Hugh Sisley is infamous in the Roosevelt neighborhood, where he owns about 40 rental properties. Most can be identified by dilapidated houses, overgrown yards, and, in some cases, piles of trash. The city has taken specific umbrage with four of Sisley's properties, fining him $284,000 for junk storage—using, in part, a program the city's Department of Planning and Development (DPD) created last summer.
"We feel like we're getting movement," says DPD spokesman Alan Justad.
The program, called Clean Up Your Act, was apparently created with Sisley in mind. In 2007, Roosevelt Neighborhood Association member Jim O'Halloran took Mayor Greg Nickels on a tour of the area, making a point to stop by a pile of trash in one of Sisley's yards. A month later, O'Halloran says, "I learned...he had proposed the legislation for Clean Up Your Act." At a press conference announcing the program, two of the three posters displaying examples of the city's worst violations showed Sisley-owned properties.
The fines against Sisley are more than twice the amount the city collected in all of 2006, before the CUYA program went into effect, and Justad thinks the largest single fine, $212,000, is a city record. The program features higher fines that go up the longer a property owner fails to address a problem. For example, land-use-code violations—such as allowing plants to grow out onto sidewalks and storing junk cars on lawns—increased from $15 to $150 per day. After 10 days, fines increase to $500 per day. The question for neighbors is whether the penalties will prompt Sisley to change his ways—or even pay the fines.
"I think he appeals them reflexively," says O'Halloran. "I think he'll try to work around it as hard as he can, and just stomp his feet and contest [the penalties]." This summer alone, Sisley has seven appearances scheduled before a city hearing examiner to contest fines and appeal land-use-code decisions. Sisley could not be reached for comment.