More than 60 Manteca households are interested in installing whole house emergency generators that cost at least $3,000 to purchase and well over $1,000 to install so they won’t be at the mercy of PG&E’s wildfire liability solution to possibly cut off electricity for 2 to 5 days.
The only problem is most people want to install them in side yards where electrical boxes as well as natural gas lines that are needed to power the emergency generator are located. City zoning doesn’t allow mechanical equipment within a five foot setback from the property line. A large number of homes do not have a setback much larger than five feet in the side yards that are next to electrical boxes.
The Manteca City Council Tuesday directed staff to initiate a zoning change required under state law that would allow backup generators to go within the five foot setback under certain conditions. Those conditions require it to be behind a fence, retain enough space so solid waste carts can be moved past generators so that the carts aren’t left in front yards in violation of zoning ordinances, emergency egress is retained, and that during periods the city hasn’t declared an emergency that the generator’s test cycle noise doesn’t exceed allowable decibel levels under city code.
Until the Manteca Planning Commission reviews the zoning change and it is approved by the council, backup generators cannot be placed within the five foot setback. The zoning change could take upwards of six months to implement. Staff vowed to expedite it as quickly as legally possible.
Residents can currently be placed in side yards under existing city rules only if there is enough room to place the generator five feet from the property line. The other option is to place the generator in the back yard.
The city would allow residential noise levels to be exceeded when there is an emergency.
Mayor Ben Cantu repeatedly expressed frustration that the council couldn’t simply decree an emergency and put the proposed changes into effect now. Legal counsel noted there are laws the city must follow. City Manager Tim Ogden, in response to a question, said the fact people are preparing for a potential emergency and that the city isn’t in an actual emergency such as the one PG&E would be creating means he has no legal authority to take action such as suspending city ordinances that he doesn’t have the power to do so unless there is an ongoing emergency situation.
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