City sets deadline for cleanup of Gastineau Apartments

Gastineau Apartments

The Gastineau Apartments in downtown Juneau partially burned in November 2012. The city recently gave the owner until May 1 to install a temporary roof and clean up the garbage inside the building or face legal action. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

The owner of a downtown Juneau apartment building that partially burned in 2012 has until May 1 to clean out the place and put up a temporary roof, or face legal action from the City and Borough of Juneau.

In a March 6 letter to Gastineau Apartments owner James Barrett, CBJ Building Official Charlie Ford said “the roof remains in such poor condition that water pours all the way down to the ground floor,” saturating drywall and garbage throughout the vacant complex. According to Ford’s letter, the city sent two previous notices to Barrett, requesting that he address multiple violations of the building code.

Deputy City Manager Rob Steedle says the city has had complaints about a bad smell coming from the building.

“A couple of people have mentioned that they find it objectionable,” Steedle said. “It hasn’t rained lately and it’s been relatively cold, so the odor is not as noticeable now as it has been in the past.”

Last November, about a year after the Gastineau Apartments burned, Barrett received a CBJ building permit to put up heat-shrinked plastic wrap in lieu of an actual roof.

Steedle says the building’s exterior shell is structurally sound. It’s the roof and trash inside the building that has the city concerned.

“If the building owner doesn’t accomplish the needed roof repairs to keep water from draining into the building when it rains, then we can expect that mold problems will persist, that the public will be complaining and we will go to court,” he said.

Steedle said City Attorney Amy Mead would have to decide the appropriate course of action.

The city has precedent for taking a property owner to court to force them to clean up their land. In 2012, the city initiated legal action against Ronald Hohman after several neighbors complained that his West Juneau home and property were a public nuisance. Steedle says the city completed the cleanup of Hohman’s property last year, after a contractor hired by the property owner failed to do the task by an agreed upon deadline.

Attempts to reach Barrett for this story were unsuccessful. Steedle says Barrett’s contact with city officials has been sporadic.

“We are waiting for the May 1 deadline to arrive and then we will attempt to contact him again,” Steedle said.

The Gastineau Apartments burned in early November 2012. An unattended candle was determined to be the probable cause. About 40 people lived in the building, many of them low-income residents.

Members of the Juneau Assembly asked Steedle and City Manager Kim Kiefer for an update on the apartment building’s status at a meeting last month.