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City approves new ordinance that will punish apartments not in compliance with city code

Non-compliant buildings' utilities can be shut off
Citations against Commodore Arms.jpg
Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 23, 2022

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The City of Corpus Christi approved a new ordinance on Tuesday that will allow code enforcement to turn off utilities for residences that are not up to city code “resulting in a danger to the life, health, or safety of the public or the occupants of a building.”

City councilman Mike Pusley said the new ordinance will help code enforcement ensure residences, especially apartment buildings, remain in compliance.

“We’re not getting cooperation from the building owners to address problems that are affecting the buildings, and affecting the tenants that are living in the building,” he said. “This gives our code-enforcement officers another tool to work with, to try to get compliance from the building owners.”

One apartment complex that was brought up during public comment by concerned citizens is the Commodore Arms Apartments on Santa Fe St.

The city of Corpus Christi's Director of Development Services Al Raymond, who oversees the ordinance, said Commodore Arms has been issued 60 citations.

Two permits also have been issued to upgrade service panels, a plumbing permit to add new clean-outs and a building permit to fix stairways and breezeways, Raymond said.

“It seems like an unsafe environment for people to be living in,” said Bibi Dalrymple, a concerned citizen who lives down the block from the apartments.

Dalrymple said the complex has caused issues in the area for years. She said neighbors have witnessed drug deals at the apartments, have had police officers chase suspects through their property that they claim originated at the complex, and even referenced a shooting that took place at the complex in May 2020.

“This is not an issue of, ‘not in my backyard;’ I’m happy to have low-income housing in the neighborhood, but not sub-standard, deficient housing that is unsafe and dangerous,” she said. “It gives a bad name to low income housing.”

During the meeting, other neighbors claimed sex offenders live at the complex.

Stephanie Saenz, a representative for the Commodore Arms Apartment, said the property performs background checks when residents apply for the housing, and disputes the claims that sex offenders live in the complex.

“If that doesn’t come up on the background check, we can’t block them on hearsay,” she said.

Saenz also said it is unfair to blame the other criminal activity on the families living in the complex.

“Trying to relate those people to those families, to the crimes in the neighborhood, really isn’t fair,” she said. “They have no idea where they came from, no idea if they’re living in those apartments.”

Saenz said citations were issued to the property regarding fencing, parking and drainage, but said the dozen citations were all mailed to the property, and were all dated within four days of each other.

“They’re issuing a citation, and either that day, or the next day, issuing another citation, mailing them, and saying failure to comply,” she said. “On 3/14, failure to comply with notice, and on 3/14, keep sidewalks clean, and debris in gutter. So, how can you comply with grass in the gutter, if it’s mailed, and there’s a failure to comply the next day… actually the exact same day. There’s multiple instances.”

Saenz said the property owner is working on making the necessary improvements to the property. She said as a property owner herself, she is against the new ordinance, and believes it will only be a punishment to the people living in residences that have utilities shut down.

“This is going to harm the individuals that live there," she said. "They need to take the legal steps, not turning off water, not allowing them to bathe their babies, but take the legal steps to make them comply."

Raymond said Thursday the complex isn't in danger of having its utilities cut off.

"This apartment complex is not in danger of having their utilities shut off  because Development Services has not revoked their certificate of occupancy and the property owner is attempting to remedy the noted code violations," he said in an email.

However, Pusley brought up the question of "What happens to families displaced by the issue at city council?"

“The city manager assured me that through our federal assistance funds, and a number of other avenues, that we’ll be able to take care of the people who are living there, and help them find additional places to live, until the problems have been addressed,” he said.

When asked if other complexes in the city were at risk of having services cut, he referred KRIS 6 News to the city's director of neighborhood services Tracey Cantu.