Sinking building demolished, but Couch and others see first-hand how people have to live in the village

A Taft landmark that no one wanted to see but one that became a symbol of the blight in Taft, was finally demolished Friday morning.

It was a two-story multi-unit apartment building at 424 Adams Street, one of the first things people driving on Highway 119 through Taft would see.

The building's demise became an event of sorts.
Fourth District Supervisor David Couch and his staff, who spearheaded the effort to demolish the eyesore, as well as four members of Taft City Council and several members of city staff, came to watch the building go.

But they also saw how much work there is to do.

"This isn't the end," Couch said as the building was torn apart, piece by piece, behind him. "It's only the beginning."

Across the street sat another building, still occupied.

One of the residents, a woman with several small children, invited Couch and others to see how she lives.
She didn't speak English, but all she had to do was point.
The floor in her apartment slopes noticeably to the north, towards the street that separates her building from the one being demolished.

The demolished building slopes to the south, towards the same street that floods during heavy rains
Upstairs, Couch Aide Ryan Shultz pointed out, was a bathroom with black mold.
There were several small children living in the home.

Councilman Dave Noerr was disgusted by what he saw.

"It sickens me that this is happening on our watch, right under our noses," he said.

Couch agreed.

"People shouldn't have to put up with this. People shouldn't have to live like this."

The structure torn down Friday and several others are late additions to an area once known as Victory Square, built in the 1940s and intended to be housing for veterans returning from World War II.

It was once a nice neighborhood. Over the years, the buildings have aged and settled and the area has gone downhill.

In the 1990s, it was referred to as "Heroin Heights" for rampant drug use.

Today the buildings are primarily occupied by immigrant farmworkers and their families.

It is often called "The Village."

City officials have complained for years about the area, but little has been done – until Couch took office in January.

The building, known as the sinking ship for its noticeable list to the south, was examined by building officials and condemned as unsafe.

The abate procedure started in February but was delayed several times, most recently by a requirement for an asbestos survey.

Friday, it was demolished.

"I'd rather be building something than tearing something down but this is a blight and an eyesore down be on the community of Taft," Couch said.

Mayor Paul Linder came to watch the demolition.

He want to see more.

"I'm glad we're getting started," he said.

On Wednesday, a burned out structure on the 400 block of Montview was demolished. A couple of other homes in South Taft have already been torn down, as have houses and an apartment building on Madison Street.