Do as we say and not as we do.
That’s Manteca’s city motto as far as Mel and Katheryn Tucker are concerned.
The couple is being hauled into court by the city for — among other high crimes against humanity — not having at least a 4-inch space between 1-inch pickets in a wrought iron fence in front of a home they own at 630 West Yosemite Avenue. The gap is 3½ inches while the picket doesn’t exceed the 1-inch width dictated by Manteca Municipal Code Section 17.3460.050.
Yet just over a block away in front of the HOPE Shelter that had a $1 million makeover using Manteca Redevelopment Agency money with plans signed off by city staff after the Tuckers installed their fence, the pickets are 1¼ inches wide on the wrought iron fence. That exceeds the city maximum by a quarter of an inch. The shelter is also located on a corner lot.
The HOPE Shelter isn’t being cited despite the supposed city policy that requires code enforcement to cite similar violations within a two block radius so those complaining won’t use the club the city welds with code enforcement as part of a personal dispute.
When the couple pointed that out to city officials, they were told the HOPE Shelter was different.
The Tuckers aren’t splitting hairs. The administrative citation they were issued on Nov. 23, 2015 at 12:09 p.m. clearly cites the Manteca municipal code section regarding how fences should be placed along front setbacks. It calls for 1-inch pickets, not 1 ¼-inch pickets as are in place at the shelter.
They were also told their gate was too high since it is part of the fence and can’t exceed 6 feet within a 5-foot setback from the sidewalk. Check out the pillars on the front gate at the HOPE Family Shelter. They’re taller than 7-foot-1 Shaq O’Neal and are definitely within five feet of the sidewalk. Hold it. That’s different because the city had a hand in the restoration of the shelter property.
The Tuckers were also told fencing within the “required visibility triangle shall be reduced in height to no more than 30 inches.” Go by the shelter at Yosemite and Sequoia avenues. Apparently it is exempted from the “required visibility triangle” rules everyone else has to follow because the city blessed it and then funded the fence’s installation.
And if you think this is your run-of-the-mill city versus bewildered homeowner fence tiff, guess again.
The Tuckers have retained legal representation to the tune of $5,000 to save their $3,000 wrought iron fence. Anyone else who has run into the targeted code enforcement chainsaw the city takes to homeowners would have cut their losses and called it quits. Principle can be an expensive proposition to defend when your opponent has a $30 million budget.
The Tuckers though said they were left with the clear impression that if they wanted war, they’d get a war. And to assure they weren’t just paranoid, the city has revisited the Tuckers repeatedly to keep finding more fence violations that they didn’t see on previous visits.
Take the wrought iron fence. It was 6 feet. That is until a city representative came by and informed them it couldn’t exceed 42 inches. They were told to cut it down to 42 inches and they’d be fine. So they did it.
Of course, it is their word against the city’s word. They said they asked for it in writing but were told not to worry. And they didn’t but little did they know that code enforcement in Manteca is by fiat. The city likes to call it “spirit of the law and not the letter of the law.” Freely translated they cull one homeowner from the herd when they receive a targeted complaint and then proceed to hound them to the point of collapse much how hyenas end up feasting on their prey.
But if the Tuckers are lying then why did they damage their $3,000 fence by hiring someone to cut the metal pickets down to 42 inches? It’s doubtful they did it so they could enjoy the uneven, slightly lopsided cuts that are now along the top of their fence line.
Also, on a subsequent visit, they have been told a fence on the eastern edge of their property is now too high based on the setback and city too will have to be addressed.
So what was the Tuckers’ original sin?
They made the mistake of wanting to clean up their high profile home as well as keep druggies out of their front yard and protect their property from an occasional car that has been known to veer off Yosemite Avenue and onto their lawn.
They also were concerned about rain sending mud from their yard onto the sidewalk where it would pose a danger to pedestrians. They put in a retaining wall of around 6 inches that they then placed the wrought iron fence on. As part of their clean up they removed morning glory that had wrapped its way up a power pole on the corner of Yosemite and Veach avenues as well as other thick shrubbery. In doing so they increased the visibility of drivers on Veach significantly.
But when they put lattice along the low wooden fence among Veach fence between the corner and a point to where it goes back up to 6 feet, they were told to take it out. The reason the Tuckers put the lattice in was as a deterrent to meth heads walking down Yosemite Avenue and deciding to scale the low fence to take five in their front yard. They responded by stringing chicken wire between steel poles which didn’t please the city but they couldn’t do anything about it. The war, as they say, was on.
The first notice the Tuckers received on Sept. 24, 2015 stated the following finding and nothing more: “There was fencing along the corner of the property that is causing a visibility issue for drivers.”
One must assume a citizen worried about seeing traffic made the complaint since the city has steadfastly refused to give the Tuckers a copy of the original complaint.
Then on Nov. 3, 2015 new findings were issued: “Wrought iron and lattice fencing has been installed around the front yard that exceeds the height requirements for front yards and corner lots.” The city didn’t notice that until the Tuckers pushed back on the first notice.
Then on Nov. 23, 2015 after the Tuckers cut the fence down to meet the height requirements, the city found that there was only 3 ½ inch of spacing between the pickets on the wrought iron fencing and not the city’s minimum required 4 inches.
The Tuckers just like previous targeted homeowners that the city has received complaints about their fencing or other property issues complained about nearby violations.
What the city does to prevent angry citizens from storming city council meetings is to cite everyone within a two block radius for similar violations.
Apparently that policy has changed. In every direction you look from the corner of Yosemite and Veach there are violations of the municipal code section that the Tuckers have been cited for by the city.
Since the City Council ultimately will have to defend staff’s position on this one unless they prefer to throw one homeowner at a time to the wolves, they might want to ask why one of the Tuckers’ neighbors has concertina wire across a decorative wrought iron fence.
It’s not that the Tuckers want to have such a wire, it’s just that city staff has made it clear to the Veterans of Foreign Wars they can’t use concertina wire to protect the Moffat Community Center air conditioning units from copper thieve because it is explicitly banned under city laws except in specific zones that do not include residential areas.
Well, someone forget to tell the Manteca Historical Society about Manteca Municipal Code section 17.46.050(A): “Barbed wire fencing shall not be constructed or placed on top of a fence except where properly used for agricultural.” Under section 17.46.060 regarding Wall Design and Maintenance Standards it lists prohibited fencing materials as follows: “Unless approved as a condition of approval or in conjunction with another entitlement, walls or fences of sheet or corrugated iron, sheet steel, concertina wire, or sheer aluminum are prohibited. “
Let’s be clear here. The museum has the concertina wire for the same reason the VFW wants it —to protect against repeat acts of vandalism to their property. And if the museum by some chance was able to secure city approval why was the VFW told that was a no-no for where the Moffat Community Center is located. You could argue the Moffat location is closer to industrial than the museum that is smack dab in the middle of a residential area.
But since VFW Post Commander — and former Mayor Carlon Perry — did the honorable thing and asked permission first he was told no.
It underscores the real truth about the travesty known as Manteca code enforcement. Because the city continues to enforce its rules not when they see them but when someone complains about violations people will continue to violate the rules.
As for the Tuckers, why do they have to strictly reply to city fence rules when examples abound right around them of people whose fences don’t?
I forgot. They city only goes after fence “law breakers” that either have enemies willing to complain against them or — in the case of the Tuckers — people who dare question the wisdom of those hunkered down at 1001 West Center St.
To contact Dennis Wyatt,, email firstname.lastname@example.org