The city has held three public hearings since February for a Notice of Abatement of properties owned by Juarez. The approved notice was to be filed with Siskiyou County Superior Court this week.

Growing tired of dealing with dilapidated buildings on Main Street, including the shuttered Black Butte Saloon, and seeing little action taken to repair the eyesores, the Weed City Council voted unanimously May 14 to file a Notice of Abatement for three buildings owned by Mark Juarez of Dunsmuir.

“Nothing has been done to repair the Juarez buildings. No permit has been applied for, no plans have been submitted,” said Weed’s building inspector John Pemberton during Thursday’s meeting, which some councilors participated in remotely via Zoom. His comments kicked off a long, sometimes intense discussion with city council, staff, and Juarez, who owns three shuttered buildings on Weed’s Main Street.

The city has held three public hearings since February for a Notice of Abatement of properties owned by Juarez. The approved notice was to be filed with Siskiyou County Superior Court this week.

The properties include the historic Black Butte Saloon, which, with the other addresses, has been declared “immediate threat(s) to public safety.” The addresses for abatement include 247 Main Street, for its dilapidated back deck; 219 Main Street, for its dilapidated front balcony; and 259/261 Main Street, for a dilapidated front balcony.

“The balconies are falling apart, there are broken bolts, bolts missing that hold beams to steel columns, rotten beams. The balconies are a major safety issue,” Pemberton told the council.

All of the Juarez addresses on Main Street, which are in three buildings, are shuttered and display “Danger” notices on the doors.

“We have pages of building and fire code infractions,” Pemberton said.

A receiver will be appointed by the court with “the legal authority to arrange for repairs to remediate the hazardous conditions, pursuant to the Health & Safety Code,” according to Weed’s City Attorney Robert Winston. The receiver is a neutral third party appointed by a judge.

“The expense of the court proceedings, the receiver, and the necessary repairs can be recovered by imposition of a lien against the property,” Winston added.

Juarez’s attorney Jeff Swanson argued that the COVID-19 pandemic was delaying repairs.

“Pemberton wants an engineer’s report, but local engineers won’t work on this job,” said Swanson. “And Mr. Juarez can’t get anyone to come up here from out of the area because no one wants to travel right now. The county is telling people to stay away. He’s trying to get an engineer to provide the reports Mr. Pemberton has asked for (but) COVID is stopping him from doing anything.”

The city inspector said in a later interview he’d spoken with three engineers during the week. He said all of them are working, because engineering is an essential business.

“Of the three I talked to, one of them could be here next week,” Pemberton said.

When Juarez came to the podium on May 14 he told the council he wants to make the improvements and repairs happen.

“The goal is to improve the downtown. We’re trying to save them (the buildings), we’re doing everything we can, we want to work with city, not against it. There are things we’re accused of I could argue. But we are working diligently to make it work,” Juarez said.

“I’m having deja vu,” Mayor Susan Tavalero said. “We’ve been talking about this for three years.”

“I’ve been here seven years,” council member Stacey Green said, “and it’s always the same thing. There’s been nothing positive as far as the city is concerned for making the buildings habitable. It’s not happening. Words, that’s all. Nothing’s been executed.”

“I’ve been working with you a long time, Mark,” council member Bob Hall said. “I had you to dinner eight, nine years ago, offered to help get things in order. It’s been the classic runaround, with things falling farther and farther behind. Not one way it’s been improved.”

Juarez attempted several times to change the council’s thinking.

“Allow us to show you what we’re doing,” he said at one point. “We’re putting together a team. I’m stepping out of this.”

“Why would I believe you?” Tavalero asked.

“We’re asking 60 days to show you what we can do,” Juarez replied.

From his home via Zoom, councilor Ken Palfini said, “Maybe if you post a million dollars ... and it would all go to city if nothing gets done in 60 days, then I might agree.”

Gary Tomchuck, one of Juarez’s associate from Sacramento, came to the podium next, and spoke of his admiration for Juarez. Tomchuck said he’s a “business developer” and that he has known Juarez from the Bay Area for years.

When asked by a council member to say what he had come to say Tomchuck got to the point. “We have an engineer who specializes in older buildings, and an architect. We need two more weeks.”

“Here we are again,” Stacey Green responded immediately. “Hearing from a business planner instead of an engineer. Right now there are safety issues, things wrong that can hurt or kill a person in a minute. Things that can be fixed that don’t need a business planner to do it.”

Addressing the council, Greene said, “Every one of his buildings have had more than one business in it. He wouldn’t do anything to keep those businesses there. If (a tenant) wanted something fixed, you had to do it yourself. If you wanted heat, get it yourself. This is all shenanigans ... Every meeting he brings someone new to plead his case. We’re done!”

Hall, who was also teleconferencing, said the council wants Juarez to succeed. “But we need something to go on. You’re asking for pie in the sky. We wouldn’t be doing our duty if we continued this nonsense.”

Weed City Manager Tim Rundel told the council the city needs the revenue that businesses generate in sales taxes. He said that Juarez’s side of the block on Main Street is currently uninhabitable.

“The sales tax dollars which that side of the street could generate would be extremely valuable to us. I’ve been here just two months and have already had to lay off two city employees.”

In a later interview, Rundel said the amount of land the city has zoned for retail and commercial is limited.

“But we have a downtown that could be vibrant and thriving. Instead, we’re looking at eyesores, safety and health issues.

“We see potential if that side of the block was viable. I’m talking festivals and other events down there. The potential for restaurants and hotels is very limited because of the deteriorated buildings. The Juarez buildings are a mark against us. And I can assure you the downtown merchants are upset.”

When the public hearing was concluded, the council voted unanimously to file the nuisance abatement notice. City attorney Winston said he expects the process to take the court 60 days to set up.

After the vote, when asked by Tomchuck, the mayor and council members said they would be willing listen to the Juarez team at next month’s meeting.

“Action,” Tavalero said when asked later what Juarez would need to do to halt the notice to abate. “A report from a licensed engineer or contractor.”

The Juarez team also needs to address $75,000 in fines issued by the city recently for health and safety violations. An administrative hearing is scheduled.