Image: FALSEStatement: “[David Alvarez] held big banks accountable, protecting people’s property values when banks foreclose on neighboring homes,” The San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council, campaign flyer for David Alvarez for mayor.

Determination: Misleading

Analysis: This weekend, a young supporter of Councilman David Alvarez showed up at my home. Alvarez, of course, is running for mayor.

He was very sincere and he asked if he could count on my vote. I told him no, I’m going to remain neutral for now.

And he left behind this flyer. It included this passage:


The line about protecting property values comes from one of Alvarez’s two major legislative accomplishments. Last year, the city implemented his Property Value Protection Ordinance, which requires banks or lenders that foreclose on homes to pay a $76 fee and provide contact information for the steward of the property.

Lisa Halverstadt recently reviewed the impact of the legislation and the data the city’s collected.

Money quote:

The city has logged roughly 1,700 residential properties in its foreclosure database and collected more than $190,000 in associated fees. But a city code enforcement manager charged with overseeing the program couldn’t detail how it’s help the city crack down on problem properties, or even say whether it’s helped code officers reach the banks responsible for those homes more quickly than they would have without the measure.

The idea is the city would be able to spot abandoned homes that were causing a blight on a neighborhood and, armed with contact information, could demand the owners of the homes keep them up.

The city has only hired one of the three people it determined it needed to carry this out.

Nobody claims that the city has actually forced an owner to maintain a property better because of the law.

I spoke with a representative of the Labor Council, which made the claim in the flyer that Alvarez’s law was “protecting people’s property values.”

Kirsten Clemons, the political and legislative director at the Labor Council, said the law was having an effect.

“The intent was, and we think this is happening, that property values are being protected because of the accountability and responsibility banks feel they now have to maintain their properties. There’s no evidence to say that’s not the case,” Clemons said.

But there’s no evidence, either, that it is the case. The city has no data. What’s left is just an assumption Clemons is making that because banks have to send in a check and contact information, they are taking better care of their properties and that is “protecting people’s property values.”

Clare Crawford, the president of the Center for Policy Initiatives, which championed the proposal, said her organization was not using the claim that Alvarez had protected property values as a reason to support him for mayor. But she defended Clemons’ reasoning.

She said that it’s logical to assume that banks are responding regardless of the city’s lack of any enforcement because of the ordinance.

“They definitely should be doing more proactive monitoring, but just because the city hasn’t yet, doesn’t mean that it’s not working. There’s a deterrent effect because they know they can be found. The likelihood goes up that they’re going to maintain their properties,” Crawford said.

But, again, there’s no evidence that they have or that this has protected people’s property values.

Clemons claimed that it would be too early to judge an ordinance’s impact. It only went into effect in February, she said.

Judging its impact is exactly what Clemons and the Labor Council did, however, when claiming Alvarez’s signature legislation was protecting property values.

That was a leap that has not been substantiated.

Unfortunately, like with other similar claims, we don’t know for sure that it’s false, which we define as clearly not accurate, with no element of truth.

This claim may be accurate, but the claim that Alvarez’s law is having an effect on property values is a stretch and it is misleading based on the data and evidence available.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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