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Graffiti house upsets property owner and nearby residents

Published On: Jun 17 2013 08:59:41 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 17 2013 09:02:33 PM CDT

A home owner in Summerland cannot make any repairs or construction to his property due to a loophole in the legal system. Vandals have now defaced the property.


A vacant home, covered in graffiti is an eyesore in Summerland.  For now, however, the property owner is having a frustrating time cleaning it up, and resolving a land use dispute with both the railroad and the county.

The house is landlocked.

Jeff O'Neil was in escrow when Southern Pacific sold the rail lines to Union Pacific.

Soon, a piece of land at the entrance way to O'Neil's bluff top property was declared the property of Union Pacific.  O'Neil is leasing it to get to his house, and he would like to buy it.  But so far, there's no deal.

He also says the county won't let him work on his house until that access is resolved.

O'Neil says years ago the railroad tracks were moved closer to the ocean and that's when land issues began.  "You see the tracks used to be further inland and they had to move them over to make room for the the freeway," he said.

In the meantime, vandals have had their way.   Graffiti taggers have marked up several areas including the roof.

The Inn at Summerhill across the freeway from the house has a clear view of the tagging.  The owners are upset saying guests have noticed.

"It’s definitely a discouragement to business.   We’ve had people check in and ask what’s the situation with that,” said Steve Richardson. "It’s always a thorn in our side.“

Richardson is also trying to sell a house nearby and the view issue has also been brought up. "There wasn't a single person who came to view the property including several who wanted to make an offer who didn’t bring that up," said Richardson. "It’s like a magnet out there.  If you scan the horizon looking for whales, that’s what you see (referring to the graffiti)."   

O'Neil says he has problems dealing with the graffiti and when asked how many times he has painted over the work of taggers he said, "Oh, maybe four or five times," he said.  But it only lasted about three days.  Taggers were back and the damage was back.

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal says, "this is indeed a complicated issue.  It’s a parcel that is landlocked."

He also says, "in the land use world you do not allow certain developments or modifications  to any building when there is no access."

And when it comes to the cleanup, "regrettably the county does not have a graffiti ordinance in place to allow the county to compel the owner to remove the graffiti as soon as possible," said Carbajal.

O'Neil says he hopes to hear from Union Pacific in the next month to possible come up with a workable solution.

If the problem is resolved, O'Neil has a uniquely designed new home for the 75 by 60-foot parcel that he says will be a beautiful addition to the coastline.


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