Bishop City Council Passes Vacant Building Nuisance Ordinance But Balks at Registry

Not one, but two empty Kmart stores in Bishop, Calir.

Bishop’s City Council approved the much-discussed nuisance ordinance addressing vacant property at its Monday meeting. But, when it came to a formal registry of vacant buildings along with related requirements and fees, the Council balked, noting some improvement already in the downtown corridor.

The nuisance issue is two-fold: sad-looking empty storefronts in the immediate downtown corridor as well as two glaringly empty mega stores left when Kmart abandoned Bishop. The road to the ordinance started with a community workshop in 2017 where the focus was on empty storefronts. But, the ordinance passed this past Monday applies to all of Bishop, not just the commercial districts.

The definition of “public nuisance” is fairly specific. For instance, “overgrown vegetation constituting a fire hazard,” rather than a lawn that needed mowing two weeks ago; “accumulation of wrecked or inoperable vehicles, maintenance of premises detrimental to the health, safety or general welfare of the public.”

This ordinance “provides procedures and penalties for abatement of nuisances, including recovery of costs for abatement,” according to the agenda packet.

The first reading was held in late January, this second reading and approval puts the ordinance on the books.

The Council had questions and concerns with the idea of a vacant building registry. With the possibility of requiring fees to register a building held vacant for a specific period of time as well as other maintenance guidelines and enforcement procedures and penalties, councilmembers preferred the proverbial carrot over the stick. As Council Chair Stephen Muchovej explained, “the goal is to disincentivize empty buildings.”

“I’ve seen a change,” said Councilmember Jim Ellis noting that “some chronically empty buildings have changed hands.”

Councilmember Karen Kong’s concern was office buildings in Bishop currently occupied by Inyo County staff. Inyo’s consolidated office building at the north end of town will be ready for County staff early this spring, emptying out those offices.

In addition, Kong mentioned the poor condition of some commercial buildings. “I know people who wanted to rent but couldn’t afford the start-up costs and repairs,” she said. “Maybe require a level of habitability. That could be one piece of the pie.”

Ellis suggested a draft ordinance so the Council could see what a viable registry ordinance would looked like.


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16 Responses to Bishop City Council Passes Vacant Building Nuisance Ordinance But Balks at Registry

  1. Sigma 6 February 14, 2021 at 12:12 pm #

    With 3 months of research and 3 months of development, we would have a lot of progress to this issue. City council members, one of you needs to start reaching out to other cities, take a peak at some policies and start planning. You will find good info out there as long as someone is willing to just do some researching. Develop your team! Stop taking a paycheck, earn it.

  2. David Dennison February 14, 2021 at 9:47 am #

    With Amazon around,things will only get worse,not better…and not just in Bishop, but Nationwide in the small towns..
    All part of the”‘new America”.and little we can do about it.

    • Bishop Plaza February 15, 2021 at 10:49 am #

      There is a HUGE demand for housing in the Bishop area. All vacant commercial properties should be allowed to convert to housing. This will bring more people into the small town to shop,work, pay taxes and contribute to the economy.

  3. Trouble February 14, 2021 at 5:19 am #

    I also believe Cottonwood and Rite Aid are a embarrassment. I am proud that Big 5 and Autozone took a gamble on us.

  4. Beenthere February 13, 2021 at 4:16 pm #

    I had a business downtown for awhile, I ended up closing it because the landlord’s I had wanted way too much rent. Their buildings were also in seriously decrepit condition, and they expected me to pay exorbitant rent and spend my money upgrading their crummy buildings. I tried to negotiate rent with these people based on my bottom line, but they refused.
    One building is sort of vacant (not rented as a store) now, and has never been rented for even half of what they tried to get out of me when I left. The other building is rented, not sure for how much.
    Moral is, bad landlords do have a lot to do with building vacancy in town. I am all for property rights, but we do have Planning regulations for a reason.

  5. david February 12, 2021 at 2:08 pm #

    People have been saying downtown would soon be a ghost town for over 30 years. Still waiting for the ghosts.

  6. Low February 11, 2021 at 8:06 pm #

    City leaders need to realize what they were elected for and our City Attorney needs to start filing lawsuits to either force the owner to sell the Kmart buildings or rent them out at a reasonable cost.

  7. Russell P Olenick February 11, 2021 at 5:33 pm #

    It will get worse. Any support for government that is restricting commerce based on sensationalized (inaccurate/ misleading) Coronavirus data will perpetuate this problem and many others.

    • Allyourbussinessesarebelongtous February 12, 2021 at 2:29 pm #

      Russel just an fy this site is full of commenters who let others think for them. I get censored here any time one of the site owners doesn’t like what I say. I think this quote is more relevant than ever before.

      “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.” ― George R.R. Martin,

  8. Jason howard February 11, 2021 at 5:23 pm #

    Charge the owners for required upkeep. These vacant buildings should be like gold to big retailers. Mom and pop will likely suffer a little but not as much as our community as a whole suffers from empty building. Offer some incentive to new businesses! Hasn’t bishop suffered enough from the out of town and online buys?!

  9. Ben N February 11, 2021 at 4:25 pm #

    Yep, Sure as S#it, downtown is gonna be a Ghost town in two years max 😒

    • Trouble February 14, 2021 at 5:10 am #

      It has been a ghost town for years. Basically since Amazon took over. To me, the Airport is our best bet for more tourists.Mammoth needs our help also.The old buildings are not historic, except the movie theater. The rest should either be torn down or brought up to today’s codes. Our city council needs to address our Main Street. Not yours, not theirs , not mine. Our main st.At least a few of the owners have remodeled during these cruel times.

  10. AK February 11, 2021 at 12:10 pm #

    Wait until the new consolidated County building opens, there will be empty buildings all over town, not just on main street.

    • Two cents February 12, 2021 at 8:51 am #

      Maybe the city can encourage and incentivize owners to convert some of those soon to be empty County buildings scattered around into housing. Waive fees, offer grants, etc?
      I realize money and costs are always an issue, but what if some of the older and dilapidated empty main street buildings that owners and potential tenants find too expensive to remodel and bring up to code could be purchased by the city, torn down, and turned into the always requested parking and public green spaces like Talmadge Park. More spots that would encourage people to stop, walk and explore downtown, and have a shady spot to rest or eat outdoors, enjoy public art, gather when we can again, etc.

  11. BobM February 11, 2021 at 10:20 am #

    Give it a few more years and main street will be a ghost town. Meanwhile everyone at the city continues to get a paycheck. 🙁

  12. Sami February 11, 2021 at 3:00 am #

    Is an ongoing pandemic really the best time to be focusing on empty storefronts?


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