The wheels of justice turn slowly and awkwardly at best and that’s little consolation to the victims of lawless behavior.
It all seemed so simple those many months ago when when my neighbors found out the foreclosed home nearby was being converted into a three-unit tenement — three kitchens, four baths, more than a dozen rooms in all — in 2,000 square feet.
Last month, the city charged the owners of the property at 19953 Haynes St. in Woodland Hills with four misdemeanor crimes — illegal use of land, illegal occupancy, construction without a permit and failure to comply — and gave them six weeks to appear in court.
Wednesday was their day in court. They didn’t show up, Their lawyer didn’t call. Warrants were issued for their arrest.
So tonight nothing has changed. There are still five or six cars in the driveway, the neighbors are still upset at seeing the modest stake in paradise being trashed by ineffective city policies and Kashi the dog still is chained in front of the house and has my dog Bruno so scared he looks the other way when we walk by.
I learned in recent months that this kind of thing is going on all over the city and not enough is being done about it. Most of the time neighbors have to get together and make a big stink to get action.
While City Hall is saving us from second-hand smoke in the parks and taking money for the visual blight of 24-hour-a-day monster flashing electronic billboards, neighborhoods all over the city are being turned into slums.
I went to court in Van Nuys today to see how the system works when these defendants — Nady Madhavi who bought the house in January and flipped it in May and something called Fidelity Investments LLC of Bellflower, the third owner in six months — were due to enter their pleas.
I watched prostitues and druggies and abusers of animals and wives went before Magistrate Rebecca Omens one after another, most of them needing two or three months to pay fines and costs of $200 or so.
And I watched Deputy City Attorney Donald Cocek, with two Building and Safety officials standing by, deal with one case after another and patiently take time to talk to people accused of violating Building and Safety laws and regulations.
His goal was to get the problem fixed, to get people to comply with the rules, get permits and fix up their properties to code. There was a man who needed a Thai interpreter, one who needed a Korean interpreter, a third who needed a Spanish interpreter.
These were people who didn’t understand the rules, who weren’t turning single family homes into tenements, who weren’t destroying the quality of life in their neighborhoods for profit. Cocek has a 100 percent compliance record in these cases.
My case was different and he was surprised no one showed up for it. But he’s just the guy who handles the case in court, the guy who asks the judge to issue the arrest warrants. The Building and Safety guys just enforce the code.
Nobody, as far as this sleuth has been able to determine, actually investigates the relationships between the the three different owners this year of the house at 19953 Haynes Street. Nobody looks for the patterns, the larger abuses. And nobody can do anything about it as the clock keeps ticking and the rent keeps flowing in at the rate of about $5,000 a month.
The wheels of justice move slowly and the neighborhood’s resentment over this nuisance keeps growing and City Hall keeps fiddling around while the city burns.