Three years ago Manteca city officials told John and Vivien Griffin their fence was no longer considered in violation after the Chadwick Square homeowners were able to prove it wasn’t a safety problem as a complaint made at that time contended.
Now that same fence that passed muster in 2012 is now considered out of compliance again.
The Griffins are one of the first to be slapped with code violations after the City Council told staff to enforce the city’s fence ordinance for front fences and side fences exactly as it is written.
The homeowners who live on a corner lot in the 1900 block of Hyde Park Lane where it intersects Devon Lane received a carbon copy of the original complaint on Saturday for a side fence that is within five feet of the sidewalk.
The reasons why the city backed off in 2012 included:
uthe closest intersection from the end of the fence is 30 feet away which means there is no obstruction of traffic.
uthere are no issues with sightlines as the side yard fence is along a pass through street that has no houses or driveways facing it.
The fence falls within the five-foot setback from the sidewalk’s edge where city rules dictate fencing cannot be taller than 42 inches. Once the setback reaches five feet, a fence up to 6 feet high would be legal. The rule was put in place for safety purposes to make sure there is always a safe sightline for vehicles whether they are on the street or backing out of driveways. There is roughly a foot from the edge of the sidewalk to the fence.
Griffin in 2012 made his case that the fence may have violated the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law, since it didn’t create any safety or visibility issues. He was also told in 2012 by the city that they had received one complaint about his fence and that it didn’t matter whether he could point out 20 other fence violations around his neighborhood based on wording in the fence ordinance. That’s because the city uses what they call a “hybrid” approach to code enforcement where it is neither purely complaint driven or done en masse. Instead they respond to the property in question and note if there are other similar issues in the immediate area.
Last month the council unanimously voted not to modify fence rules and directed staff to enforce them when complaints are made.
While the city is continuing to enforce the fence rules along with all other property use restrictions by complaint only, they are longer simply address fence complaints that pose safety issues as they were directed to do so three years ago be elected officials.
That means anyone complaining about a neighbor who has a front yard fence higher than the code maximum of 36 inches or a corner yard fence higher than 42 inches can expect the city to enforce the rules.
The fence rules were brought back to the council for direction since staff has been receiving a significant number of complaints from more and more Manteca residents complaining about the fences their neighbors are putting up specifically in their front and side yards. The top complaint is that the illegal fences under city code are trashing neighborhood aesthetics followed by creating safety issues.
Back in 2012 city management told council the Griffin fence did not pose safety issues but rather violated aesthetics standards that fence regulations regarding setbacks and height created. The photos staff showed the council had fences that clearly were blocking sightlines at intersection and at driveways and were not 30 feet away from the nearest intersection as is the Griffin fence.
Other photos showed a 6-foot high fence screening off the front of a home.