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Stepped up Manteca effort to take on vacant building blight
sycamore arms
The boarded up Sycamore Arms building at Sycamore and Yosemite in downtown Manteca that has had two fires in recent years as well as homeless squatting issues could be among vacant structures creating blight targeted by a new city ordinance.

Manteca is about to bring the hammer down on vacant buildings that aren’t being maintained.

As part of a council pledge made in February to make fighting blight and combating “ugliness” ranging from graffiti to illegal dumping a top priority, Manteca’s elected leaders on Tuesday passed the first reading of an all-encompassing ordinance addressing the upkeep of boarded up, neglected, or vacant buildings.

The nail the city will be hammering to make the ordinance work will be significantly stepped up fines.

The owner of any building after receiving notice of violation — essentially the 30-day correction period offenders are given — and has chosen to ignore them or make no progress toward remedying them will be subject to fines of:

*$100 for the first violation (the first day after the 30 day period expired).

*$500 for the second violation (the second day after the 30 day period expired).

*$1,000 for the third violation (the third day after the 30 day period expired).

*$1,000 for each violation (per day) thereafter.

*$300 for an enforcement response fee each time a building inspector is called to the building site to cover the city’s costs.

*$350 for a monthly monitoring fee.

Under state law, such fees can’t exceed $100,000 in a calendar year. Based on the fee structure that will go into effect 30 days after the June 15 meeting if the council passes the second reading of the ordinance, that threshold could be reached in 30 days.

Should the city reach the $100,000 mark, they have the option of going to court to have a receiver appointed to force work to be done and for the property to be sold off with the proceeds paying for the costs to bring structures up to code plus the city be made whole on its fines.

Staff noted similar ordinances have been used in other cities to deal with owners who board up buildings or leave them vacant and “sit on them” making no effort to rent, lease, or sell them or even maintain them. It’s been an essential tool in pumping economic life into older downtown districts.

The new ordinance will apply to all zoning districts in the city including residential neighborhoods where houses gutted by fires or boarded up or homes are left vacant to deteriorate.

It joins a repertoire of other property management ordinances such as those dealing with abatement of public nuisance, weed control, and landscaping maintenance. It is the fine structure — which reflects what other cities have imposed— that is expected to be the key tool to either get the property owner to comply or force a solution through the receivership process.

The ordinance is based on the City Council finding that “vacant buildings are a major cause of blight in both residential and nonresidential neighborhoods, especially when the owner of the building fails to actively maintain and manage the building to ensure that it does not become a liability to the neighborhood. Substandard or unkempt properties, long-term vacancies, and boarded and/or vacant buildings all discourage economic development, negatively affect property values, and may pose a safety risk.”


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email