Asbestos was found in the Sands Motel on California Street, slowing the city’s efforts to clean up the property.
The city is still committed to cleaning up the property, said Mayor Ravi Bhasker, but demolishing the property is on hold. City administration is making sure it gives the property owners ample notice that it wants the asbestos cleaned up and opportunity to clean up the property.
The city council voted to condemn the property in June, and held a hearing on the condemnation in July, which property owner James Benjamin Rivera attended via phone. During the hearing, Rivera told the council he was trying to buy out the other owner, AYS Defined Benefits. But he has not been in communication with the council recently.
The city administration is trying to contact Rivera through his lawyer. Bhasker said they want to be sure that once the clean up is done and they put a lien on the property, they would have the right to do a foreclosure sale on the property. The ideal situation would be for the owner to pay for cleaning the property up, but Bhasker believes that is unlikely.
If the property owner does not clean up the property, the city will get the lot appraised, remove the asbestos and see what’s left. Cleaning up the asbestos alone has an estimated $125,000 cost. The city administration may attempt to get some state funding to help with the clean up since it’s a hazardous material.
Once the asbestos is removed, the buildings could be rehabilitated or demolished. The city will put a lien against the property and then the council will have to decide whether it wants to foreclose the property and have a sheriff’s sale. The proceeds from a sale would pay off the lien. There is a risk that those proceeds would not be enough to pay off the lien.
“But we’re committed to doing something once we make sure the foundation is laid legally with (Rivera) and his lawyer,” said Bhasker. “I don’t want him to come back and say to us, you never offered us anything, you didn’t tell us what was going on, now we’re going to sue the city for damages, that kind of stuff. That’s why it’s a steady process towards that.”