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Vacant, Rat-Infested SJ Grocery Store Prompts Crackdown On Blight

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A vacant San Jose grocery store has become a magnet for litter, drug dealers, even rats.

The root of the problem is a disagreement between the former tenant and the landlord. Now City Hall is getting involved.

Councilmember Sergio Jimenez had heard the rumors that the old Nob Hill grocery store was infested with rodents but he had to see for himself.

When he peeked in the front window, something was peeking right back.

(Sergio Jimenez, San Jose City Councilmember:

"I saw the rats," he says. "And so they were literally crawling everywhere."

Jimenez took photos of the infestation. They show rats everywhere, both dead, and alive.

The councilmember then called code enforcement for an inspection to begin the process of cleaning up the site.

That was in July, and the rodents are now long gone.

Nob Hill's parent company, Raley's, sanitized the building, and crews were emptying out the store, removing all the fixtures to prevent future infestations.

"It was disgusting," says Jimeniz. "It was disgusting and I thought this doesn't belong in our community."

It turns out Nob Hill sales were down, and the forecast looked bleak so the company shut down the store two years ago, with no future plans.

The lease with Retail Opportunity Investment Company, or ROIC, lasts until 2021.
And so begins the finger pointing.

Raley's says they've been trying to sublease the property.

But ROIC CEO Stuart Tanz told the Mercury News, "Raley's won't surrender the lease because they don't want another grocer there. They won't give the location back to us or put any effort into subleasing the building because they don't want competition to come in."

"It seems like folks are talking past each other. And so, what we're trying to actively do is bring folks together -- the community, Raley's, ROIC, to have a discussion on how to move forward is gonna be very important," says Jimenez. "I'm trying to bridge that gap."

Councilmember Jimenez is also considering introducing legislation that would crack down on properties that are left vacant for long periods of time.

"I don't know if it's going to get to that point, but it is something that my staff and I are starting to explore. To the extent that the city can take an active proactive approach to make sure this doesn't happen again, is in the best interest of the whole city."

Raley's issued a statement:

"It is not a normal practice for Raley's to leave a store vacant-we have given ROIC keys and security access to market the building and have been waiting for ROIC to present a potential sublease option to Raley's- there has been no proposal to date."

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