.

  3. Berkeley has no shortage of city government officials that one might call on this.

    I think that the most effective office to call is your city council representative. They (or most likely their aide) will know which office to call. They will help facilitate this. This is called “constituent service.” And any elected official with any ambition knows that this type of bread and butter issue is not to be ignored. Doing well at constituent service won’t win accolades. But a reputation for bad service will spread fast amongst voters.

    An elected official can impress voters one at a time with good basic service.