Judge declares site unsafe, Santa Rosa home seized from two brothers

- A North Bay man says he'll get arrested rather than leave his lifelong home.  It's not a typical eviction. 

The Santa Rosa house was seized -- and sold -- as a hazard to public health and safety.  

Sonoma County officials, and several judges, agreed two elderly brothers failed to maintain their house and one acre property.  

"We didn't have a junkyard, we did have a collection of old farm equipment and old vehicles," 66 year old Pierre Mendiboure told KTVU, at the Victoria Drive house where he still sleeps, despite an order to leave. 

The house is dilapidated, but Mendiboure says it suited him and his brother Paul, 65.

"It needs work, but that's all right with us, we lived with it," he said. 

Until a few months ago, the yard, which backs up to the SMART train tracks, was a mass of possessions: vehicles, tools, heavy equipment, odds and ends. Then a clean-up crew arrived with a court order.

"I didn't realize the seriousness of our crime," said Mendiboure, "and I didn't believe we were in any violation because we had lived here for so long." 

The crews cleared a dozen sheds and storage structures that had been constructed on the property.

And inside the three-bedroom house, they removed furniture and appliances, to make it uninhabitable. 

"They took the dining room table, and all the chairs," said Paul Mendiboure, "and in the living room we had an armoire, two pianos, a couch, TV,  like a regular home." 

By that time, it wasn't the brothers' home. 

Citing complaints and violations going back 20 years, a Sonoma County judge had put the property in "receivership"  as a health and safety hazard.   

"It put us in a bind, and they knew it put us in a bind, because Pierre and I just retired, we're not wealthy," said Paul.

He says the brothers were too poor to rehabilitate the place themselves, and because the deed was still in their late parent's name, they were unable to secure a loan. 

"With help, we could have gotten a reverse mortgage, and done more clean up and fixed the house up, but we were never given that chance," said Paul. 

Relatives say they learned too late, that the property was being forfeited.

"They don't ask for help, they're not that type of men, they do things themselves," niece Jamie Mendiboure told KTVU.

She and other family members are distressed that the house and land have been sold for $292,000.

Almost all of that will go be used to pay for the site clean up, court costs and receivership fees. 

"This was supposed to be left to us, and plus we don't want our uncles to be homeless," said Jamie, "and weren't give a chance to help the situation at all." 

The receivership company assigned to the Mendiboure case, denies that.

"The family didn't get involved, they didn't clean it up, they thumbed their noses," said Mark Adams, President of the California Receivership Group, based in Santa Monica. 

His firm has handled almost 200 such cases during the past 20 years. 

Adams says the Mendiboure outcome - a property lost with no compensation- is rare and avoidable. 

"But some people are just so belligerent and they fight and fight and fight," said Adams, "so as far as I'm concerned, it's on them, there are no proceeds."

Adams says a lengthy court record documents not only the history of violations, but how attempts at abatement and cooperation failed.  

"Pierre felt like it's his property and he could do what he wanted with it, even if that's piles of junk everywhere," said Pierce Harper, of the California Receivership Group.

Harper supervised the clean-up at the site, which took a few weeks and filled almost 15 dumpsters. 
Had the men participated in the clean-up and sale, they would have netted some equity, because the overall costs would have been lower. 

"I still think we did everything we could to get the best outcome for the two brothers, and this wasn't what we wanted either," said Harper.

The receiver's note, the county and the courts are responsible for the well-being of the community. 
"This is a residential neighborhood, can you imagine living next to this?" posed Mark Adams. 

Adams' firm is handling about twenty receivership projects throughout the Bay Area. 

As the Mendiboure case winds to a close, Pierre Mendiboure is refusing to budge.
He says he is seriously ill, and will have to be arrested in order to desert his lifelong home. 

"I'm not going to leave, I've already made my mind up, I'm not going anywhere," he declared. 

Authorities arrived Wednesday to remove Mendiboure, but because of some vagueness in the paperwork, a judge will be asked to issue a specific eviction order on Monday. 

Adams emphasizes the need for families, faced with similar situations, not wait, and not hesitate to intervene for the welfare of the loved ones. 

"If this family had paid attention to this ten years ago, we wouldn't be sitting here," he said.     

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