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Common sense & code enforcement? Here’s your sign

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POSTED September 5, 2012 11:30 p.m.

Make your way down Industrial Park Drive and you may find one of the most egregious examples of illegal sign placement in Manteca.

A business routinely places an “A” frame-style sign next to the westbound travel lane in an area reserved for bicyclists. Obviously a bit concerned that someone might strike the sign, they place orange construction cones on either side.

Flip through the sign ordinance - proposed and otherwise - and you will not find a mention of it being illegal to place a business sign in what is essentially a city roadway. There’s mention of street medians and sidewalks but not bicycle lanes, road shoulders, or even travel lanes. Common sense should dictate that such a rule isn’t necessary.

But obviously it is.

Municipal codes involving property use and upkeep are mostly common sense, or at least most of us probably think they are. Keeping weeds and dried landscaping cutback should be a no-brainer. Not piling garbage and debris to create a haven for rodents and posing safety issues in your yards also seems like an obvious no-no. You’d also think that leaving a vehicle up on jacks in a driveway behind the sidewalk would be another obvious thing that one doesn’t do.

Most of us can’t quote line and verse from the reams of Manteca municipal codes. But the odds are many of us have a pretty good inkling of what they contain. Most of it is common sense stuff involving health and safety and a lot of it is basic common courtesy for your neighbors who reasonably expect one not to park vehicles on their front lawns.

It is because some don’t get what most of us view as common sense that we have ever expanding municipal codes. The committee reworking the sign ordinance, for example, may have to come back and address planting signs in the middle of streets if the Industrial Park Drive proprietor starts a trend.

Of course, some of the city codes address what can best be described as “gray” areas. One example is fence heights within setbacks of five feet from sidewalks. There are many areas that such prohibitions make sense from a safety standpoint involving sight lines and from an aesthetic viewpoint of not wanting to create canyon effects. But there are areas where the rules are darn right silly to apply.

There needs to be a mechanism - much like Del Webb at Woodbridge employs - where minor variations from codes that common sense should dictate are OK - can be made in a quick, painless, and virtually inexpensive way. Perhaps one day a month all requests for variances received can be handled by a code enforcement officer working with perhaps a planning commission member can go around town and inspect the location where the request for a variance is being made and render a decision on the spot.

The Planning Commission - since it represents the community and not the bureaucratic enforcement arm of the city - could be empowered after receiving public input to devise a list of the top 10 worst code violation problems in Manteca.

That list could be the starting point for the education effort that Mayor Willie Weatherford suggested be done by the city on a monthly basis through possibly a newsletter.

The top three biggest concerns each year could also be made the target of citywide code enforcement sweep.

That may seem ambitious with just two code enforcement officers who have their hands full going after extreme cases where renters or owners have turned homes into proverbial pigsties.

But if it was done similar to the effort the city undertook a few years back with getting people to comply with Toter placement and storage rules, it just might work.

If the top of the list are vehicles parked on front lawns, perhaps the Senior Helping Area Residents and Police could be enlisted to drive throughout Manteca to take photos and note addresses of where vehicles are parked on lawns. The photo evidence and a letter could be mailed to the offender as a warning. That would follow a newsletter regarding the code issue stuffed in city utility bills. Then, a month later, a day or two could be spent by code enforcement officers dedicated to driving the city and issuing citations to the offenders.

Ideally it would be followed up through an administrative enforcement system so the results could be more effective and timely instead of relying on the seriously bogged down criminal justice system.

One shouldn’t make rules just to make rules.

They need to be enforced.

And all offenders need to be targeted and not just the ones that someone complains about.



This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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