Armed with a camcorder, a concerned Menifee resident going by the nickname "MyMenifeeEye" is putting a spotlight on messy, unsightly homes and businesses throughout the city.
He gets out of his car, turns on his camera equipment, and starts off by shooting identifying information such as street signs and the house number. Then he gets footage of overgrown lawns and weeds growing up through cracks. Next, he uploads the video to YouTube, and answers comments from local viewers.
"I own a service business, when I come on a neglected property I take note..." says the ten-year resident of Menifee who chooses to remain anonymous. "I call or e-mail the Realtor or the city, after a couple weeks I document the neglect with my camcorder, I wait till I get a few then I post them."
When I asked if he only videotapes properties that are up for sale he responded, "I document all homes, vacant or lived in."
In one of his videos entitled, "Where is Menifee Code Enforcement?" he shoots a scene of the old Valero station on McCall & Sun City Blvd, with its chain-link fence, weeds growing, and trash strewn about, while a somber tune of "Everything is Different" from Ashley Jones plays in the background, giving it a feel of Chernobyl twenty-years after.
MyMenifeeEye is not alone in publicizing unsightly properties to the Internet. LenderOffender is perhaps the most acclaimed website on the subject of neglected homes, relying on a community of users nationwide to upload photos of brown lawns, green pools, trashy yards, and Christmas lights left up all year long.
L.A. Hoodwinked is another website started by concerned residents in Los Angeles where they tag the locations of neglected homes throughout the city.
Some bank-owned homes have become so damaged by the neglect they can't sell anymore. "About a third of all of the foreclosed properties nationwide have been so damaged, either by the previous owners or by criminal gangs coming in after the foreclosure, that they no longer qualify for standard mortgage financing", reports Thomas Popik, a mortgage analyst, who was cited in an April 2009 CNN article.
Just last month, CBS Moneywatch reported that a little boy was killed when he fell into the algae-filled pool of a nearby foreclosure home because of a broken fence the bank failed to fix.
Yet so far, much of the comments MyMenifeeEye has received from viewers have been negative. One person said, "It's Menifee, that's like dating your sister, I wouldn't brag about it. If it was a city in Orange County, then that would be something to worry about." Another person wrote, "why dont u stop complaining about Menifee and move somewhere else then?..what are you trying to prove by making these videos? fame? i dont get it..no one else cares"
But at least one person expressed some support, "Keep up the good work MyMenifeeEye! Unlike these other lemmings, you don't have your head up your arse! I lived in Menifee, Murrieta, and Temecula for over 25 years and have seen the good and the bad here."
I asked MyMenifeeEye if he sees the City of Menifee improving its efforts to get tough on neglected properties. "I'm concerned that Menifee is going to become a run down town with City officials that are after their own agenda, not concerned about our City's future or our citizens' neighborhoods" he responds. "I see a lot of this all over Menifee along with graffiti. I reported this to Menifee several weeks ago and the graffiti is still there. Along the I-215 east side just a half mile south of McCall on-ramp, past a group of trees. That's just one example. I've had many more. I won't post graffiti on my You Tube account; it gives them more exposure."
I asked if anyone from a bank or from the City ever got in touch with him. "I haven't had a legitimate response from a bank or City official" he answered. "I have tried to report these issues with them, but got no response. So I bought a camcorder to document what I see."
When I asked if he's ever been confronted by a homeowner or nearby resident while videotaping. "Never, just abused by YouTubers who are upset with my tactics.
His last video was posted four months ago last August. When I asked if he planned on uploading more, he answered, "I plan on doing more videos, after I learn some better techniques."
You can view all his videos at: http://www.youtube.com/user/MyMenifeeEye