LONG BEACH — It took an excavator less than an hour to reduce three dilapidated buildings into a pile of rubble.
The trio of buildings, located at 1315 Washington Ave. South in Long Beach, had long fallen into disrepair and under the sight of city code enforcement.
“They were abandoned and in disrepair,” Long Beach building inspector Matt Bonney said. “We tried to work with the owner through the code enforcement process since 2017. He just wasn’t able to fix a lot of the code issues with the buildings in a timely fashion and this is where that process leads us.”
Bonney was on hand to witness the demolition by Big River Construction Jan. 26 in Long Beach.
“It takes a lot of time and some city money but we’re going to lien the property for the costs, so we’re not out taxpayer money,” he said. “The owner is still responsible for the payment. If he chooses not to pay then we can foreclose the lien in a couple years and recoup the money that way.”
Structure was once inhabited by squatters
The latest demolition is part of an ongoing effort to crack down on properties that have long fallen out of compliance with city code.
“The whole purpose is to keep the neighborhood looking nice and like a place where people want to live,” Bonney said. “This is never the goal of the city, this is the last resort.”
The lot was most recently valued at $80,000, despite the former dilapidated buildings being filled with old furniture. The structures and lot are registered to Stephan Sagmiller, according to public records on Taxsifter. It’s the second property registered to Sagmiller that has met a similar fate, the last occurring in October 2019, when a structure at 1315 Pacific Ave. was demolished due to disrepair and failing to meet city code requirements.
The latest demolition had all of the symptoms of a structure that had long sat uninhabited.
“It was just full of stuff. The windows were broken. The foundation was bad. The first bump from the excavator knocked it off the foundation. It just fell right over because the shape it was in,” Bonney said.
“It’s sad he’s losing some of it,” he said. “But he’s had a little more than three years now to either get the stuff, fix the building or hire a contractor. He could have paid to have this done himself and it probably would have cost him less. Having the city do this is the most expensive way to go about it.”
Bids for the project ranged from $18,000 to $25,000, with the city awarding the job to Big River Excavating, the lowest price but still an expensive endeavor.
“It’s a lot better and cheaper in the long run to just maintain their properties. If they have an abandoned house — secure it. We had squatters inside, which was one of the first things that started this whole process,” Bonney said.