Those with an issue with the city’s proposal to shift maintenance, repair, and liability for public sidewalks may have a chance to express their concerns in-person at a future Manteca City Council meeting.
Thanks to staff pulling the item from Tuesday’s agenda and San Joaquin County dropping down to the red tier effective today, when the issue is brought up again for council consideration property owners will be able to make their thoughts known directly to the council from the council chambers’ podium.
It isn’t clear when the matter will be brought back before the council or how public access to future council meetings will be determined.
Acting City Manager Lisa Blackmon told the council Tuesday the move to the red tier will allow public access to city hall offices for the first time since mid-March 2020 when the COVID-19 health emergency was first declared. The reopening of City Hall is expected to occur Monday.
Blackmon said the numbers of people being able to enter office lobbies will be restricted according to state health rules.
Protocols will also be in place such as mandatory mask use.
And while future council meetings will again be open to the public for the first time in 13 months, it will be at limited capacity.
At one point last year when the council chambers were being utilized as the city’s emergency operations center, the capacity was capped at 28.
On Tuesday the council met in chambers with several staff members while others joined via Zoom.
If all five council members, the city clerk, acting city manager, city attorney, and deputy city manager are in the chambers that would mean an additional 19 people will be allowed to enter the chambers for a council meeting.
Deputy City Manager Toni Lundgren said staff will discuss the best way to go forward.
It could involve department heads joining the meeting via Zoom to allow maximum capacity for the public.
Other cities where there has been limited capacity in place have allowed citizens to rotate in an out of chambers when there is an item they want to address. In such instances those waiting outside the chambers typically are able to watch the council meeting on a monitor.
There have been occasions when the city has done something similar when there were hot button issues that brought in excess of 100 people to meetings.
Regardless of how long the pandemic restrictions last, city staff has indicated going forward technology that makes it easier for citizens to interact with their elected leaders and senior management at council meeting could continue such as e-comment. There is also a possibility that some form of real time citizens comments could be allowed remotely at appropriate times such as public hearings.
Proposed sidewalk ordinance
has the making of a hot button
issue for property owners
Judging by social media comments, the city proposal to start forcing property owners to make sidewalk repairs may be a hot button issue where Manteca citizens may want to present their thoughts and concerns in person at a council meeting.
The ordinance as outlined prior to this week’s meeting makes it clear:
* the property owner is responsible for the repair and maintenance of sidewalks.
*liabilities for damages and injuries caused by sidewalks not being maintained in a safe manner are the responsibility of property owners.
*once a property owner is notified by the city of a sidewalk that is not in good repair or in good condition, they will have 90 days to repair it.
*the property owner may elect to have the city repair the sidewalk at a cost and charge to the property owner.
*if the city is forced to do the repairs on its own and they are not reimbursed within as set amount of time, a lien can be placed against the property along with whatever interest accumulated until the debt is paid.
*the city also would have the option to make a special assessment against the property and collect the money owed along with other taxes.
Many California municipalities have adopted similar ordinances to mandate that property owners keep their sidewalks in safe condition so that the public at large is not at risk.
Such an ordinance is also needed to shield the city from lawsuits. Case law requires that in order to hold property owners accountable for injuries or damages to the public caused by failing to maintain sidewalks cities must adopt ordnances explicitly stating property owners owe a duty to the public to maintain the sidewalks located within the city limits in a safe condition.
The city over the years has settled a number of claims that can be precursors to lawsuits of they are rejected involving people that have sustained injuries from tripping over uplifted or sunken sections of sidewalks.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com