On Dec. 5, 35-year-old Rosalea Trejo died after being badly burned in a home on Stockton Boulevard; the home was labeled as being "dangerous" by Sacramento County.
Hundreds more former homes, storefronts and other structures are in such a state of disrepair that the City of Sacramento could soon place many of them on its own "dangerous building" list.
A house at 141 El Camino Avenue, in North Sacramento, is officially designated dangerous by the city. Frank Arnall has lived next door to the house for most of his 60-plus years. He remembers the pharmacist and his family who lived there in the 1950s and 1960s, but for several years, he said, it has been inhabited off-and-on by transients.
In 2012, Arnall watched as a young man, who was squatting in the home, hanged himself from a tree in front of the neighbors.
"The rope broke and stopped him from killing himself, and then my wife called and they came and picked him up," Arnall said.
Linn Sweeney, who lives on the other side of the vacant house, also witnessed the attempted suicide.
"This is a nice neighborhood with some nice people in it, and we're stuck in the middle of this mess next door," Sweeney said.
Even though it is supposed to be vacant, neighbors have called police to the home 30 times since 2006. There have been numerous calls of suspicious activity, a stolen vehicle, burglary in progress and an assault in progress among other things.
News10 investigators analyzed a data base of troubled properties in Sacramento and found a total of 345 vacant and abandoned buildings; 97 of them are considered dangerous.
Arnall and Sweeney not only have a "dangerous building" next door, they also have one across the street. It's a rundown duplex at 128 El Camino Avenue, where they said squatters come and go frequently. Code inspectors had to bolt up boards over windows in that house nine times in 2013. The backyard is covered with old couches, garbage, broken appliances and other refuse.
When asked if he has ever seen the owners of either home Arnall simply said, "Never."
Arnall and Sweeney want the homes demolished.
Sacramento code enforcement used to have a record of quickly tearing down abandoned buildings until 2001. That year, the city demolished a brick building on 48 th Street, near the Elmhurst neighborhood. The owner sued, and in 2008 the city was forced to pay a judgment and attorney fees totaling $1.8 million. Sacramento Community Development Operations Manager Ron O'Connor said that case may be partially responsible for a reduction in abandoned building demolitions in the city.
"I can't say the lawsuit didn't have something to do with it, but it was kind of a change in policy," O'Connor said.
O'Connor said he does not like to tear down buildings if they still have enough value to refurbish. He said it could take as long as seven years to knock down a dangerous building.
As the man who manages all of the city's code enforcement officers, O'Connor also knows about the owner of the home on Stockton Boulevard, 51-year-old "Raj" Singh. He said his office has repeatedly ordered Singh to repair homes he owns on the "dangerous building" list and to stop renting them out, but O'Connor said Sigh ignored the warnings.
Sweeney couldn't help but think of the fire that killed Trejo as she talked about the "dangerous" house just 15 feet from her home.
"I'm afraid someone is going to die in there."
By Thom Jensen, firstname.lastname@example.org