When Joe and Denise Graham venture out into their backyard in the evening they are not greeted with the sounds of chirping birds.
Instead they are serenaded with a high-pitched humming from an electric fence erected by an adjoining business that is designed to deliver a 7,000-volt zap to anyone who touches it.
Four homes on Hyannis Circle just east of Vasconcellos Avenue along with residents of the age-restricted Camellia Gardens neighborhood now have an electric fence rising 4 feet above a 6-foot masonry sound wall along their property lines put in place by an adjoining collision center.
Since Manteca never had the issue come up before and Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015 signed into law legislation that allows commercial and industrial properties to have electric fences providing they aren’t banned by a local jurisdiction, such fencing is allowed.
That said, it won’t be allowed for long.
The Manteca City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to prohibit the construction, installation and operation of electrical fences in all residential commercial zones unless specific findings are made. It leaves it open for the potential use on industrial property.
If the council approves a second reading of the amendment to the municipal ordinance governing fence and wall designs when they meet Sept 18, by mid-October the new rules will go into effect including a setback requirement from neighboring residential property lines. There is no grandfathering of existing electric fencing.
That means the fence erected at the collision center on East Yosemite Avenue just east of Vasconcellos Avenue will need to conform to the new city rules. Municipal Planning Manager J.D. Hightower noted the city is now working with the contractor that installed the fence to move it back from the property line and away from the masonry wall.
The contractor had failed to secure a permit from the city to erect the fence. While the city allows residential fencers 6-foot and under that do not require an engineering review — primality wooden and plastic fences — to secure a city permit, the same doesn’t apply to 10-foot fences even if they are electric fences allowed by the state in cases where the city didn’t have an ordinance in place saying otherwise.
Besides the humming noise that starts when the fence is activated when the collision center closes for the day and is shut off when it opens as well as being on all day on Sundays and holidays, neighbors had a concern with the safety of their children. They ranged from them either trying to climb the walls to holding objects such as poles or ladders that may come into contact with the electrical fencing.
Manteca Police Chief Jodie Estarziau noted the business has been repeatedly a victim of criminals scaling fences to steal parts from vehicles. Their ongoing losses run into the thousands of dollars.