Richmond mulling legal tactics to force city councilman to clean up his property
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 06/17/2013 12:57:01 PM PDT
Updated: 06/17/2013 04:23:30 PM PDT
This property at Ohio Avenue and Carlson Boulevard, formerly owned by Councilman Corky Booze and currently owned by a Vallejo resident, is photographed in Richmond, Calif., on Monday, March 11, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Staff Archives)
Richmond City Council Member Corky Booz talks about his experiences in politics at the Caspers...
RICHMOND -- After months of wrangling, the city appears poised to initiate legal action against its most colorful councilman because he allegedly refuses to clean up a fenced lot where he stores dozens of old cars and other items.
A closed session executive meeting is scheduled for before Tuesday's City Council meeting to discuss what to do about Councilman Corky Boozé, whose 28,000-square-foot lot at 22 Carlson Blvd. is home to what a city prosecutor described as " ... unlawful, hazardous, unsafe and blighted conditions ... so extreme and extensive that it is difficult to describe."
After several meetings, numerous postponements and a 21-page abatement letter earlier this year, it's up to the City Council to decide whether to direct City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller to sue Boozé to force him to comply.
"Code Enforcement is done," Code Enforcement Director Tim Higares said. "He's not in compliance, he has made no verifiable efforts toward compliance, where we go from here is up to (the council and the city attorney)."
The situation came to a head May 29, when Higares and several staffers conducted their final inspection of the property, which is owned by Boozé's former girlfriend.
"I had cleaned up some stuff, got it in order," Boozé said. "But suddenly Tim tells me all my stuff has to go, that it doesn't comply with current zoning. That's just unacceptable. I have all my paperwork. I just want to follow the law, but you can't make up special laws for Corky."
Higares said Boozé, a former race car driver, "cut some weeds and moved a few things around, but he is nowhere near compliance."
Boozé, 69, holds a business license for auto body repair and restoration at the site, adjacent to the Richmond Greenway and just beneath elevated BART tracks. Behind a 6-foot fence lies old cars and car parts, along with other metals and industrial tools.
Boozé's immediate neighbors are single-family homes, which dot the surrounding blocks.
Last week, Boozé sent a letter to City Manager Bill Lindsay asking for clarification and arguing that he disagrees with city prosecutor Trisha Aljoe's determination that the property sits in a C-2 zone, which would prohibit the storage and sales of old vehicles.
" ... the May 29th inspection was way too broad in its scope," Boozé wrote. "I need to operate my business without any more disruptions."
Boozé has said the city's scrutiny is politically motivated, calling it a "witch hunt" orchestrated by his political rivals.
But Aljoe's April 12 letter lists more than 20 alleged violations of local and state law at Boozé's property and includes an inventory of more than 40 vehicles, along with piles of car batteries, unmarked containers of toxic liquids and evidence of "significant soil contamination" that will require cleanup.
Reached Monday, Boozé was at an auto auction in Hayward. He said his business is buying and selling old car parts and other items, which he houses at the lot.
Goodmiller and Lindsay did not respond to an email requesting comment Monday morning.
Boozé said he had never heard of a councilman being excluded from a closed session meeting.
Councilman Tom Butt, Boozé's biggest rival on the council, said Boozé has no cause to be in the meeting.
"He cannot be there," Butt said. "It would be a conflict of interest."
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or email@example.com and follow Twitter.com/roberthrogers