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Manteca lives by the code (The code of anything goes)

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POSTED January 29, 2010 2:20 a.m.

Manteca is talking about actually getting tougher with property maintenance regulations.

Bad move. It will simply make violators feel like criminals and will get those who flaunt their violations in the face of their neighbors to start screaming the city is trying to take away their right to use their property as they so choose.

Obviously these people would have no objection if a next door neighbor opened a nuclear waste dump, a brothel, or started playing Van Halen songs around the clock over loudspeakers.

The Manteca arbitrators of aesthetic standards as well as health and safety standards could save themselves a lot of frustration and simply codify reality into city ordinances.

To that end, here are some helpful suggestions to change municipal ordinances to turn property maintenance lawbreakers into model citizens:

•CHANGING R-1 ZONES TO ALLOW AUTO REPAIR: What’s wrong with someone repairing their car in their driveway? Nothing really as a lot of people do it. But the existing city ordnance makes it clear you can’t turn an auto repair into a 14-year project.

It is difficult of course, for a code enforcement officer to tell the difference between an Auto Repair R US operation and someone simply fixing their cars. After all, an RV up on jacks for 16 months or a car parked in a driveway beneath an engine hoist that has the motor suspended in air in the same manner some people put out decorative flags is also a fuzzy area of the law. So when in doubt, make all forms and lengths of auto repair legal.

•MANTECA CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE: Vehicles parked permanently on lawns - or what once used to pass as lawns before they turned yellow to contrast with the brown dirt patches - are signs of high class. It is obviously a takeoff on auto shows featuring Lincolns, roadsters and such at upper crust country clubs where such vehicles are allowed to park on the manicured lawn. If it is good enough for Carmel, it’s good enough for Manteca.

•ENCOURAGE OUTDOOR LIVING: A healthy trend has started in some neighborhoods with people putting their inoperable major appliances - washers, dryers and refrigerators - out in the driveway or on front lawns. This is a beneficial practice for many reasons, First, if they were hauled off to the landfill they just take up precocious space so it makes more sense to simply abandon them in the front yard of whoever owns the appliance. There they can do double duty as child magnets so kids won’t play out in the street. At the same time, old couches and chairs should go out front too preferably not on the porch but in the actual front yard. This is a way of getting more use out of ratty living room furniture by having it provide a second life as improvised yard furniture.

•DROUGHT TOLERANT LANDSCAPING: There are antiquated laws on the books requiring front yard lawns to be kept neat and watered so vegetation is green. This is passé in today’s society where water is precious. The city should call for drought resistant landscaping complete with dead shrubs, brown and yellow grass, and tinder dry trees. Just think of all the water the city would save if everyone used such landscaping in their front yards.

•ENCOURAGE “A-FRAME’ SIGNS: These signs really get a bad rap for being declared illegal since most aren’t placed in such a manner to impede pedestrians or create visual sight hazards. But the city is overlooking another important use of A-frame signs to create sidewalk slalom courses for pedestrians that is even more challenging to blind people.

•OPEN SPACE DUMPS: Why waste all the fuel to haul debris and rubbish to the landfill when the city could simply encourage a greater proliferation of pack rat activity in front and side yards? Yes, the fire department goes after current open space dumps when they reach critical mass. Encourage open space dumps and more people will make wise use of their land.

•SIDEWALK RECREATION ZONE: The existing policy of having sidewalks as dedicated right of ways for pedestrians is so old school. The sidewalks shouldn’t be public but instead should be reserved for the additional amusement of kids who not only have taken over the streets but also have a need to block sidewalks with skate ramps and basketball standards. It is unreasonable to expect young people to “temporarily” use the sidewalks for such activities by pulling skate ramps and basketball standards back and forth as that would take too much effort. An ordinance should be adopted immediately to make it legal to block pedestrian sidewalks for recreational purposes 24 hours a day.

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