An Ahwatukee man is battling with Phoenix officials over conditions at various places in and near Mountain Park Ranch.
John Broussal said rusting railings, broken drain grates, rubbish that includes broken shopping carts and other eyesores have created “deplorable conditions” that threaten to multiply and ultimately harm property values.
While Broussal said some of the problems date back three or more years, he has intensified his pressure on the city Street Transportation and Neighborhood Services officials in the last three months, complaining as well to the City Manager’s office and Councilman Sal DiCiccio’s staff.
But city officials and Broussal sharply disagree on who’s responsible for the broken curbs, cracked sidewalks and other eyesores that he has called their attention to.
Broussal insists that many of the conditions he has reported in dozens of emails to the city are located on city-owned property – and when they’re not, that the city is far too slow in forcing property owners to take care of the messes.
Sam Stone, chief of staff to DiCiccio, said many of the problems are on private commercial property or land owned by the Mountain Park Ranch Homeowners Association while others have been taken care of
Emails from Neighborhood Services to Broussal also indicate that violation notices have been issued to the HOA and several commercial property owners in the area, but that the process for handling the cases takes time.
“There is no excuse for these deplorable conditions to have occurred to start with, and there is equally no excuse for the corrections to not have been made in three months’ time - and counting,” Broussal said.
Stone countered, “We’re getting all that stuff cleaned up and Neighborhood Services has gone out and then they’ve done clean-ups. They’ve had Streets go out and do some cleanups and different things he’s pointing out. And then, we’ve cited the HOA and some other adjacent property owners.”
Emails and a disagreement over a meeting that had been set last month between Broussal and various city officials illustrate how far the two sides are apart.
Broussal in early September wrote DiCiccio to complain about various eyesores and the councilman’s community liaison, Erin Morris, requested more information.
On Oct. 3, he wrote again, stating:
“All of the photographed areas that I had provided to your office are city owned property, and all have been neglected and abandoned by the city of Phoenix departments charged with their maintenance and upkeep – to include the Phoenix City Manager and the Neighborhood Services Department.
“The deplorable conditions that were shown in the photographs have existed for months, and some several years, and I again remind you that this your city, and the conditions in these photos are a direct reflection of your representation for the city of Phoenix community.”
Morris replied Oct. 9 to say that of six areas Broussal cited, five were on private property and now the subject of code violation notices and that the sixth – involving debris at the intersection of Ray Road and Chandler Boulevard – would eventually be addressed.
Saying that the islands at that intersection were “part of the Streets Landscape inventory,” Morris explained, “These islands are on a three month schedule for service. The last service was performed in June, another one will take place this month, then again in January. Debris and broken branches will be removed, if any are too big for the crew, the Forestry Division in the Park and Recreation Department will arrive to assist.”
City department representatives have told Broussal that “the resolution of property/blight violations is a process with multiple steps that are determined by our current codes. Except for regions that have been designated as Target Areas, Inspectors do not proactively patrol the City to report blight and open code enforcement cases.”
Promising that those problems that exist on city property would be addressed, they also have told Broussal:
“It is the responsibility of property owners to follow the code and maintain their property. Through education and the code enforcement process, we try to spread awareness about the code and work with property owners, our sister departments and outside government agencies, and other community stakeholders to address and correct deviations from it.
“While this process may take some time, it also resolves over 90 percent of the violations that are reported each year with voluntary compliance from the property owner.”
Morris at one point early last month offered to set up a meeting with Broussal and some of the Neighborhood Services and Street department supervisors and set the meeting for Oct. 23.
“We are always happy to have our constituents in the office to chat with other departments,” she wrote on Oct. 9. “Our office wants to ensure you are completely satisfied with the plan to clean up these areas.”
After Morris checked with Broussal in an email and gave him instructions on where to park and go at City Hall, Broussard angrily replied:
“I must have misunderstood. My intention was to meet on location with those responsible for the issues that were raised, and those in a position to bring about change. I do not believe that it would serve any purpose to meet downtown. Seeing the deplorable conditions first hand would serve a lot more purpose.”
He also told Morris that only one of the areas he wrote about in August had been addressed, writing, “I really believe that those persons responsible for these areas, and those in a position to bring about responsible cleanups and changes to the future maintenance policies and procedures for these areas need to personally come out and see these locations.
“I can meet with these individuals tomorrow on location, or if need be, I can meet with them at a rescheduled time. But I do not think that my coming downtown for a meeting would be of any benefit.”
Stone said it was unfortunate that Broussal bailed out of the City Hall meeting, explaining:
“We had a meeting set up here for him with the head of the Neighborhood Services Department, the head of the streets department to go over on the maps specifically on what he was talking about.”
Stone added, “We’re trying to schedule it, but getting the heads of those departments to be able to come out – it’s something I can’t do in 24 hours.”
In some emails, Neighborhood Services Department supervisors outlined a complicated skein of jurisdictional and due process issues.
“I wanted to remind you that except for the department’s targeted areas – which are determined by City Council and state or federal government agencies – Code Enforcement Inspectors investigate reports of potential blight violations. They do not proactively patrol the City to identify violations of the code,” one official told Broussal, adding:
“If a Code Enforcement Inspector is investigating a complaint, s/he will open code enforcement cases on any violations that exist in the area at the time.”
“If a property has more than two violations in two years, it may be possible for the property to be put on a recidivist list, depending on the severity of the violation,” the email continued. “If that is done, the Inspector will be able to skip some steps in the code enforcement process.”
The official also told Broussal, “Given the number of concerns you identified in your neighborhood, I’ve had a few conversations with the Code Enforcement Inspector in your area regarding the best way to make sure NSD is not missing anything.
“The Inspector has agreed, during her next round of site visits to check the status of violations, to take a wider look at the area to ensure she hasn’t missed anything. Please feel free to continue to report any potential blight violations you see on private or other types of property by phone or email.”
A resident of Mountain Park Ranch since 1993, Broussal insists that all the problems he has cited are either on city property or have lingered so long that he can’t understand why the city is so slow to address them.
In at least a couple cases, he added, city crews even made things worse.
He said weeds and shrubs had overtaken an area along Ranch Circle South near South Mountain Parkway and that instead of properly landscaping it, “they came and hacked all the shrubs down to the ground,” leaving tire ruts and ugly stumps. “Any plant that was there, they just hacked off,” he said.
In an area near a wash that he and the city vehemently disagree over who is responsible for maintenance, heavy city trucks crack a curb and a walk, Broussal said. “The city has nobody who cares or who knows what their responsibility is,” he told AFN.
He also criticized DiCiccio’s office, noting that the city says it relies on the public to call attention to problems like the ones he has cited in numerous emails.
“Cleaning up this district is a big part of a councilman’s job,” he said.
But Stone told AFN, “We’ve been trying to do everything that he has asked us that is within our power. Honestly, this is one I’m pretty personally frustrated about. All the managers are trying to do everything he’s asked us.”
Broussal is just as frustrated, telling AFN that eyesores like this can generate more and that eventually, the community enters a downward spiral.
“The deterioration is more visible in the last few years,” he said, lamenting that problem areas in general in Phoenix “haven’t been taken care of as the city has aged.”
But Broussal said he won’t let the pressure up, stating, “I can’t walk away from it anymore.”