Countless 911 and 311 calls. An unannounced visit to Mayor Jacob Frey’s office from a nearby property owner. Multiple emails and calls to Councilmember Aisha Chughtai’s office. And still, the vacant property at 2621 Pillsbury Ave. remains open.
This just isn’t any vacant property. It’s owned by C. David George, who was subject to H. Jiahong Pan’s investigation, “One landlord, hundreds of violations.”
When we last reported on 2621 Pillsbury Ave., it was right before Christmas 2022. A neighbor reached out to us, concerned about people trespassing in the vacant building. At the time, C. David George was in the news because his property at 2312 Lyndale Ave. had burned to the ground after people seeking shelter there presumably let a fire get out of control. It wasn’t the only building that had caught fire in 2022. In the fall, George’s property at 200 Oak Grove caught fire. That building had been vacant for a year.
Back at 2621 Pillsbury, the current problem appears to be an imbalance in urgency between nearby residents and City offices.
A resident that lives near 2621 Pillsbury Ave. S called 911 about people accessing the vacant building but they have “given up” because of the lack of response from the City. Southwest Voices is protecting people’s identities and where they live at their request.
Another nearby resident has been calling 311 and 911 for five months. In a recent call with 311, the resident said the 311 operator wrote in the case file that the property is a “possible encampment.” In another 311 call, the building was reported as vacant. Southwest Voices was given the 311 case numbers for these calls.
When we reached out to the City for comment about the lack of follow-up on the 911 calls specially, Regulatory Services sent us this statement:
“The City does not have current 311 cases or police calls for service about this building being open to trespass. The City has reached out to the property owner to determine what the property owner is doing to resolve the situation.”
Brad Schaeppi, the property owner of 2619 Pillsbury, reached out to C. David George’s attorney for help in securing the building. Schaeppi said he has spent hundreds of dollars in security lighting and cameras for his tenants due to the activity happening at 2621 Pillsbury.
George’s attorney, K. Jon Breyer, told Schaeppi that ongoing problems with trespassers was due to the Minneapolis Police Department not being willing to issue citations for trespassing and slow responses from the City’s contractor that boards up properties. Southwest Voices called Breyer for comment and have not heard back.
“All I want is for tenants in my rental house to feel safe in their home and community,” Schaeppi said. “I hope city officials hear their calls for help to immediately board up and re-secure the property when they call 911 to report trespasses when they have broken in again.”
After Schaeppi didn't hear back from Councilmember Chughtai or Mayor Jacob Frey's office, he went to the mayor's office at City Hall. Schaeppi said he spoke with an aide.
The City of Minneapolis Regulatory Services property file for 2621 Pillsbury Ave shows that the building was officially condemned on February 7. Regulatory Services cited the building for being open to trespass on November 22, 2022. The most recent trespassing violation was recorded on February 28.
The property was added to the Vacant Building Registration Program in February. When buildings are in this program, an inspector is assigned to monitor the building to make sure people are not trespassing. Property owners are otherwise in charge of monitoring their own properties.
While there is slow progress being made at the City level, the pace is not fast enough for the residents living around a building continually trespassed. Late night fights, loud music, and people coming and going at all hours can be unsettling. Residents have expressed a need for urgency over the last five months and have struggled to get much of a response at all. And the worst case scenario, the building going up in flames, is not far-fetched. It already happened to George’s properties.