Manteca’s municipal sign ordinance is clear.
Flag signs are only meant to be temporary. They are allowed for 30 days every three months as dictated by Municipal Code Section 17.054.090. They must be set back five feet from the right of way. They aren’t supposed to encroach on or be above the public right-of-way. They require the issuance of a temporary sign permit from the Community Development Director.
Flag signs — along with banners, streamers, and other similar signs otherwise prohibited — are allowed when tied to a special event or sale such as, but not limited to, clearance sales, outdoors sales, fairs, and other grand openings.
So how can a business such as Yosemite Motors at East Yosemite and Sheridan avenues openly violate all of the above provisions with 19 flag banners placed so they overhang the city right-of-way?
The answer — as Code Enforcement Supervisor Scott Cunningham explained to the Manteca City Council earlier this month — has to with how the city’s code enforcement process and procedures work.
Save for obvious health and safety issues that code enforcement officers — Manteca normally has two including Cunningham but is down to one with the retirement of Greg Baird after 22 plus years — act upon unilaterally, Manteca’s code enforcement is complaint driven.
The bottom line is Manteca enforces zoning laws whether they involve sign rules, property maintenance or where vehicles can be parked in residential areas on a reactive, and not proactive, basis.
There have been some rare exceptions over the years including 12 years ago when the council directed a zero tolerance enforcement of rules involving garbage carts being left out in front of homes beyond the window allowed for collection days. In that case, Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police blanketed Manteca attaching warnings to carts in violation advising citations would be issued by code enforcement officers within a month if rules weren’t followed. The effort resulted in a drastic reduction of complaints.
As explained to the council, complaints can be made in person, by phone or online via the city’s website or app that allows the reporting of concerns ranging from street lights being out to reporting potholes or simply offering specific city workers kudos.
“It (online) has greater accountability,” Cunningham explained.
That’s because the system keeps track of communication between the citizens and the city. It allows supervisors to hold staff accountable, tracks the issue as it is addressed, offers the most effective communication, and gives both the reporting party and city employee ownership in the cure.
Cunningham noted the online reporting can be used 24/7 while phone and in person complaint lodging is much more limited.
Once a case is opened, a site visit is made to verify the issue. In doing so the code enforcement officer looks for similar violations within a relatively close proximity so one property owner isn’t being singled out. The concern is confirmed with the appropriate city departments. Also if it involves other regulatory agencies such as the Bureau of Automotive Repair, Enviornmental Health, or specific San Joaquin County agencies they are contacted and apprised of the situation.
The next step is to always issue a notice of violation. It specifically details the violation, delineates the corrections needed, provides contact information in terms of reaching code enforcement or specific agencies involved and advising of possible future actions.
Tools the city has at its disposal for compliance entail administrative citations that includes fines and fees for recovering city enforcement costs, criminal citations requiring a court appearance, summary abatement, and recording violations and liens against property.
There is also an appeal process. The formal framework allows for transparency and eliminates conflicts of interest. It allowed the citizen being cited to testify before a ruling is provided by a hearing officer.
Noting “there is never too much communication,” Cunningham urged if people have a question or doubt whether something is legal to contact code enforcement with questions.
Cunningham can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209.456.8281.
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