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I live right across the street from three rental houses owned by Dwayne the dentist who owns a couple dozen slum properties in Olympia. He paints his houses (and his own house on East Bay) black. He has some of the lowest rents in Olympia, so owing to the very short supply of lower priced rentals available, his houses stay occupied by renters. Many of Dwayne's tenants are very nice people and congenial pleasant neighbors, but not all.

The house at 1213 Marion has about 4 or 5 old vehicles parked there in states of major disrepair. One vehicle, a diesel pickup truck, constantly leaks both diesel fuel and motor oil onto the street. Whenever it rains, there's a wide oil slick that covers the whole street and flows downhill into Mission Creek at the San Francisco Street entrance to Mission Creek Nature Park. From there, the oil flows into Budd Bay at Squaxin Park. When its dry, the motor oil and diesel fuel are not as visible, but they are still present on Marion Street and pollute our environment with toxins. Multiple complaints have been made to the City of Olympia and to DOE, as well as to Dwayne the landlord, and nothing has been done for more than a year.

The house at 1217 Marion, which is downstream from the motor oil and diesel fuel, has put up an oil dam with an oil filter device in an effort to try to avoid coming into contact with these toxins; the City of Olympia is aware, DOE is aware, Dwayne is aware, but nothing has been done to stop the motor oil and diesel fuel contamination of the properties at and around 1213 and 1217 Marion. This has been tolerated by the landlord, the City and DOE. Naturally the renter at 1217 urgently wants to move and get away from this problem, but I live at 1218 right across the street and own my house and can't move.

I have heard that Dwayne is very slow to make basic repairs, yet he still charges a minimum rent of $1300 or more for houses of about 400 square feet or less. I have heard tenants complain of plumbing leaks that rotted out bathroom floors and leaked into the ground under the house. I have heard about windows with glass that was broken out and not replaced the entire time that people lived in those rentals. Shoddy appliances that do not work and Dwayne won't replace them. Nothing in these houses but electric baseboard heat which is so expensive to use in the uninsulated black houses that the people who live there are cold in winter. So what they do is burn anything they can find to burn in the fireplace at 1213 and pollute the air in winter.

The house at 1213 Marion has a dead tree in the front yard. This tree has been dead for over two years. Its about 60 to 75 feet high and was topped out at about 10 feet so there are multiple vertical trunks of this dead tree that put everyone around this house at risk for when the trunks finally do fall - which they will do in time. Dwayne has refused to cut down or even to trim back this tree which is a mortal danger to his tenants and to the neighbors in adjacent houses. Dwayne refuses to cut or even trim back this tree, and the City of Olympia allows this situation to continue ongoing. A life safety issue for everyone in the rentals and nearby.

I personally know some people who own rental housing in Olympia, and the people I know who own rentals maintain them conscientiously in good repair. These same people who own rentals fear that they would be further burdened by the additional expense of having some sort of regulatory oversight imposed on them by the City, and I can understand where they're coming from. I've watched the City in action regarding other issues and have found that just as with this plan for rental oversight/regulation, the City actually puts very little genuine thought and planning into anything they do.

So the bottom line here is that Dwayne is going to continue to be a slumlord and its unlikely that anything the City does will make the black houses better for tenants; yet, the good respectable landlords will be harassed and pestered and 'regulated'.

What I can't understand is why doesn't the City have a code of acceptable minimum standards of decency for rental housing that can be enforced when those basic standards are perpetually violated by the Dwaynes of Olympia?! Why do the good landlords who keep there properties in decent repair have to get involved? We know who the problem landlords and properties are already. Why not act to enforce those "basic health, safety and environment standards" that "Housing Program Specialist Christa Lenssen talks about without involving the people who are not creating the problems?

From: Olympia City Council discusses the proposed rental registry program; Mayor Selby has reservations

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