Rental license revoked for South St. Paul drive-by shooting duplex

The South St. Paul City Council was applauded Oct. 2 when it unanimously voted to revoke the rental license for a duplex that was the scene of the drive-by shooting in August.

The duplex, at 961/963 Warner Ave., is owned by Mark Grondahl, who also held the rental license. On Aug. 28, two people were injured when they were shot outside the 961 side of the property.


The case for revocation

City attorney Kori Land said that per city code, any license can be denied, suspended or revoked because the licensed activity has been conducted in a way that constitutes a breach in peace, is a menace to public health, safety and welfare of the public. 

“In this case, both the police chief, the city clerk and I, the city attorney, have all recommended that revocation is an appropriate remedy in this situation,” Land said, adding a license can also be revoked if the conduct is a burden on the city’s limited resources.

In a three-year period, there were 59 calls to the property, though not all of the calls were nuisance calls. There were six nuisance calls in the last nine months. 

The type of nuisance activity included criminal complaints like fights, a loud party and warrant arrests. 

“The most serious incident that we most recently had was the drive-by shooting,” Land said. “By all accounts, the tenants are the victims in this case. However, the situation was not unknown to them.”

On Aug. 28, police responded to 961 Warner Ave. after shots were fired and two individuals suffered injuries that were not life threatening.

Besides criminal complaints, there have been multiple code violations at the residence, including multiple trash violations, exterior storage and inoperative motor vehicle  violations.

“The property owner is always at the ready to remedy the problem but is not able to be proactive to prevent it at the beginning,” Land said.


Owner’s side of the story

Grondahl said he has owned this property for about 14 years. His rental license was last renewed in June. He said when he gets a new tenant there is a 12-month lease with 35 clauses.  

He said he performs background checks on potential tenants. Prior to signing the lease, Grondahl said he “reads them the riot act.”

“I don’t want loud noises. Respect the property. Respect the tenants. Respect the neighbors,” Grondahl said. 

He said when he leaves after mowing the lawn he tries to make sure everything is picked up, but since he doesn’t live on the property he doesn’t know what happens after he leaves.

In the case of a bad tenant, Grondahl said he has found evictions through the court system to be the easiest solution, and at times he’s chosen not to renew a lease. He said the tenant at 961 has agreed to move out by the end of November.

Grondahl said he went through a mental process of how he could evict the tenant after the shooting in August, though he said he didn’t think he could win the eviction. 

He said he spoke to Land and agreed to trying to get the tenant at 961 Warner to leave.

“I’m a little surprised that two of the three people I spoke with are pushing for revocation, because in the hour-long conversation I had with both of them ... the best win-win-win was to remove [the tenant,]” Grondahl said.


Council questions 

Council members wondered why there were so many ongoing issues at Grondahl’s property and why he didn’t do a better job handling them.

Mayor Jimmy Francis said he doesn’t understand how Grondahl could be at the property every week, and not notice some of the code violations, of which city staff provided pictures.

“To constantly have something happen at this property every single month, every single year, for how many years? You have all the incidences. There’s things all the time that are there,” Francis said. 

When asked by council member Todd Podgorski about what led to the increase in incidents, Grondahl said the last tenant was one who didn’t care. Once that tenant was gone, things did improve. 

Grondahl asked the council how long he’d be held accountable for code violations that date back as far as 2013, pointing out that the drive-by shooting was the reason he was before the council.

Council member Lori Hanson said going back several years shows a tendency, or a trend, of the property to have issues. She said the shooting “is the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Council member Joe Forester said the council chambers wouldn’t be packed based solely on the shooting.

Some residents in the audience spoke out in support of the council revoking the license. They all stated that the problems at the Warner Avenue property have been ongoing.

One resident said how proud she was of the council for taking action. 

City staff will work with Dakota County on relocating the tenants at 961/963 Warner Ave. Land said if the tenants are unable to find new living situation, they can call the county crisis hotline for emergency shelter, if needed. 

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or


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