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Weed cops hit the streets May 15
Proposal to slap repeat offenders with $20 fines
This home on Alameda Street has knee length weeds in the front yard. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin
Roughly 1,400 property owners each year fail to abate weeds until after they are issued a warning by the Manteca Fire Department.

Among those there are about 400 people who year in and year out are repeat offenders.

Their refusal to heed to abatement rules may soon cost them extra money.

The City Council Tuesday is considering three changes in the municipal weed abatement ordinance including a $20 fine for repeat offenders who fail to abate weeds in a timely manner for two years in a row. A $40 fine is proposed for those who fail to do so for three or more consecutive years.

The new fines will generate $8,000 to help offset some of the municipal costs of re-inspecting property.

Fire Chief Kirk Waters is also proposing changes that allow for an administrative process instead of going through the court system as well as changing the appeal process so it can be handled at staff level and not at the council level.

The annual weed abatement program starts May 15.

The Manteca Fire Department inspects every parcel of land within the community.

Citations will be issued to any and all property owners maintaining fire or nuisance hazards on any property within the City of Manteca. After notification, if the fire hazard and/ or nuisance is not promptly abated, the property owner will be required to appear in court. This includes, but is not limited to weeds, rubbish, dirt, trash, grass, dead trees, vegetation or other materials which constitute a public nuisance.

Specifically, the following standards apply within Manteca’s city limits:
• Property of 1/2 acre or more: Mow all vegetation to a maximum of 4 to 6 inches in height. Remove all grass, weeds or debris from the property. Disc or till the entire property. (In the process of abating property, keep dust production to a minimum to ensure compliance with Manteca Municipal Code Section 8.17 - Prevention of airborne sand, soil or dust traveling to neighboring properties in visible amounts.)

• Property of 1/2 acre or less: Mow all vegetation to a maximum of 4 to 6 inches in height. Rake and remove all dry grass.

• Trees and shrubs: All dead trees, shrubs and bushes must be cut down and removed from the property. Prunings must also be removed from the property.

• Alleys: Mow all grass and/ or weeds to a maximum of 4 to 6 inches in height. Fence lines must be clean and free of weeds. Any and all combustibles must be removed. This includes, but is not limited to, trash, rubbish, dry grass, prunings, clippings, auto parts and furniture. Property owners are responsible for the maintenance of the alley from the property line to the center of the alley.

• All properties: All weeds, rubbish, excess dirt, trash, dry vegetation, discarded furniture, appliances, garbage, auto parts or other material which constitutes a public nuisance, must be abated from the property fence line to fence line.

If you have any questions, contact the Fire Prevention Division at 456-8340, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For abatement of inoperable and/ or abandoned vehicles contact the Code Enforcement Officer at 456-8156.

The proposed changes won’t go into effect in time for the May 15 start date even if the council approves of them as state law requires two public readings at least two weeks apart with the ordinance changes going into effect 45 days following the final adoption.

In 2009 there were 120 property owners that received court fines among the 1,400 who were warned. Eleven had to be abated by contractors hired by the city and a lien placed against the property.

There was a spike in warnings last year as they went from 1,272 in 2008 to 1,400 in 2009.

Firefighters are expected to take several weeks to canvas all property in the city.

Preventing grass fires is a high priority with the department. Manteca has had a few buildings destroyed by fires started in dry grass and rubbish but has avoided a disaster like the one that struck Stockton two years ago when roughly 30 homes were lost to a grass fire.

Even so, the last fire death in Manteca was nine years ago when a grass fire at the Highway 120 Bypass and Highway 99 interchange created heavy smoke. In the confusion, a motorist left the roadway and drove into the middle of the burning field where his wife, who was unable to get out of the vehicle, died.