15 West Kellogg Blvd.  
Saint Paul, MN 55102  
City of Saint Paul  
Minutes - Final  
Legislative Hearings  
Marcia Moermond, Legislative Hearing Officer  
Mai Vang, Hearing Coordinator  
Joanna Zimny, Executive Assistant  
Tuesday, June 21, 2022  
9:00 AM  
Room 330 City Hall & Court House/Remote  
Appeal of David Jacobowitch to a Vacant Building Registration Notice at  
Layover to LH Jun 28, 2022 at 1 pm. Property to be reinspected at 10 am June 22,  
David Jacobowitch, owner and occupant, appeared  
Shirley West, ex-wife, owner, and occupant, appeared  
Terrance Lewis, son and occupant, appeared  
[Moermond gives background of appeals process]  
Moermond: as you know there is an order to vacate in play. There are occasions where  
I need to make a decision on an order to vacate before a public hearing. Matters are  
so pressing we need a temporary decision before that Council Public Hearing date.  
The next one isn’t until July 13. So it may be overturned then. I have your appeal file in  
front of me. I also have your 2015 condemnation and order to vacate that I reviewed so  
I had a sense of where we were at. It isn’t unheard of for people to end up here more  
than once. Life circumstances happen.  
Staff report by Supervisor Richard Kedrowski: May 23, 2022 our office received a  
complaint regarding lack of service to the property. Inspector Hesse went out and  
found multiple violations, the first being the gas which is the reason for condemnation.  
He did write a correction notice. When gas wasn’t restored by June 7, it was sent to  
Vacant Building for failure to address facilities.  
Moermond: I had concerned that 2 through 7 didn’t show up as principle violations.  
Illegal dwelling in basement for example. I will be treating this and the conditions we  
operate as if they are principle violations, as I believe they are and incorrectly listed in  
the order. You did the second inspection, gave 24 hours for the gas.  
Kedrowski: and another inspection on June 7 since he said he was working with an  
inspector. I called Xcel this morning and gas has not been restored.  
Staff report by Supervisor Joe Yannarelly: we opened a Category 2 Vacant Building  
from that referral from Code. We haven’t been inside and know it to be occupied.  
Moermond: tell me how you end up in this circumstance with the gas and hoarding.  
Jacobowitch: May 20, 2022 we had a minor gas leak at the house. In order to avoid all  
this fuss we probably should have lit a match and destroyed the evidence. We did the  
responsible thing and called NSP about the leak. They sent the Fire Department who  
turned off the gas and identified it as coming from a valve going to the kitchen stove.  
This house was built in 1900. That gas valve was at least 100 years old. They turned  
off the gas for the safety issue. Because the St. Paul Fire Department responded to  
an issue I have to get a report from the St. Paul Fire Department saying it is safe to  
have someone come out to work on the gas. They refuse to give me that report. They  
told me to go to DSI. I went there and asked for this report and I didn’t get it. I think I  
spoke to Joe, I am not sure, but someone told me if I didn’t “stop complaining” they’d  
send someone to board it immediately.  
Yannarelly: he spoke with Mr. Hoffman.  
Jacobowitch: once I have that report I will get it repaired.  
West: it happened because one of the kids had seizures and there was a gas smell.  
We didn’t notice. He called every single day; we moved the kid out of the basement  
and stayed in the living room until a bedroom was available. I heard him on the phone  
every day to resolve this. He called for the dumpsters, they’re 2 weeks late and we only  
got it for a week. Before that he hauled 11 trailers of trash out. We busted our butts to  
get it where it is livable if we had gas. They are refusing to pick up our garbage. We  
went to throw garbage in the bin last Friday evening and there was still garbage in the  
cans. You can’t overflow them or leave it. How are we supposed to do the things we  
need to do if we have roadblocks at every turn?  
Jacobowitch: we’re having roadblocks in spite of the City. I have photos.  
West: no one provided the resources we needed. Nothing was provided.  
Moermond: and I’m going to say so we are clear, this is your house and you are  
responsible for it. Resources for assistance to help you maintain, that’s fantastic.  
Those resources are above and beyond what the expectation should be which is that  
we all have to manage our own business. I haven’t heard of a case where the Fire  
Department needs to make a determination but rather a licensed plumbing contractor  
would need to pull a permit to repair a gas line if that was the only issue.  
Yannarelly: and that may be just the tip of the iceberg.  
Moermond: is the reason they couldn’t pull a permit perhaps due to the Vacant Building  
status and breadth of the violations?  
Yannarelly: correct.  
Moermond: clearly in the nature of the orders there are hoarding issues. I hear you are  
working on them, great. I am super concerned about sleeping in the basement. Never  
again unless there is an egress window and it is properly separated from fuel burning  
equipment. It isn’t safe. People die all the time.  
Jacobowitch: they haven’t died in my house.  
Moermond: and I’m glad to hear it because we’d be having another conversation. How  
many kids and animals are here?  
Jacobowitch: you turned it adversarial already.  
Moermond: it is my hearing room, and you know 7 years ago I helped you out. I am not  
working against you, but we need to figure out a plan. The sleeping in the basement, I  
need to be clear. No way, no how. Especially children.  
Jacobowitch: they are adult children.  
Moermond: they are humans who can die of carbon monoxide.  
Jacobowitch: I don’t need to be lectured any more ma’am.  
Moermond: where I’m going is I am trying to diagnose the nature of the problems. We  
have the Vacant Building program and the Code Compliance Inspection and creating  
that punch list and if this house is a good fit for that requirement. Or are there other  
ways we can keep you in the house safely? The main thing that’s come up so far is the  
gas line/gas valve issue. That is a plumbing issue, which could be the tip of the  
iceberg because they are old. That would be something a plumbing contractor would  
like to look at.  
Jacobowitch: 3 years ago I put a brand new $7,000 hot water boiler in the house. At  
that time the entire gas system was inspected and declared reasonably safe and  
reasonably up to code.  
Moermond: by the contractor?  
Jacobowitch: yes. I have pictures of that.  
Moermond: I’m happy to look at any materials you brought.  
Jacobowitch: I have done some things to maintain my house.  
Moermond: I don’t doubt it for a minute. I know you were able to get out from this in  
2015. We have a slightly different set of problems back then, there were people and  
animals that aren’t happening now from what I’m hearing.  
Yannarelly: I have 2 permits from 2019—  
Moermond: I’m seeing water heater.  
Jacobowitch: there was a water heater and hot water boiler.  
Moermond: and the only plumbing permit I see is for that.  
Jacobowitch: that is odd. I think the City doesn’t keep good records.  
Moermond: it was pulled by KB service company.  
Jacobowitch: they put in the hot water.  
Moermond: and it does say on the permit that it is the responsibility of the owner to  
Jacobowitch: quite frankly I didn’t read that. City laws are so cumbersome.  
West: we need to be more on top of it, I am aware. I asked them to let him know he  
needs to call the plumber. When he is frantic it is hard for him. He was not aware he  
had to do it.  
Jacobowitch: I thought the installer had to take care of it.  
Moermond: I was looking for a statement in the application saying we’re looking at  
everything. I didn’t see that. I’m seeing a lot of building items. Some electrical.  
Jacobowitch: I am not aware of any electrical deficiencies.  
Moermond: items 12 and 13 on the report.  
Jacobowitch: I am aware of only one area with maybe some exposed areas. They are  
no longer live; they have been disconnected from the electrical grid.  
Moermond: how many people live there?  
West: 5 adults. 2 cats. 3 dogs.  
Jacobowitch: at the time of the gas incident we had 7 and 2 have moved out.  
Moermond: are you all family?  
Jacobowitch: yes. My oldest son and my daughter both found alternative housing.  
West: Mr. Lewis is my daughter’s husband.  
Moermond: what do we have for sleeping rooms? There are square footage  
requirements for the amount of people. 70 sq feet for 1. 150 for 2.  
Jacobowitch: we are not overcrowded according to the ordinance. This is a 1200  
square foot house with 3 bedrooms.  
West: the people in the basement moved to the living room until my son moved out,  
then we had an extra bedroom. Then I moved into the smaller one and they moved into  
the bigger one.  
Jacobowitch: it is the master. About 250 square feet.  
West: we have ample egress; no exits are blocked.  
Jacobowitch: we have worked considerably on fire safety.  
West: you would be shocked. I wish people would have come in and looked at the  
progress. I’ve known about his hoarding; I’ve never seen him work this hard. We end  
up accumulating stuff every time we put someone up. He can’t turn someone away  
either. We realize the limitations we have. He’s had to throw away other people’s stuff.  
Those people have damaged the property. They are the ones that broke the windows  
and punched holes. We’re just trying to pick up the pieces.  
Jacobowitch: I don’t like to see homeless people. I would rather have them in my  
house. I could parade 45 people in front of you I have helped. I’m a hoarder I have a  
problem, I admit it. Do I still deserve to live? I sure hope I do. I have a problem, I know  
Moermond: and it is not unusual for me to see someone in your circumstances more  
than once. It is hard to deal with. I’m going to ask, Mr. Yannarelly, can you talk about  
the likelihood of these circumstances coming back?  
Yannarelly: it is commonplace. It is a mental diagnosis.  
Jacobowitch: I’ve never got any help from anyone.  
Moermond: House Calls helped you last time.  
Jacobowitch: I got a dumpster and filled it up.  
Moermond: have you reached out to House Calls again?  
West: yes, they were 2 weeks late on the dumpster and it wasn’t quite full when they  
took it after a week.  
Jacobowitch: it was very helpful. That is the single most helpful thing to do.  
Moermond: I have to say at the same time, I’m feeling good you’re working hard on this  
and understand how important it is to maintain this house so you can move around.  
When I see hoarded houses I worry about emergency people getting in and out. How  
they navigate it.  
Jacobowitch: currently they can.  
Moermond: without the gas, you don’t need the furnace now. Your stove is gas  
Jacobowitch: we also have electrical things that we use. Microwave. Crock pots.  
Moermond: do you use a hot plate?  
West: no.  
Moermond: great, I wanted to hear that. Especially in a house with a lot of stuff I worry  
about those appliances. The risk is magnified.  
Jacobowitch: I would like to reassure you I have lived here 22 years and succeeded in  
not burning it down. On a basic level I have some knowledge of fire safety.  
Moermond: that is one tiny measure.  
Jacobowitch: anyone can have a fire ma’am.  
Moermond: and all these things are to decrease the likelihood of it occurring. You have  
things that increase the likelihood. That it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t give me  
confidence. The other thing about basement ceilings is they are very low so smoke will  
gather. You almost can’t crawl low enough to get out of a basement on fire. Hear me  
and know I’ve seen people die like that.  
Jacobowitch: I’ve seen people die in fires too ma’am. I was a firefighter for a while.  
Moermond: I’m concerned you allowed this.  
West: I’m grateful about the garbage but I am still upset it is gone. I’ve been unable to  
live and we finally get this dumpster. We aren’t done.  
Moermond: I’m seeing more things this time than what I saw last time. Is that fair?  
Jacobowitch: I’m not sure.  
West: it is true.  
Moermond: the volume of stuff has increased. Comparing photos from 2015 to 2022 I  
see more stuff. I see things were dirtier and more unsanitary in 2015. Especially with  
the pets in the house.  
Jacobowitch: maybe looking at the May 23 photos.  
Moermond: that’s all I have to look at.  
Jacobowitch: and looking at today’s photos you can see it is better.  
Moermond: I’ve had people bring photos in and everyone I know shows pictures with  
the best face forward.  
Jacobowitch: please reinspect the property.  
Moermond: that’s where I’m going with this. There needs to be an inspection. But I’m  
concerned about the permits and work that need to be done. I don’t know your  
capacity to do the repairs. Can you repair a hole in the wall? Light fixtures, as an  
owner, you can pull a permit to do it.  
Jacobowitch: I don’t know as much as I wish I did.  
Moermond: and I know how and I’m afraid to do it.  
West: I have friends that can do it.  
Jacobowitch: we can develop a plan.  
Moermond: I’d like to see a plan on how you will do that. The Fire Department doesn’t  
need to give you any report. You’re going to be without gas for another week at least. I  
want you to take this list and put together a plan for me on how you will get this done  
and how quickly, and if it will cost money say how much and how you will pay for it. For  
example, if you have to pay $200 in fixtures I need to see that $200. If the friend is  
doing the work, I need to see the permit pulled. The floor in the bathroom. There are  
things that need to be done it is how quickly, how you’ll pay for it. I can’t let this go  
Moermond: I am mostly concerned about items 1 through 7.  
Jacobowitch: ma’am I don’t know what list you keep referring to is.  
Moermond: we’re talking about an action that makes this a Category 2 Vacant  
Building. Because there are code violations---  
Jacobowitch: I don’t care what you’re saying. This is a terrible law. I’d like to give  
Bostrom my piece of mind.  
Moermond: he’s been gone a number of years. Here’s the thing, has it become  
dilapidated in a variety of trades it should receive a full Code Compliance Inspection to  
ensure its safe for people to live in. It almost means you’re a registered Vacant  
Building and no one can live there until its addressed.  
Jacobowitch: that is scarier than hell. That makes me homeless.  
Moermond: and I’m trying to problem solve.  
Jacobowitch: then do it so I don’t have to live in a tent.  
Moermond: I get you want to come back with these phrases. I am dealing with a bad  
situation here—  
Jacobowitch: she’s trying to hurt us. Let’s just get through this ma’am.  
West: I’m trying to stay levelheaded.  
Jacobowitch: you’re trying to be adversarial.  
West: she is trying to be reasonable.  
Moermond: Mr. Kedrowski, what red flags are you seeing?  
Kedrowski: missing light fixture has old cloth wiring through the ceiling. They didn’t  
have boxes and any connections on wiring has to be in a box. So one needs to be  
installed. One photo showed open ceiling with PVC piping and I see no permits. There  
were modifications in the property owner’s own photos that show the drain mechanism  
in a wastebasket under the sink. The old valves are always replaced on stoves like  
this. Without a thorough inspection you won’t be able to quantify the amount of  
corrections needed.  
Hesse: it was a full house and it was hard to see. I’ve been in there before. It was  
cleaner in past years. there was a lot there, I couldn’t gain access to quite a few areas.  
What I could get I took photos of.  
Moermond: when you look at this, setting aside the gas issue, what issues gave you  
the most pause?  
Hesse: the basement. I couldn’t get down there. There was a mattress near the landing  
I could see. I could barely even peek in. Not sure what was going on down there. We  
did talk about that right away and I came back the next day to check. I couldn’t get  
down there to verify. That was the big one. That worried me quite a bit.  
Moermond: you have seen your fair share of condemnations Mr. Yannarelly. When you  
look at the items on this list what are your observations and red-flags that make you  
think this should be in the Vacant Building program?  
Yannarelly: owner occupied properties do come up less often, so they are usually in  
more deteriorated shape than something in the rental program. When we see a  
preponderance of evidence to say the four trades that need to go through. If there isn’t  
much to be done then that’s great but if there is a lot we are potentially avoiding a  
terrible situation. Mr. Hesse mentioned fleas in conversation. If it is cleared now they  
can do the Code Compliance Inspection and then we’ll know what we are dealing with.  
Unfortunately we are the enforcement agency trying to enforce minimum property code  
Moermond: comments?  
Jacobowitch: I would not object to a full inspection of the house. I honestly want to  
know where I am at.  
West: and how we can fix each thing.  
Jacobowitch: we’ve been here 22 years. The mortgage is mostly paid. We may have  
the ability to finance some rehab work.  
West: he’s working, I work. He wants to put in money. This is my kids’ home; I want to  
do my part too.  
Jacobowitch: we have to live somewhere. We want to live here.  
West: I want step by step instructions and we’ll just do it. I can know people who can  
fix stuff. We want to give it a shot.  
Jacobowitch: and the want the time to do it. the thing about 2015 and why it didn’t last  
was because we were rushed through the process. We had to do band aid repairs  
quickly in order to get out from under that. They didn’t work. The underlying problems  
we didn’t solve.  
Moermond: that’s kind of on you, I’m not going to accept responsibility on behalf of the  
City on how you did repairs.  
Yannarelly: maybe we can get it expedited. It is still condemned, can’t be lived in, and  
if it is vacant they would have all the time they want but they need a place to live.  
Moermond: I want to provide a narrow window for there to be repairs for a follow up  
inspection. No one can help you besides yourself. This is going to be how are you  
going to do this. If you have electrical item, what are you going to do about it? How are  
you solving it? I think you have an uphill battle; I am going to be honest. I think this  
will be tough to pull off and you will need your entire household to help. Focus on the  
items that we’ve talked about most, but also the other items. We need access too the  
whole house.  
Jacobowitch: you could have access now. If there are issues I’ll correct them.  
Yannarelly: the trades inspector not going to have an opinion on a lot of this because  
he can’t access it. Then we get into the area of self-certifying this property.  
Moermond: I hear your concerns and I respect it.  
Jacobowitch: you respect him at least.  
Moermond: sir, I’m trying so hard. This letter is the reasons they are saying the house  
isn’t livable right now. the correction could be one of two things, I could allow you to put  
together a work plan to address these things.  
Jacobowitch: that’s what I need.  
Moermond: that’s what you want. The other thing is being in the Vacant Building and  
finding alternative housing for a window of time.  
Jacobowitch: that isn’t acceptable to me.  
West: we want to invest in staying there.  
Jacobowitch: I don’t want to spend money on alternate housing because that money I  
can’t spend on the house. I am in contempt of this.  
West: we really need to stay.  
Jacobowitch: the house is not unsafe.  
West: we need to stay and focus so we can have enough money.  
Moermond: I’m going to ask Mr. Hesse and Mr. Kedrowski to go and inspect. I want to  
talk to you this next Tuesday at the same time.  
Jacobowitch: we do have full time jobs and we do need to work them.  
Moermond: this follow up inspection they will have better visibility, respecting you have  
done some work, and based on that list I will make a determination on whether it will  
need to be vacated. Enforcement is stayed for another week. We could have a  
conversation next Tuesday about vacating, or we could have a conversation about how  
you get done in the next 3 or 4 weeks. Let’s get that fresh opinion. I want to give you  
credit for that.  
West: I’ve been trying to treat the infestation. I’ve been spending a lot of money. We  
just need the yard cut and sprayed. We’re doing that in the house. Our animals are  
being treated.  
Moermond: I think you need a professional exterminator. Work with me. I’m not playing  
band aid games on this. I’m totally serious.  
Kedrowski: 10 am tomorrow morning.  
Jacobowitch: that is acceptable. We will try to comply as quickly as possible. Just  
make it possible that’s all I ask.  
Moermond: I’m working with you. I’m being level. These are serious things. These guys  
are dead serious that trades are involved.  
Jacobowitch: I’m already scared to death ma’am. You don’t need to do it more.  
Laid Over to the Legislative Hearings due back on 6/28/2022