Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gregge Johnson Rental Licenses Revoked!

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

The DAY AFTER the elections, our city council was back to work, doing exactly what voters charged them with. At Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee today, the committee voted to revoke all the remaining rental licenses held by Gregge K Johnson and Five Star General Construction. The final decision goes before the city council on Friday, November 13, but Johnson reportedly did not even show up for this hearing.

Pictured above is one of the more (in)famous Gregge Johnson properties...

1716 26th Ave N; the site of the drug house riots (labeled on this blog as such because it was not a neighborhood that was responsible for the riots). This area was reclaimed earlier in the summer with a new community garden:

However, the adjacent house owned by Johnson still sits vacant. The revocation of rental licenses is hopefully the first step in getting this property into the hands of someone who will turn it around into a bright spot in the community.

For JNS readers who want to savor every last procedural detail of shutting down a major slumlord in our neighborhood, click here for the PS&RS agenda; click here for the PS&RS request for committee action; and click here for the findings of fact.

City ordinances state that if a property owner has two rental licenses revoked in the span of one year, they lose licenses on all properties. The two revoked licenses for Gregge Johnson are 2616 21st Ave N and 1615 Girard Ave N. From city and county records, both of these appear to be in some stage of foreclosure already.

Here are the links to each property (besides the ones already linked above) with a recommended rental license revocation:

3940 4th Ave S
3325 5th Ave S
3607 Bryant Ave N
3811 Humboldt Ave N (no link available)
2222 McNair Ave
2621 Oak Park Ave N
3459 Oliver Ave N
1518 Park Ave
1819 Queen Ave N
2911 Sheridan Ave N
1639 Washburn Ave N

JNS readers are encouraged to share information about any addresses listed above (both in the comment section of this blog and also with your city council person). Already one person has said they remember the Girard property as being a major problem for neighbors, and shutting it down was a huge step in the right direction.

Jordan residents have gone to Gregge Johnson's housse to pickette because he's been such a slumme landlordde. Seriously, what the heck is up with the extra g and e on that name? Provided the city council upholds the recommendations of Public Safety and Regulatory Services, north Minneapolis will soon have seen the last of Gregge Johnson for a while. Losing two rental licenses in one year not only results in the loss of all licenses, but prevents one from getting rental licenses in the city for five years. It's a good sign how quickly his other properties have gone to foreclosure after revocation.

I've been at CM Hofstede's 3rd Ward CARE meetings and Johnson's name has come up repeatedly. And many of his properties are in Samuels' and Barbara Johnson's wards. It's no coincidence that all three north Minneapolis council members have (presumably) been reelected. Their tough stance on slumlords has brought great improvements to our communities in the midst of the foreclosure crisis. Keep up the great work NoMi council members!


Anonymous said...

Does anyone have picturre of Gregge Johnson?

Jordan Neighbor said...

I don't have a picture of him, but I'd recognize him if one were to appear. He's probablly about 50-55, average white guy, average build. dark hair. usually wears a baseball cap, could be mistaken for a rural minnesota farmer type guy.

I've occasionally seen him at Hennepin County Housing Court, sitting in the back row, passing his business card to the people exiting, who have just been evicted. A very strange feeling, on one hand, everyone needs housing, on the other hand it was desperate and predatory. I remember one woman looking at the card he just handed her, rolling her eyes, then tossing it on the floor over her shoulder. Had she heard of him??? Hmmm....

Folks, this guy is just about the bottom of the barrel.

Anonymous said...

You can see him on the webcast of the PSRS meeting. It is on the city council's website.

Anonymous said...

Um, what is the reasoning for eliminating him altogether? Has any corrective action been suggested? Or is it the philosophy of this blog to believe no landlord is worth working with?

I might shut down any house that has exhibited criminal behavior, and I think that is part of the process with regulatory services and crime prevention, but to revoke EVERY license? Does every building of his have a criminal history or look that bad? That kind of blanket judgment tells me you are not considering any kind of healthy rehabilitation for the landlord (perhaps in the form of probation), the well being of tenants that are NOT criminals (where will they live now?) or the neighborhood (what will happen to that many vacant buildings in a neighborhood rife with vandalism as winter sets in?).

I have searched your blog, looking for signs that you or the neighborhood group has tried to work with this Gregge Johnson, but I do not see any. Are you just assuming he should already know the cards are stacked against him as you drive him out of business and kick all of his tenants to the streets?

Winter is coming, and working with CM Hofstede and CM Samuals to carefully craft a probationary option would send the message that this neighborhood is willing to work with landlords who exhibit corrective behavior, but also says the neighborhood will not tolerate slumlords. Perhaps he could be forced to attend the neighborhood group meetings as a form of community service? That might help the two work together.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

@ Anon 10:38 -

The reason there hasn't been much on this blog about Johnson is because this blog hasn't made a determination about whether he is "worth working with." It IS the position of this blog, however, that property owners be HELD ACCOUNTABLE to neighborhood standards and city rules.

One such rule is that if a landlord loses two rental licenses in the city of Minneapolis in one year, then he or she loses all rental licenses. This is a standard that any owner of multiple properties is aware of. When such an owner fails to meet that standard, it is the position of this blog that such an owner face the pre-established consequences.

One reason I put the addresses out there was to invite comments from people who live near or have knowledge of these properties. How many of them, like 1716 26th Ave N, are ALREADY vacant? How many have been problem properties on their respective blocks that are BETTER OFF VACANT?

Where is your anger at Mr. Johnson? If there are families homeless or properties vandalized in the winter, HE is the one at fault for failing to follow the rules. No one else bears blame for it. And since he is still the owner of these properties, even when they become vacant, he is still responsible for their upkeep and safety.

If he is unwilling or unable to fulfill his responsibilities as a property owner, then he should get out of the game IMMEDIATELY. Maybe he could go to the city preemtively and ask them to work out a receivership program like TJ Waconia except without the prison sentence.

Pond-dragon said...

To Anon @ 11/6/09 10:38 AM

The Gregge Johnson affair has been going on for many-many-many years, a neighborhood group tried to meet with him about his 1716 26 property, multiple times, to no avail, we actually drove to his residence in Elk River, he would not answer the door. If you are looking for Gregge's landlord history Hawkman is correct this Blog is not the place, City hall is. I don't think city hall takes rental licensing revocation lightly, nor does City, State, county and Federal law, and as noted in the article, Mr. Johnson failed to show! What responsibility should the s community/city have when folks don't show? In court you get a default guilty.

Anonymous said...

ANON 10:38 Says:
I have searched your blog, looking for signs that you or the neighborhood group has tried to work with this Gregge Johnson, but I do not see any. Are you just assuming he should already know the cards are stacked against him as you drive him out of business and kick all of his tenants to the streets?

Dennis Plante Responds:
Your above comments leave more than a few residents in Jordan laughing out loud. The "neighborhood group" as you so aptly call them, along with the seated council member AND the City, engaged Mr. Johnson on numerous occassions over the last several years in an attempt to bring a reasonable resolution(s) to the state of his properties. All to no avail.

I am left scratching my head as to what exactly it is you're being critical of. The fact that the City has finally pulled the plug on a very infamous slumlord? Or the fact that there are now renters living in Mr. Johnson's below-standard rental units, that will be required to find rent elsewhere? If you're being critical of Mr. Johnson losing his rental licenses, it falls on deaf ears. If you're being critical of the renters that must move, they're much better-off moving, as the odds are that the next rental property they move into will be much better maintained and offer them and their family a much higher quality of life.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 10:38 -

Get a grip man.

We as a neighborhood have very little to do with licensing of rental property owners. If you knew anything about the law, you would know that he as able due process rights that were strictly adhered to. Why don't you try reading the staff report? It is on the city's web site. Ignorance and generalization really don't carry much weight with me.

Educate yourself before making such statements on here.

1915bung said...

It is about time that the City start looking at the symptoms of community degradation rather than trying to reduce the effect of the predatory investors by destroying homes that make up the fabric of our neighborhoods.

To anonymous 3: Why do you feel that landlords have any right to profit by perpetuating nuisance conditions in their rentals? It is not the communities obligation to educate these fools to be good neighbors and community members. If you want to profit from investment real estate, you had better know the business.

I am glad that the city is finally coming to terms with the fact that good communities are more important than the profitability of speculators.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jordan Neighbor.

No one posted any comments about this person being a "50-yr. old average white guy." Let's see how long the memories last!

Anonymous said...

I am one who actually had the opportunity to interview both the city and Mr. Johnson on this very issue in the past and, sorry to say, I feel for all parties affected in this issue, Mr. Johnson included. Mr. Johnson's main problem was the area's he decided to invest in and the tenants he allowed to "rent" from him. On many separate occasions when he rented out a house or apartment he never once received payment, even for the first month. It sure seems difficult to run a business if 25-35% of your customers do not pay (and rumor has it that his non paying tenants are now over 50%.) I understand the economic hardship that we are all in and nobody should be homeless, it's unethical, but the world we live in is driven by the almighty dollar. It's all business and when your business doesn't get paid your business will not last. I shocked he's held onto his properties as long as he has. If it was me I would have sold/leveled the more decrepit properties and focused my attention to the homes that have not been vandalized by "tenants." I think this is simply a situation that got out of hand on both sides. The city let this go way too long and Mr. Johnson should have let the properties go to foreclosure/sell a long time ago to, (1) save face (as he is not a bad person, at least not that I saw in the time I spent with him) (2) allow the tenants in those properties the decency of living in adequate living conditions.

Hopefully this will be the end of it for both parties and both can move on with their respective lives.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

@ anon 2:28

During my time as a mortgage originator, one of the first things I had to learn was how to differentiate "good people" from "good loans." Your claim that Gregge Johnson is a good person fall on a deaf ear.

Johnson isn't a victim here. He was not deceived into buying these properties. His properties have been a blight on neighborhoods so severely and for so long that residents took it upon themselves to visit his home. That does NOT happen very often at all.

A WCCO article claims he has as much as $710,000 in unpaid rent. You claim personal knowledge that many of his tenants "never paid" him and that as much as 50% of his rent is past due.

What kind of a landlord lets ANYONE set foot in their property without the first month's rent and some kind of security deposit? A bad one. What kind of landlord gets $710,000 behind on collecting rent? A bad one, even in these tough economic times. What kind of landlord allows his properties to shamefully deteriorate like this? A SLUMLORD.

Is Gregge Johnson a good person? I do not care even a little bit. What matters to me are results and his failure is clear to see. I hope he gets out of this game but I do not hope he "saves face." This should be an example of why you run properties responsibly and what will happen to you, your tenants, and your community if you do not.

Anonymous said...

Holding Property Owners Accountable

The City of Minneapolis does not tolerate landlords who violate rental licensing standards. We hold property owners responsible for the condition of their properties and hold owners responsible to proactively plan for, address and respond to issues of tenant behavior. Landlords are required by law to comply with the conditions of their rental license and must be responsive to problems on their properties. Maintaining a rental license in the City of Minneapolis is a privilege.

Unfortunately, the City of Minneapolis has not been able to convince all property owners to comply with our laws. As a result, properties have been condemned for maintenance, licenses have been revoked and in some instances, properties have been demolished.
Rental License Revocation

We have increased our license revocations in the past few years for owners who have violated one or more rental license standards. Since 2005, the City of Minneapolis has increased the number of rental license revocations (xls) by over 500%.

Owners ineligible to hold a rental license (xls) in the City for a period of 5 years because 2 or more licenses are revoked or cancelled due to condemnation.

Condemnation of problem properties is based on substandard building conditions. Properties condemned (xls) for substandard condition have the Rental License automatically cancelled, which is equivalent to a revocation. After a property is condemned, it must be repaired and pass code compliance inspection in order to be reoccupied

The City of Minneapolis maintains a Vacant Building Registration (pdf). Vacant buildings in our neighborhoods are managed by City staff and property owners to either restore buildings to livable conditions or demolish them.

Demolitions are a part of the City’s strategy to remove the most egregious blighted properties that present life safety concerns. The City uses authority under the Chapter 249 Ordinance to demolish substandard properties.
Ordinance Changes

Additionally, the City of Minneapolis has made many ordinance changes to protect tenants and neighbors from problem landlords.

Anonymous said...

AND LET'S NOT FORGET THE MAJOR SLUMLORD OF MINNEAPOLIS, Spiros Zorbalas, WHO LIVES IN NAPLES HALF THE YEAR.,-93.280106&spn=0.046529,0.106258&z=13&om=0

Properties owned by Spiros Zorbalas

Here is a list of Minneapolis properties owned by Spiros Zorbalas as of January 2008, according to city records.

Zorbalas and his properties are the subject of “The Slumlord of South Minneapolis,” published in City Pages on January 30, 2008.

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Created on Jan 28, 2008 - Updated Jan 29, 2008