Hoarder makes surprise court appearance

SAN JOSE, Calif.

It was a surprise for Santa Clara County officials and for his neighbors, but 58-year-old Richard Baker came to a public hearing Monday afternoon about the cleanup of his East San Jose home.

"I've been in the hospital for the last week. Is there any way to have a postponement? I'd like to get a lawyer and come back," said Baker.

The hearing officer denied his request to delay the process.

"These kinds of conditions should never get to this condition," said Dennis O'Neal, a Santa Clara County hearing officer.

O'Neal told Baker the county gave him proper notice for the hearing, and that his home is a public nuisance.

"I've had several informal talks with the various county officials involved and they also are vowing to work more carefully and closely together to avoid something like this festering to the point where it really is a health and safety issue," said O'Neal.

The I-Team first reported three weeks ago that neighbors on South Claremont Avenue have endured the mess for more than 40 years. Baker's collection of appliances, bicycles, lumber, scrap metal, furniture and more has spilled out of the house and up against the fences. The neighbors rarely saw Baker.

"He just doesn't know how to interact in society because he just had his life with his parents and that's all there was," said Gary Bastian, a neighbor.

"Well, I hope they start tomorrow to clean up the place here," said Rudy Valente, a neighbor.

Neighbors who appeared at the hearing are relieved the process is finally underway, but disappointed that the county agencies will address only the exterior of the house, at least for now.

"It's a start. I'm not real happy. I'll be happier when the whole project is completed, I don't want a partial job, I don't want the yard clean and the rest sit for two or three months. It's been long enough," said Bastian.

The interior will be left for a public guardian who will untangle the estate of Baker's parents who died in 2002 according to state records. We were there Monday afternoon when Baker stopped by the house. He declined to talk about how it got to this point, or about what's next.

The county came out last week and towed a pickup truck out of the front yard. It will be a long process to sort through the belongings and figure out how best to dispose of them.

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