HAYWARD -- The city has set a meeting Tuesday to clarify for worried downtown property owners new rules that hold landowners responsible for illegal or bothersome activities on their properties.

"Some of the businesses downtown were feeling the ordinance was primarily about businesses," said Frank Holland, Hayward spokesman.

"They were concerned that if you're a downtown business and there are three calls for your place, you're going to get a letter and a fine. That's not the case at all," he said.

The ordinance the City Council approved in November is aimed primarily at apartment buildings and residences, he said.

Before the ordinance's approval, the city could send letters to property owners asking them to stop chronic problems such as drug dealing, gang activity, prostitution, loud parties or the firing of guns. But, if the owners did nothing, there was little the city could do except take them to court.

Now, owners of problem properties will receive notices that they could be subject to fines up to $5,000 if the problem isn't fixed. "There's some actual gravity to the letters," Holland said. The fines only kick in if property owners are uncooperative.

Since the ordinance was passed, landlords have been willing to meet with city staff to find ways to stop illegal activity, Holland said. The warning letters also document problems for landlords who are evicting tenants.

One of the meetings was with owners of apartments in North Hayward next to former county Supervisor Gail Steele's home. Steele appeared before the City Council in November, where she pulled from a paper bag roofing nails, beer cans, liquor bottles, a dirty diaper and concrete chunks that had been thrown onto her property from the apartments.

Her neighbor, Ann Cygielman, said music from the apartments often was so loud she couldn't hear her television.

In response, the city sent warning letters to the apartments' four owners. "They met with the city and had a good conversation. The meeting took place in December, and there's been no activity since except for one noise complaint," Holland said.

"The difference has been night and day," Steele said. "I am very, very, very grateful to the police department. I guess this gave the police a tool to help talk to landlords, and it makes a difference."

Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.

Hayward Nuisances
A discussion of the city's new ordinance designed to control illegal and nuisance activities will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Room 2A at City Hall, 777 B St.