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Council, woman spar over property
Sara Beck believes she is legally living in a house on Colusa Street she considers to have been abandoned.
"To be as blunt as I can be, she is wrong," said Assistant City Attorney Jody Burgess during Tuesday's City Council meeting.
The house was originally owned by Jim and Joan Parker, who both died a couple of years ago, and the house has been vacant since then.
Vacant, that is, until Beck moved in with her 11-year-old daughter, Allison, four months ago.
Beck, 40, contends she has paid property taxes on the 1791 Colusa St. property and is legally living there via "adverse possession," said City Manager John Brewer.
Burgess cited state law that spells out the requirements of adverse possession, such as occupying the residence for five years, paying all taxes on the property and filing a legal claim in court and receiving a court judgment.
"She has not met any of these requirements," Burgess said.
Hearing that advice, the council unanimously denied Beck's request for city water services to the residence where she is living as a "squatter."
Mayor Gary Strack said if the city provides water to the Colusa Street residence "we would be validating that she (Beck) is living there."
Rochelle and Mike Noda, who live next door to the house in question, were pleased with the council's decision.
"Our bedroom is right next to that house and you can't believe the things we hear going on in there during all hours of the night — and with a child living in there as well," said Rochelle Noda.
The Nodas say Beck broke into the vacant house one night by breaking a window on the back of the residence.
"We heard it happen, and then about three or four days later people starting moving in. They had no business doing so, but they did it anyway," Rochelle said.
The Parker's daughter, who lives in Southern California, said no one is entitled to be in the house, said Brewer.
"She also stated the state of California may have filed a lien to recover costs associated with her parents' medical care," he said.
City Attorney Michael Fitzpatrick has been in contact with the Tehama County District Attorney's Office on the issue to learn whether Beck's occupation of the residence is a civil matter or criminal trespass.
"A letter the city received from Beck shows she is squatting on the property," said Burgess. "That is trespass."
In the letter, Beck states she has attended several council meetings with the intention to stand up and speak on the matter, but "for many different reasons I freeze," and that is why she decided to write a letter instead.
She describes turmoil in her life which led up to her occupying the residence and claims she talked to attorneys about moving into an abandoned house.
"This beautiful home. Next door to my daughter's grandparents and two blocks from her school," Beck writes in the letter.
The grandparents she refers to live on the opposite side of the home from the Nodas, and are the parents of Allison's father.
Allison's grandmother said the situation has been very distressing for her.
"I don't believe Sara (Beck) has a right to live in that house. This is just wrong," she stated.
Beck told the city the house has electricity, but she has "suffered without water and garbage" since she moved in.
Rochelle Noda said she can attest to that fact.
"The place stinks. There is garbage piled up high in the backyard and it is absolutely awful. Why don't they take their trash to the dump. They are just filthy," she said.
To keep some type of barrier between their own property and the property where Beck is squatting, the Nodas built a tall wooden fence.
"When the Parkers lived there and were our neighbors for more than 40 years we only had a small chainlink fence separating us. Now we have had to go to these extremes just to have some peace," Rochelle Noda said.
Mike Noda addressed the council on Tuesday, stating he and his wife are interested in purchasing the home.
"We are appalled at this situation," he said. "We would like to see her (Beck) out of the neighborhood."
The council instructed Burgess and Fitzpatrick to formally notify Beck of its decision to deny city services to the Colusa Street residence.