The adage that fences make good neighbors needs an addendum in Manteca as they also create animosity between residents and the city.
Add surveillance cameras neighbors have on the outside of their homes that can easily see into next door yards with 6-foot fences and 21st century privacy concerns are created.
For the better part of two decades disputes between residents, the city and neighbors have flared up over setbacks, front yard fences, side fences and fence heights.
While the standards on side fences and setbacks have never changed, fence height has become a moving target.
The city adopted 6 feet in 1955 and reaffirmed it again in 1978 and 1979 before switching to 7 feet in January 1992. Manteca switched back to 6 feet in December 2011. A year later, the state changed the general building code rules that apply if not superseded by local ordinances to allow 7-foot fences without permits. Some city staff continued to advise residents after 2011, however that 7-foot fences are OK in Manteca. City Attorney John Brinton pointed out at a Planning Commission meeting that those who were told by city staff it was OK to put in 7-foot fences when it wasn’t legal to do so would have to remove them or shave them down to down to size if the 6-foot rules stays in place.
Add to that the difficulty of determining whether a fence is legal or illegal based on the time it was put in place given no building permits were required and you’ve got all of the ingredients for prolonged disputes between residents and the city.
Staff wants to clean up the confusion. They recommended going to 7 feet although the move was opposed by the Manteca Police Department over concerns with officer and dog safety that a 7-foot fence creates. The Manteca Planning Commission opted to support going universally to 7feet.
The City Council will make a decision about the foot difference when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
If they go to 7 feet, the city could also avoid issues that Richard Tar advanced. He was concerned that a neighbor’s surveillance cameras that were mounted on the side of the house and faced his home were an evasion of privacy.
He approached the building department that told him the cameras were legal. Tarr said they suggested that he consider putting up a 7-foot fence to reduce the “coning effect” created by cameras. He was told he did not need a permit so he installed a 7-foot fence in 2013. Two years later, the city issued him a notice of violation for having a 7-foot fence indicating he had to cut it back to 6 feet or face hefty fines.