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Code enforcement Del Webb style: Is it what city needs?
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Del Webb gets it.
The City of Manteca doesn’t.
And depending upon your perspective that may be a good thing or it may be a bad thing.
The subject is code enforcement when it comes to what someone does to — or how they maintain — their property.
Del Webb is the platinum standard when it comes to code enforcement.
They don’t wait for someone to make a complaint. They proactively scour the community making sure everyone complies. It is why Del Webb communities such as those in Roseville and Lincoln in Placer County look like they were just built instead of being in place more than 20 years.
Del Webb’s property maintenance is covered in rules and regulations enforced through the homeowner’s association. The words on paper mean something. While some believe it is draconian, when it comes to enforcing the rules Del Webb is arguably much more democratic than Manteca or any other municipality for that matter.
The reason is simple. All property owners are treated equal. There is no hit and miss on enforcement and it’s not complaint driven. The adopted rules are enforced out of the gate. Unlike with cities they aren’t put in place and forgotten until someone raises a stink. There is a high expectation from the start of what a home buyer — and community as a whole — is required to do when it comes to maintain property as well as the general peace and quiet.
Cities will adopt covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CCRs) for subdivisions they approve but make it clear they will not enforce them. When property owners complain a neighbor isn’t living up to standards that are essentially tied to the property deed, cities will say it is a civil matter. If you want to pursue a remedy it is up to you to go to civil court. The city will have nothing to do with it.
Then there are property maintenance and use conditions that are outlined in the municipal code. The city expects these rules to be complied with but will not enforce them unless someone complains. So if a code enforcement officer on his own drives by a corner with a fence or other items that are clearly blocking a safe line of vision and not complying with municipal code rules, they cannot issue a notice of violation to the property owner with the threat of a follow-up citation if they do not comply.
However, if Joe Citizen makes a complaint they can act. Under the limited rules of engagement that the Manteca City Council has embraced to make sure that code complaints aren’t driven by a Hatfields versus McCoys feud the code enforcement officers will cite properties with similar code violations within a two-block radius.
This is not the same as police officer being judicious when they are enforcing traffic laws. Yes, the argument could be made that an officer could develop carpal tunnel vision if they wrote tickets for every moving violation. But to compare apples with apples, if Manteca Police enforced traffic laws the way the city powers that be have code enforcement officers do their jobs, motorists that ran stop signs, speed, roll through red lights or fail to give pedestrians a reasonable zone of safety would only be ticketed if a citizen called up the police department and asked them to enforce traffic laws against a specific individual.
What Manteca code enforcement does is not even selective enforcement. It is enforcement by complaint.
That is where the animosity comes into play. Those targeted by code enforcement that see not just similar violations around town but ones that are significantly more brazen ask why others aren’t being cited for clearly committing the same property code infraction.
Rules are rules. If you are going to enforce them, enforce them on everyone. No one should be allowed to skirt the rules imposed legally for community standards.
However, the city makes it clear community standards only apply to those that make the initial complaint. Several years ago a resident near Sierra High was cited for an outbuilding too close to the property line. When he produced photos of 36 other examples of similar violations including three that had multi-violations including being within the front yard setback, he was told that they didn’t matter because they were more than two blocks away. When he wouldn’t relent and said he wanted to make a complaint about the other properties, code enforcement returned and found other violations on his property that were in addition to the outbuilding.
There are probably tens of thousands of violations of property use and maintenance issues in Manteca. And that doesn’t include the illegal posting of signs on property the city had a citizens committee spent nearly 18 months a few years ago fine tuning and then proceeded to not enforce.
The job of a code enforcement officer isn’t pleasant. It is made all that more difficult by city leadership restricting how the municipal code regarding property use and maintenance can be enforced.
Since visibility at corners is a safety issue, the city should instruct code enforcement to check property at every intersection for violations to the sight line rules in regards to fence placement. There’s no need to get specific down to gap measurements between fence pickets. What counts is whether there is visibility.
It’s a provision of the municipal code put in place for the public’s health and welfare. It should be enforced universally and not simply here and there by complaint only.
Del Webb gets it.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.