ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With a driveway covered in garbage, Albuquerque’s top listed problem property is facing demolition. Tuesday, the property also faced a massive clean-up, but a big pile of trash was left behind.
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Employees with the City of Albuquerque’s Solid Waste and Code Enforcement teams spent about two hours at the home of John Gallegos starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Crews removed pounds of overgrown or dead trees and shrubs from the home on Mesilla Street NE, near Copper and Louisiana. However, crews did not clean Gallegos’ driveway.
Gallegos’ home has been the subject of city code enforcement violations since the mid-’90s. In 2005, KRQE News 13 Investigative Reporter Larry Barker exposed the fight between Gallegos and the city, which eventually lead to crews finding mounts of refuse, even pigs on the property.
Larry Barker’s 2005 investigation on the infamous ‘pig house’
Continued problems on the property eventually lead to the city getting a permanent injunction on Gallego’s property. That injunction has since lead to multiple clean-up enforcement actions, including Tuesday’s clean-up.
“Today we’re just addressing any of the dead vegetation so that we can to make it safe and make it so it’s not impeding the sidewalk,” said Matthew Whelan, Director of Albuquerque’s Solid Waste Department. “Just trying to do what we can to make it a safe environment and make it good for all the residents of the City of Albuquerque.”
The injunction the city has against Gallegos’ Mesilla property allows for the city to remove any trash or debris from outside the home as long as the city gives Gallegos proper notice. The injunction remains active while the city also pursues demolition of the property.
City Council approved the demolition of the Mesilla Street property in January 2021. Gallegos has since appealed the decision in Bernalillo County District Court.
Tuesday, the Mesilla Street property has a pile of trash at least five feet high. In an interview with KRQE News 13 Tuesday, Albuquerque Planning Department Director Brennon Williams said the city has been trying to coordinate a larger clean-up of the Gallegos’ property, however, crews were only able to tackle landscaping matters.
“It was more of a scheduling issue,” said Williams, in response to a question from KRQE News 13, as to why city crews didn’t clear out all the trash and debris from the property Tuesday. “We’ll continue to coordinate with (Solid Waste) and work with them, it’s you know, how do you eat the elephant? Do you take little bites or come in and just take a big bite?”
Gallegos declined a request for an interview with KRQE News 13 on Tuesday. Williams says the city has not abandoned its efforts to clear the property, including demolition.
“I’m confident that once the district court makes a determination, it will be favorable to the city, we’ll be able to clean it up,” Williams said. “It’s been a 30-year problem, but I would encourage (neighbors) and continue to encourage them to be patient with us, we literally are very close to the finish line.”
The City of Albuquerque says it does not have a date yet on when it will clear the trash out front of the property. Gallegos is appealing the demolition of the home in district court, but no court date has been set.