Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum and Manteca Police Chief Jodie Estarziau are open to a San Joaquin County Grand Jury report recommendation the city explore the possibility of enlisting volunteers to step up its code enforcement effort to battle blight.
But they are at a loss about a statement in the findings released Tuesday that says the “City of Manteca declined a site visit” since city leaders said Grand Jury representatives sat down with three officials including Mayor DeBrum and that all of their inquiries were answered.
The Grand Jury report also calls for Manteca to “restore the code enforcement officer position.” The city has never had more than two budgeted code enforcement positions. Those are currently filled by Scott Cunningham, the code enforcement supervisor, and Lane Allen who serves as a code enforcement officer. Chief Estarziau noted the City Council in the budget approved for the fiscal year starting July 1 has provided funding for the hiring of a part-time office aide to help with code enforcement paperwork to free up time for the code enforcement officers to handle more cases.
The Grand Jury also thought Lathrop and Ripon could step up their game when it comes to code enforcement. It also lauds Stockton and Lodi for instituting “innovative programs” to fight blight through code enforcement.
“The city needs to explore all avenues,” DeBrum said when it comes to delivering municipal services.
He noted in the past — and currently — the city has effectively used the services of the Manteca Police Department’s Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police (SHARP) volunteers to help address blight and code enforcement issues.
The city’s anti-graffiti effort that has received praise from other jurisdictions has been handled almost exclusively by SHARP volunteers since the early 1990s. The SHARP volunteers also are credited with overseeing the abandoned shopping cart retrieval program. In 2017, the 70-plus member volunteer unit was credited with identifying and coordinating the subsequent removal of 101 stolen, abandoned, or disabled vehicles from city streets.
A decade ago SHARP was enlisted to address a property maintenance issue that was routinely being ignored, triggered dozens of complaints a week, and even had several residents fighting citations to the point as asking for jury trials. The issue involved residents who keep their city-issued yard waste, garbage and recycling carts in view of the street all week long in violation of the city ordinance that allows them to be placed along the street the day before and requires them to be removed by no later than the next day.
SHARP spent a month canvassing the city a day behind solid waste collections placing warning notices on carts they were left out as well as leaving information on city rules and alerting residents that code enforcement officers would follow up in subsequent weeks with written citations.
Within two months, complaints about carts left out in front of homes after the allowed time dropped to almost none.
The report notes Manteca — by direction of the City Council — is complaint driven when it comes to code enforcement and accepts anonymous complaints.
The Grand Jury recommends the city restore a code enforcement position that never existed and suggest Manteca to consider using volunteers to increase code enforcement compliance which they already do.
DeBrum and Estarziau both noted they were open to exploring additional ways volunteers could assist with code enforcement providing they were non-confrontational. Both lauded contributions the SHARP unit has made over the years addressing blight and other code enforcement issues as well as their efforts to assist police in other ways.
Grand Jury’s issue with
Lathrop centers around
truck parking, staff levels
The Grand Jury made four findings regarding Lathrop.
uLathrop has taken limited code enforcement toward the illegal parking of commercial truck and failed to resolve the problem for approximately six years, allowing blight and public safety issues to remain.
uLathrop has a vacant budgeted position for a code enforcement officer that city officials are not filling at this time. This has exacerbated the illegal truck parking issue.
uThe city has not consistently hired qualified code enforcement officers. This contributes to the lack of reliable code enforcement.
uLathrop has no consistent appeals process such as in place in Manteca that could be used to resolve the truck parking issue, causing the issue to persist.
The Grand Jury recommends the issues be resolved by taking consistent enforcement action on the illegal parking of commercial trucks, advertising and filling the vacant position while adhering strictly to the job description guidelines, and developing and implementing a consistent appeals process that can be used to resolve enforcement disputes.
The report notes Lathrop’s code enforcement effort is complaint driven and accepts anonymous complaints as well.
They noted the code enforcement supervisor is the only dedicated personnel in Lathrop dealing with various issues and that person only works 30 hours a week.
The report indicated citizen complaints brought various code enforcement issues to the attention of the Grand Jury. The report also noted that “city administrators claim that enforcement of the illegal truck parking issue would create a financial hardship for the truck drivers and property owners involved.”
Ripon code enforcement
handled by worker with
a number of other duties
The Grand Jury noted Ripon uses a community service officer to handle code enforcement that is complaint driven and accepts anonymous complaints. There is an appeal process in place to resolve contested non-compliance disputes.
The CSO position with the Ripon Police devotes 25 percent of her time to code enforcement. The rest is split between animal control, part-time communication dispatch and other duties as assigned.
The Grand Jury lauds Lodi for its code enforcement for starting to use senior volunteers to place door hanger violations at all residences reported to be in violation. Lodi Police say that has resulted in a voluntary compliance of 62 percent.
Lodi has only one code enforcement officer that the Grand Jury notes also handles complaints about homeless trespassing on private property.
Manteca has two full-time Community Resource Officers dedicated to homeless issues including illegal camping on private property. They also see to the removal of 5 to 15 illegal homeless encampments a week.
Stockton Police has a code enforcement department of 44 full-time employees, two-thirds the number of sworn officers that Manteca has in place. Of the 44 Stockton employees, 26 are certified code enforcement officers.
Based on population to equal Stockton’s staffing level, Manteca would need to have seven code enforcement officers
Stockton, the Grand Jury notes, provides enforcement of unsecured and vacant properties, dangerous buildings, and illegal dumping.
The code enforcement process is complaint drive and also proactive. Neither Manteca, Lathrop or Ripon are proactive.
The department uses a neighborhood blitz team approach involved police, code enforcements and other agencies much like the City of Manteca did a dozen years ago to address major issues in the Southside Park neighborhood and the second floor efficiency apartments in downtown Manteca.
The Stockton code enforcement has also obtained a grant to start enforcing waterway-related issues such as blight and abandoned boats.
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