BREAKING NEWS: Times-Standard runs relevant, somewhat coherent editorial

Probably some kind of fluke, but let’s enjoy it while we can.

Proceed cautiously

The Times-Standard
Posted: 08/06/2009

We understand and commiserate with the city of Eureka over the need for there to be some kind of city oversight of what is obviously an enormous problem of rental units in the city either being of inferior quality or of them being used as greenhouses for the area’s burgeoning house-grown marijuana crop.

But as we’ve said before, this is a sticky situation — forcing mandatory inspections down the throats of tenants and landlords borders on what could be an unconstitutional search-and-seizure approach to dealing with these issues.

Similarly, making the process complaint-driven could also open up a can of worms wherein bitter or irresponsible tenants could hold landlords over a barrel by destroying property, only to then complain to authorities that their living conditions could be labeled as substandard. Take it from us, the substandard label can be a real pain in the print.

To us, only one approach seems workable in this mess — and that is to make inspections mandatory when the units are between tenants. That is, when an apartment or house empties out between tenants, that would be the time that the city would perform inspections to make sure that the unit is habitable.

We’re still not convinced that this program is worth the headaches it will create. We’re also not convinced that there will be so many violations, and thus so many fines, that the program will pay for itself.

The city is basically considering a huge expansion of its powers and responsibilities at a time when money is getting harder and harder to find. We see the need, and we’re obviously aware — and have reported on — irresponsible landlords who have made consideration of such a program a necessity.

But the city must think long and hard about what it’s going to do, if just to ensure that any steps it takes now are sustainable into the future and aren’t ultimately seen as a municipal punchline no one gets when the joke still lingers on every street and corner in our beloved Victorian Seaport.