SLO City Council slaps Casa Street and Murray Avenue property with 'public nuisance' label



Vacant and dilapidated for years, two single family residences at the crossing of Casa Street and Murray Avenue received the status of public nuisance from the San Luis Obispo City Council.

In a bid to save the property overrun by vegetation, debris and trash, unwanted furniture, and suspicious activity and trespassing, the City Council passed a resolution declaring it a public nuisance in a 4-0 vote at its July 2 meeting. Councilmember Jan Marx was absent.

Prior New Times reporting found that the two buildings, zoned as office space, have been empty since 2015, based on city staff's interpretation of water usage records. At the July 2 public hearing, Code Enforcement Supervisor John Mezzapesa told council members that the city filed its first report about the property's issues in January 2022.

SLOW REPAIR Vacant since at least 2015, two single family residences at the crossing of Casa Street and Murray Avenue started seeing improvements days before a July 2 public nuisance hearing. - SCREENSHOT TAKEN FROM CITY OF SLO PRESENTATION
  • Screenshot Taken From City Of SLO Presentation
  • SLOW REPAIR Vacant since at least 2015, two single family residences at the crossing of Casa Street and Murray Avenue started seeing improvements days before a July 2 public nuisance hearing.

"While there were times where he [property owner] was involved in the maintenance, it was only a small portion of the enforcement timeframe," Mezzapesa said. "There has never really been an attempt that we've seen to address the substandard conditions of the structures on site. Just the premises regarding rubbish, garbage, and vegetation."

Former SLO County resident Diller Ryan owns the two residences. According to the timeline laid out by Mezzapesa, Ryan contacted the city in June 2022—six months after the code enforcement department filed its initial report and conducted inspections, issued a notice of violation, and sent a notice of violation and a warning letter.

By the end of 2022, Ryan conducted a cleanup of the exterior of the property. But its condition deteriorated by March 2023. Following more city inspections, citations, and voicemails left for Ryan, the city advised him of a potential abatement plan.

Correspondence from Community Development Director Timothea Tway and Community Development Deputy Director Michael Loew showed that city officials and Ryan worked on the property days before the public hearing.

"Mr. Ryan met with Mr. Loew on site on the morning of June 27, 2024, to discuss the immediate needs; however, Mr. Ryan was not able to provide identification at the time and did not have keys to the structure," Tway and Loew's letter to the City Council read.

On June 28, after locks were removed from the buildings, Ryan arrived at the property with a crew of tree trimmers who started clearing the overgrown vegetation. The property owner also started removing the accumulated debris. It was his first visit to the site in six months.

But Ryan didn't allow city staff inside the buildings to perform an inspection. He said he was concerned about the security of the structure and asked to have the locks reinstalled by the end of the day.

"Mr. Loew returned to the property at the end of the day to reinstall the strong-back locks to assist Mr. Ryan in assuring the building remained secured from unauthorized entrants," the letter said. "Additional junk and debris began to accumulate over the weekend and Mr. Ryan has begun clearing those items."

At the public hearing, Ryan, who said he's owned the property for 50 years, asked the City Council not to declare his property a public nuisance. He opened his defense by claiming he needed an attorney.

"I tried to use ... the county bar association legal referral service and they have not come up with one name," he told council members. "I'm thinking that maybe attorneys had seen this in the news, at least the way I saw it, in the New Times, which really looked bad. But who knows?"

He blamed the violations on a slew of people who used his property over the years. He spoke about homeless people breaking in, porch pirates (one of whom dumped a "computer box" from Amazon in his yard), and people who park in and across his driveway.

"I received all along, throughout the years, offers of purchase. Just recently, I received a bargain basement offer mentioning the staff report and these violations," he said at the hearing. "I would like to clean up, do some repairs, and make an assessment as to what I'd eventually want to do."

The City Council's adoption of the public nuisance resolution will help to address the immediate concerns on the site. The abatement plan contained in the nuisance declaration calls for the installation of perimeter fencing to block access and prevent covert dumping, and for the removal of all trash, debris, and overgrown and dead vegetation.

Ryan has 30 days to remedy the violations. If he fails to meet the deadline, the city can pursue an abatement warrant from the court. City officials are also considering a potential receivership process to address long-term issues like the substandard exterior and interior conditions.

"I feel like staff has already bent over backwards and backwards and backwards to try to work with this individual. It's just super upsetting and dangerous," Councilmember Andy Pease said. "This is an owner who should have taken care of his property a long time ago." Δ


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