When situations are allowed to get
out-of-control, the reaction to re-establishing normalcy and penalizing
the offenders can generate an intense game of "legal tennis."
Such is the state of affairs with 27-37 Bakersfield Street in Uphams
Boston's Problem Property Task Force (PPTF) was only recently
established by ordinance on July 13, 2011. Getting the task force
up to speed, how determining how to measure properties against a
standard and identifying a list of problem properties and - all of this
One of the properties that came into the task force’s radar is 27-37
Bakersfield Street, a complex of twenty-three residential units under
the ownership of Wendy Rist. Phone calls to the police including
domestic violence, drug overdoses and the influx of cars bringing in
drug transactions and what residents believe was the presence of
prostitutes in the streets called for immediate and swift action.
Because the property was designated a “problem property,” the city
could use enforcement mechanisms to both target the problem and bill
the owner for the full cost of services rendered. The PPTF fully
expected that meeting with the property owner and requesting that she
respond in a concerted manner would greatly quiet down the property and
eventually get it off the task force’s list. Such was not the
case and the City (PPTF) escalated its ordinance-stated enforcement
options including placing an electronic message board broadcasting the
property status at the entry way and assigning 24-hour police coverage.
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At the same time, the “billing” component of the new ordinance had
never been used, so when the City charged the property / property owner
with close to $24, 000 in charges for city services (police coverage
over a 6-week time period), the effect was immediate and shocking.
So here we have the first two volleys of the legal tennis game of a
serious match-up: a property owner allowing her property to go
out-of-control with distressing consequences to the community followed
by a whopping $24k charge to the property owner. Roars from the
crowds supporting both sides suggested each player was digging in.
On the property owner side was Ms. Rist’s lawyer, Robert Russo, who
said he’ll fight the fine. Boston-area real estate lawyer Alan
Seagal said he believes the city is on shaky ground.
Residents, concerned that Ms. Rist is trying to get our of her fines,
“as if she has done nothing to our community,” have rallied and issued
letters of support for the work done by the City. At least two
letters from community groups have been sent in to the Problem
Properties Task Force.
What happens next will be determined by the outcome of the Task Force’s
Appeals Board which heard the owner’s appeal on November 19,
Devin Quirk who is both a member of the task force and the Mayor’s
Hotline still encourages residents to speak up and voice their concerns
though time is of the essence since the Appeals Board is close to their
Devin can be reached at Devin.Quirk@cityofboston.gov
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Posted: December 15, 2012
Nancy J Conrad