A month before a man was found dead in a shack on an abandoned property in Wildomar, city officials say they had already started the process of placing the ramshackle real estate into receivership.
“We started in August, and what happened there last month has helped push things along,” said City Manager Frank Oviedo, noting that violation notices and warnings had been served to the property owner well before Wildomar took steps to take over the property this summer.
when the body of a man, who police say was the victim of a homicide, was found there. The man’s identity has not been released by authorities, but police have arrested three people in the case: Summer Sharmaine Stephens, 38, Anthony Albert Garcia, 32, and a 13-year-old boy. Each has been charged with murder.
The property was known as a home to transients in the area, including the three accused. After the killing, the city fenced the property with chain link, and a visit to the scene last week showed all was quiet there.
The cost to Wildomar to take receivership of the abandoned property is $20,000, Oviedo explained, noting that through the foreclosure process he expects to recoup the expense.
The initial cash outlay is one reason Oviedo said he can’t take action on every dilapidated, abandoned property in the city.
“It’s not practical, nor would we want to do that. We’re only going after the worst offenders,” he said -- those who continually ignore violation notices and allow their properties to become a public health nuisance.
Still, both Oviedo and Wildomar Mayor Ben Benoit say they are taking a much tougher approach these days. During a regularly scheduled city council meeting earlier this year, they warned of the crackdown.
“It’s taken 30 years to get here,” Oviedo said recently of the situation in Wildomar.
Benoit added, “It’s been like the Wild West and there have been no consequences.”
Oviedo said he and staff have prioritized a list of dilapidated properties they will be going after if the owners continue to flout violations.
“We have to do things right,” Oviedo said. “We would rather owners take responsibility.”
In the meantime, Oviedo said the city is not going to put up with crumbling structures that attract vagrants and graffiti vandals.
“We’re not going to stop until we get this cleaned up,” Oviedo said. “I’m confident we’ll get there.”