Brooklyn Center Twin Lakes on the turnaround

Crews replace windows at one of the 12 buildings at the Twin Lakes Manor Apartments in Brooklyn Center on Aug. 1. All the windows will be replaced by February. (Photo by Katy Zillmer – Sun Newspapers)
Crews replace windows at one of the 12 buildings at the Twin Lakes Manor Apartments in Brooklyn Center on Aug. 1. All the windows will be replaced by February. (Photo by Katy Zillmer – Sun Newspapers)

Twin Lakes Manor Apartments is one of the city of Brooklyn Center’s multi-housing complexes to recently switch to the performance-based rental license program – a process that brought to light a large amount of property violations and police incidents in the last year.

But the city council did approve a six-month license for the property at its July 23 meeting, as well as a mitigation plan to address numerous issues from landscaping to security at Twin Lakes.

There are 12 buildings at Twin Lakes, from 3305 to 3433 53rd Ave. N., and 310 one-bedroom apartments, said Manager Krista Windt.

Teddy Bear Management owns the Brooklyn Center complex as well as others in Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids. Windt started as manager at Twin Lakes in January.

The license renewal process to bring Twin Lakes onto the city’s performance-based system started in late January. All multi-housing rentals in Brooklyn Center are switching to the program, developed two years ago, as their licenses expire.

In February, Twin Lakes had 1,034 property-code violations ( an average of 3.34 per unit) cited after the rental inspection for a new license.

The city then notified the owner they qualified for a Type IV six-month license, which is the least amount of time available in the program.

Several additional inspections failed and the property’s two-year rental license expired in April.

In the meantime, city staff worked with the management to develop mitigation plans to address the problems at Twin Lakes. The property was listed as unlicensed in June in part because the mitigation plan was not complete.

But the final steps for the license renewal were completed in the last month, and the city council discussed the application at the July 23 meeting.

Property taxes due at Twin Lakes, as well as rental inspection fees, were recently paid and the mitigation plan was finalized on July 12.

Windt said the process has been hard and stressful but described the city’s rental license program as a “good system.”

Improvements outlined in the mitigation plan to address the property-code violations as well as the issues that cause reports to police are underway at Twin Lakes.

“It’s designed to provide some short-term improvements,” said Assistant City Manager Vickie Schleuning. “But some of these items in the mitigation plan, it can also promote long-term improvements. It’s not just a corrective ordinance, it’s also a preventative ordinance.”

Beginning steps

Last Wednesday at Twin Lakes new windows were installed in response to some of the property-code violations and it was the first day scheduled for the property’s new on-site security. Windt issued new parking permits for residents, another change required in the mitigation plan.

Code violations are the most influential over what level of license is issued at a property in Brooklyn Center, but the number of police calls, Schleuning said, also have an effect.

Twin Lakes had 131 police incident/nuisance calls from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, that are listed in the license ordinance.

In general properties are evaluated based on police calls for noise, drug possession or disorderly conduct, for example, Schleuning said.

But the concern at Twin Lakes has been violent crime, said Brooklyn Center Police Cmdr. Brian Peters.

Reports range from aggravated assault to robberies and weapons violations, he said, and date back to at least three years ago, he said.

“That is part of the reason in the mitigation plan we were requesting them to provide security on the days and times we identified as most problematic,” Peters said.

But, with the addition of Twin Lakes to the new license program, Peters said he is optimistic there will be a turnaround in the future.

“The management there has worked well with police,” he said. An officer with the Brooklyn Center Police Department is assigned as a liaison to Twin Lakes and police reports are reviewed with the management in person every two weeks.

“Being it is a property that police go to frequently, having security and a presence there will decrease the number of crimes that are occurring,” Peters said.

Security measures

In addition to hiring on-site security, Windt said a surveillance system is in place and that management at Twin Lakes has started to implement a stricter screening process for tenants based on criminal background checks.

There have been evictions recently of tenants who do not meet the requirements and Windt said rent is increasing on the new leases.

Management at properties in Brooklyn Center with a six-month license are also required to complete three phases of Crime-Free Multi-Housing training and use a lease addendum that notifies residents of violations that could result in eviction.

For example, Peters said an apartment tenant with three violations for drug use, loud music and disturbances could be evicted.

He said it is too early to see the effects of the security measures now in place at Twin Lakes, but the increased screening of tenants is a proactive step by management.

“There is a tremendous amount of optimism that this will work,” Peters said.

In addition to the security and tenant screening, Windt said the parking permit system and guest parking spaces will help at Twin Lakes.

“I think a lot of our problems are a lot of people that aren’t even on the leases,” she said.

Lighting is being improved near the entrances to the property and garages and locks to doors of the buildings will be upgraded.

Building a community

The six-month rental license approved by the city council July 23 dates back to the original expiration date in April. Therefore there will be another rental inspection before the license expires again in October. It will be reviewed for renewal by the city council again.

The city council unanimously approved the renewal in July.

“It’s better to give them a shot at improving things,” said Councilmember Kay Lasman.

Mayor Tim Willson agreed, and said the council should take a close look at the license when they review it for another renewal.

“It looks like they’re making an attempt and they’re doing all the right things to turn it around,” Willson said.

There has been some positive feedback from residents of Twin Lakes who have noticed the changes.

“It’s rewarding to hear the tenants call and say they’re happy about things,” Windt said.

Scott Jameson, a resident at Twin Lakes since March 2008, said the management and the neighbors he’s had in the past have both changed frequently.

But now the improvements from the mitigation plan are already showing.

“The management has been really good about communicating with the tenants and letting us know that something is going on,” Jameson said. “I think we’re along the right track and it’s going to be a nice community when everything is done.”

All of the windows throughout Twin Lakes will be replaced by the end of February 2013. Management has also closed off some entrances to the property and built a fence across those areas.

After a tour of the property to check on the progress of improvements last week, Windt went back to her office where tenants continued to check in about their parking permits or other changes underway about Twin Lakes.

“It’s nice to see how good everything looks now,” Windt said.

“The biggest thing that I want to accomplish is to have everybody feel like it’s a home ant that they’re safe. That’s my biggest goal as far as with the tenants.”