ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Nobody in their right mind would ever want to live next door to these most notorious addresses in Albuquerque.
Plain and simple, 318 Mesilla St NE is a dump. It’s a junkyard in a residential neighborhood. The house is rundown; there are abandoned cars, rusting trucks and trailers, weeds, litter, trash and debris.
Across town in the Cielito Lindo neighborhood is a quiet residential street lined with attractive homes however there’s one exception, a corner house at 4112 Tara Dr. NE. Scattered throughout the sprawling property are a half dozen derelict cars, worn out tires, barbeque grills, neglected landscaping, and a jumbled mess of trash and debris.
One thing that sticks out is the connection between the two Albuquerque properties. It’s time to meet the homeowners.
Diane Gallegos owns the house on Tara. Her adult son John owns the Mesilla residence.
Diane and John Gallegos are compulsive hoarders. They acquire excessive amounts of junk and have an unwillingness to get rid of it. In fact, the residence on Mesilla is so packed with junk that John Gallegos doesn’t actually live there. He simply uses the property to store all the rubble he accumulates.” John Gallegos hasn’t lived here in more than 20 years. “The house is abandoned,” says Jim Mondloch who lives across the street.
Over the past 20 years Diane and John Gallegos have been slapped with countless criminal complaints, inspections, violation notices, investigations, court orders, jail time and fines. However, the city has been unable to get mother and son to stop trashing the neighborhood with their compulsive hoarding. When it comes to zoning violations, Diane and John Gallegos are public enemies’ number one and two.
“We have to drive by this eyesore every day. It’s very discouraging,” Jim Mondloch says. “It’s been a mess for the last 20 years. (John Gallegos) has trashed out the property. The city has come in to clean it up and he reverts back to his old habits. Just as soon as he cleans it up, he starts over again,” Mondloch adds.
“We’re outraged because we have a continual problem on these properties,” says Albuquerque Associate Planning Director Brennon Williams. “We’re doing everything we can from both a criminal standpoint as well as a civil standpoint to bring about continued compliance for both of these properties. It’s frustrating,” Williams says.
The Junkyard Houses History
Since 1994, the mother son duo has been hauled into court at least 11 times for persistent zoning, health and safety violations. There have been at least 11 criminal complaints, 22 city inspections, 15 violation notices, 36 citizen complaints and 2 injunctions. Sometimes John and Diane Gallegos are ordered to pay small fines. Sometimes they get off with a slap on the wrist. However despite years of non-compliance nobody has been able to get the attention of the ‘nightmare neighbors’.
“Neighbors should not have to endure this for 20 years,” says Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez. “It’s frustrating that the Gallegos will do just enough to get the court or the city off of their backs for the moment and then just go right back to what they’ve been doing. We know now that’s the way they operate,” Hernandez says.
In 2005, city officials had had enough. Armed with a court order, city inspectors with the Safe Cities Strike Force raided the property on Mesilla. Inspectors found every room in the house stuffed floor to ceiling with trash. Practically every square inch was crammed with discarded appliances, 55-gallon drums and garbage. Inspectors also discovered a family of pigs living in a small crawl space in the back of the house. That was ten years ago.
Today, the homes of Mesilla and Tara are still littered with abandoned vehicles and truckloads of trash and debris. John and Diane Gallegos continue to thumb their nose at the law, city hall, judges and neighbors.
Diane Gallegos’ property on Tara is in City Councilor Trudy Jones’ district. “What I hear from constituents is that it’s affecting their life. It’s affecting their daily lives. You can imagine, you wake up every morning and go outside and you see a junk yard,” Councilor Jones says. “People who have no intention of ever obeying laws who don’t think they ever have to work within the system will always find a way to create a property like this,” she adds.
Now, the antics of mother and son have caught the attention of Albuquerque’s Mayor, “It’s just got to end. We’re gonna have to throw the book at (them),” Mayor Berry says.
“Its just a dang shame that these neighbors have had to put up with this for all these years,” the Mayor tells News 13. “I know we’ve tried for decades. We haven’t gotten there for the neighbors; we haven’t gotten there for the community. I’ve made it very clear to my legal department, fix this dag gone thing once and for all,” Mayor Berry says.
Two weeks ago the City Attorney’s office filed a civil complaint in State District Court relating to the properties on Tara and Mesilla. The city seeks a permanent injunction and asks the court, “… for authority to go on to the property, do whatever needs to be done to clean up the property and then bill the Gallegos. And if they don’t pay it, put a lien against their property for that amount so the city and the taxpayers do not have to pay for the cost of that cleanup,” City Attorney Hernandez says.
“The city has made honest efforts in the past to get this thing taken care of. It has not worked. We are going to ramp it up in a big way if the courts will let us do that. But we are also going to stop the outflow of your tax dollars to keep handling the same situation over and over again,” according to Mayor Berry.
Over the past decade News 13 has repeatedly reached out to both John Gallegos and Diane Gallegos about the numerous zoning violations. Both mother and son have refused comment. Last week Diane Gallegos was back in Metro Court on a new criminal complaint. When she showed up without an attorney, Judge Vidalia Chavez granted a continuance. On her way out of court, Diane Gallegos did not respond to News 13’s request for comment.
Neighbor Jim Mondloch says, “We want the city to clean this property up and have it cleaned up for good (with) a permanent solution. (John Gallegos) is compulsive. The city cannot control him. He’ll come back and, as he’s done before, he’ll bring all the junk back in piece by piece again. That’s his way of operating.”
In October the City of Albuquerque filed another criminal complaint against John Gallegos relating to his property on Mesilla. When Gallegos failed to appear for his bond arraignment, Judge Maria Dominguez issued a bench warrant for his arrest. Gallegos has not been arrested on that warrant and remains a fugitive today.