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Abandoned pools a danger to neighborhoods?

July 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The foreclosure crisis has left many homes and pools abandoned. Southern California residents say the abandoned pools are a breeding ground for disease, and a danger to children. In the Van Nuys area, just west of Van Nuys airport, neighbors are trying to get some assistance dealing with an abandoned swimming pool.

Van Nuys resident Joan Kelly has logged phone calls for six days, trying to get someone to fix the gaping hole in a gate next door. She says it's a matter of life and death.

"All I want is my neighborhood to be safe, I want the pool to be drained and I want a fence to protect the property," said Kelly.

The house Kelly is concerned about is empty due to foreclosure. Kelly says the gate attached to the home on Paso Robles Avenue collapsed last Tuesday when a crew secured the house, but left the gate wide open.

Neighbors are concerned because there are many kids in the neighborhood and one of them could fall into the pool and drown. In addition, there is no one that can fix the fence right away because of the foreclosure.

Neighbors say two dozen kids live within 100 yards of the house. They are particularly sensitive to the danger because a child drowned in a pool across the street eight years ago.

"There are little kids that frequent this neighborhood constantly on their bikes ... They see an open gate ... You know this is breeding mosquitoes. It's a danger," said Lynne Reeves, another concerned neighbor.

Maxim Properties in El Segundo is listed on the foreclosed home. Neighbors say they have made over 20 calls to Maxim Properties, the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety and to the County of Los Angeles Department of Health Services.

Neighbors say they are afraid the pool is incubating mosquitoes infected with West Nile Virus because they have seen dead birds near the home, but officials have not responded.

"Right away, 3 p.m., I was on the phone to Olivia Reyes, at the mortgage company that holds the papers ... and absolutely no returned phone calls. I must have called at least 10 times," said Joan Kelly.

A city code inspector visited the property on Monday. He installed warning tape and propped up the gate. He also said he would write it up. However, without the property owner's cooperation, the inspector said it could take weeks to secure the fence and drain the pool.

Stacy Bellew, who works for Councilman Tony Cardenas, agreed that the city is in need of a faster way to react to situations like the one on Paso Robles Avenue.

"Kids get bored, they get curious. They're going to come back here in this backyard and who knows what would have happened. As a matter of fact a whole weekend went by -- from what I understand," said Bellew. "So Councilman Cardenas is working with the new city attorney to introduce a motion to figure out what kind of mechanism we can put in place to deal with these situations in a more timely manner."

On Monday, the County Health Department picked up the dead birds for testing.

Maxim Properties did not respond to calls from Eyewitness News. However, Councilman Cardenas's office says the company has given the city assurances that it will fix the problems right away.

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