PD Editorial: An absent-minded landlord

  • 8/3/2013: A1:

    PC: A Santa Rosa city owned property on Walker Ave. in Santa Rosa, Friday Aug. 2, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

Does anyone believe the city of Santa Rosa belongs in the real estate business?

We certainly don't, and the city's lax management of its holdings only reinforces our view.

Santa Rosa, like most cities, faces familiar challenges — rising costs, decaying streets, untended parks, a sluggish economy. And, like other cities, Santa Rosa is perpetually hunting for revenue.

Before housing prices started climbing again over the past year, many investors bought up distressed properties and converted them to rentals, hoping for a steady income stream.

The city's real estate holdings include at least five residential rentals.

However, as digging by Staff Writer Kevin McCallum has shown, these properties aren't providing a stream of revenue, steady or otherwise. Moreover, it appears that no one at City Hall is keeping track of these houses.

For one house, the city hasn't collect any rent in the past three years. And the total paid over six years is $3, barely enough to pay for a cup of coffee.

The city acquired the house and surrounding acreage on Walker Avenue for $750,000 in 2007 to expand a buffer around the sewage treatment plant. As part of the deal, the sellers were allowed to stay for three years for $1 a year. When the time was up, the city didn't revisit the lease, and the family stayed.

"When we focus on our core services, sometimes things get missed," City Manager Kathy Millison said. "And this is one of the things that got missed."

Also missing are any clear policies for managing the properties and finding tenants.

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