By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Manteca city property rules: Much ado about nothing
Placeholder Image

Drive by the 700 block of East Yosemite Avenue.

You will find a used car dealer has moved into an old service station at the corner of Sheridan and Yosemite avenues.

You almost can’t see the cars for the flag banner signs.

The frontage along the two streets is perhaps 160 feet.

There are 20 flags or one roughly every 8 feet.

Manteca’s municipal sign ordinance decrees that no flag banners shall be allowed more often than every 50 linear feet.

What gives?

The official city line: Enforcement is by complaint only.

Thank goodness Manteca Police don’t operate exclusively from such a premise when it comes to traffic enforcement or the streets of Manteca would start resembling a modern-day Dodge City with the weapon of choice being two-ton bullets attached to four wheels.

The real question that someone needs to ask the Manteca City Council is why bother with the charade?

The council was plummeted with complaints about the unsightly proliferation of signs and the fact many were causing safety issues blocking the view of drivers and making navigating public sidewalks akin to running a gauntlet. Businesses countered times were tough and they needed every possible advantage to lure customers.

So they did what any self-respecting politician would do when faced with a thorny issue — they appointed a committee.

The committee labored for nearly 18 months. The process also required a lot of city staff time. New rules were drafted that everyone heralded as balancing the concerns of safety and aesthetics with the needs of business. The council agreed and blessed the new rules.

New rules that are ignored on a daily basis by the city’s code enforcement officers because the council told them to do so. Again, why bother?

You will be told code enforcement costs money. True. All you need to do is look at Del Webb at Woodbridge. There is a reason why you don’t see cars parked on lawns, home exteriors kept in pristine condition, no BBQs in front yards, no RVs parked in driveways, or no piles of junk in the yards. A small part of the $163 a month in homeowner association fees they pay goes toward making sure community property maintenance rules are followed.

If that amount is say $5 per home at buildout, HOA fees would have $84,000 a year going toward the actual enforcement of property maintenance rules. It is why a 30-year-old Del Webb community looks as well kept and fresh as a new Del Webb community. If you multiplied the assessment for every dwelling in Manteca you’d have to generate $1.6 million for the same levels of enforcement. It sounds like a lot of money until you consider expenses that it is avoiding by keeping blight at bay. Add in the broken window theory that many law enforcement advocates support, the Del Webb models is also an effective way at severely reducing future crime.

Of course Del Webb code enforcement is a private sector endeavor and not a government program. Enough said.

The city’s complaint driven policy for implementing property maintenance and use rules is driven by the premise people will set the standard for what they are willing to tolerate in their neighborhoods when it comes to deviating from community conduct standards lawfully adopted by elected council members.

But what about the reality that governs many people — fear.

Retribution is something that is real concern for many. It is why the Southside Park neighborhood a few years back was placed in a chokehold by gangs. 

Something is wrong when a government system allows the weak to fall victim and then turn the other cheek.

That may seem as an exaggeration especially given we’re taking about property maintenance and upkeep rules but then again if we are to believe the experts the broken window theory results in the spread of crime, gangs, drug use, and violence. So which is it: Is property deterioration a magnet for crime or is it a fantasy?

Perhaps the real reason why staff has convinced the council that enforcement by complaint is the way to go is because the city has given staff too few resources to adequately enforce the rules.

Maybe the council might want to survey other cities of like size and see how many code enforcement officers they have or even check with much smaller cities like Lathrop. They also might want to look at cities that seem to have done a good job to prevent blight from occurring and see how they do it.

As it stands now, the Avenue of the Advertising Flag Banners in the 700 block of East Yosemite Avenue is conveying a clear message about this council — the emperors, as they say, have no clothes.