FRESNO, California. (KGPE) – Starting Tuesday, the City of Fresno’s code enforcement and fire staff will begin inspecting more than 20 vacant commercial buildings.
The owners of the buildings have two choices: make the necessary improvements, or deal with fines of up to $10,000.
“We’re no longer going to drive by and just simply look the other way when we see a vacant building. They’re going to have to spend money: either they spend money on fixing their building and leasing it out, or they’re going to have to spend money on paying for fines,” councilmember Miguel Arias said.
It’s a plan Arias proposed to the city council about a month ago and it passed 7-0.
He says right now, the city does not require significant improvements to buildings that are vacant, and owners do not have the same health and maintenance requirements as private property owners.
He believes the buildings have become magnets for crime and fires.
“We want to make sure we get to these buildings before the criminal element moves in,” he said.
According to the Fresno Fire Department, there have been 58 vacant structure fires so far this year, and more than 2,000 fires started by the homeless. That’s an increase of 87% from last year.
“Our firefighters cannot keep up with the number of fires that are taking place in commercial, vacant buildings,” Arias said.
Arias says the city will expedite development proposals if building owners bring it forward to city hall, and, if they want to convert buildings into housing, owners will not have to pay impact fees or off-site improvement fees.
The first building to be inspected will be 806 Fulton Steet, which is owned by the city. Arias says the city is not exempt from following the new standards and when asked if they would fine themselves, he answered yes.