Nevada City nuisance home shows improvement
January 24, 2014
After years of complaining neighbors and police responses, a Nevada City home on the 700 block of Lindley Avenue is on the mend, thanks to a homeless-serving nonprofit, intervening city officials and a willing property owner.
"We did turn the house around," said Don Casavant, 66, who began to rent the house out more than a decade ago after his five children grew up.
At first, Casavant was a live-in landlord, but it wasn't until he moved out that the real problems began, he said.
Between March 2005 and August 2013, the house on Lindley Avenue was the subject of 47 police responses or contacts for incidents that included drug use, assaults and even a death, according to the Nevada City Police Department's records.
“Our problem was Mr. Casavant was operating a boarding house, which violated our ordinance of five unrelated individuals occupying a home.”
Nevada City Manager David Brennan
At one point, Casavant had all seven rooms rented out to nine tenants.
"When you have nine people living in a house, plus all their friends, pretty soon you have a real mess," Casavant said, noting he understands why the neighbors called the police.
"It got to the point where (former Nevada City police) Chief (Jim) Wickham called me in for a meeting with him and some of the city staff, and he showed me a pile of police reports," Casavant said, noting he wasn't aware of the scope of the problem.
"I said I was sorry, I didn't realize that happened, and I'll take care of it," he said.
From August to November of 2012, Casavant moved back into the house on Lindley Avenue, cleaning up the premises both physically and culturally.
"I kicked the people out that didn't belong there," he said.
But the situation did not change right away. Frequent visitors of the house learned Casavant's work schedule and would sometimes stop by when he was gone, he said.
Since August 2012, the house has only been the subject of nine police interactions, according to the department's records.
"And that was at the very beginning," Casavant said.
Since then, the police have rarely been back. The most recent occurrence had nothing to do with the tenants, said City Manager David Brennan.
"That place has calmed down," said Nevada City Police Officer Scott Goin. "We haven't had many calls for service there in a while."
One thing that helped, Casavant said, is that he not only prohibited drugs in the house, but also alcohol.
Attempts to speak with the half-dozen neighbors on Lindley Avenue were unsuccessful Tuesday — though Douglas Hooper, who was house-sitting Casavant's northern neighbor's home, said that property owner had commented on the improvement.
Beyond the disturbances at the residence, which is less than a block away from an elementary school, city officials were concerned that Casavant's tenants were in violation of zoning standards.
"Our problem was Mr. Casavant was operating a boarding house, which violated our ordinance of five unrelated individuals occupying a home," Brennan said, noting the occupancy rules protect tenants as much as neighborhoods. "Five people could live together, and the landlord could move someone in, and the tenants could have nothing to say about it."
Another component toward compliance with the city was the assistance of Hospitality House, the county's leading homeless-serving nonprofit, and its Rapid Rehousing program to transition clients into stable living situations.
A Hospitality House representative met with city officials to outline its rehousing policies, which include a nearly daily visit from a support worker, and organized the tenants onto a single lease to meet the city's familial dwelling ordinance, Brennan said.
"Hospitality House has been very big in helping make this work. So far, I think it has been good for the people that live there and the people in the neighborhood," Brennan said.
"The nice thing is these are people transitioning out of Hospitality House to become independent. I think it's a great community program that gets people off homeless dependence and maybe allows them to get a job and have their children in a better environment."
Nevada City and the surrounding area need more available housing options for troubled or homeless people, Casavant said.
"We need more of this kind of housing," he said.
"We all have to work together. For every problem, there is a solution, it is just a matter of how you get to it."
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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