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Manteca whips out magnifying glass for weed abatement in select cases
poppy yard
The City of Manteca has deemed the front yard of this home in a neighborhood east of Sierra High must be abated because based on an updated posted on the city’s Facebook Tuesday evening because of “weeds growing in-between the flowers and protruding on the sidewalk.” Take a close look at how “prevalent” the weeds growing between flowers and protruding on the sidewalk. Then drive down city streets and see how many weeds are sprouting through the pavement plus the number of inoperable vehicles parked in front yards that are arguably bigger fire and safety concerns as opposed to strands of crabgrass encroaching on city sidewalks

Take a close look at the photo adjoining this column.

Do you see weeds protruding above the California Golden Poppies or weeds intruding on the sidewalk besides the poppies?

Under the new standard the City of Manteca posted on their official Facebook page to explain away why they issued the homeowner a notice they need to abate their front yard of weeds, does this mean anyone with weeds growing among their front yard flowers that are very much alive and not dead will be receiving weed abatement warnings?

The Facebook post reads “yesterday, a Fire Inspector issued a courtesy notice to the property owner based on his interpretation of the (city weed abatement) policy. The Fire Inspector was not referring to the California Poppy itself, rather he was concerned with weeds growing in-between flowers and protruding onto the sidewalk. We have met with the homeowner and the issue has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.”

If this property meets the threshold for a warning being issued it means it has to be in violation of the city’s weed abatement laws. Again, the clarification as to why the city issued the citation is because of weeds growing in-between flowers and protruding onto sidewalks.

Hop in your car if you dare and drive around Manteca and compare this photo to other yards you will come across. I say dare because you will be engaging in a non-essential activity — checking to see if Manteca is engaging in government overreach — and as such will be violating stay-at-home orders meaning you could be subject to being slapped with a $1,000 administrative fine imposed by the City of Manteca as authorized Tuesday night by the City Council.

In all honesty, this wouldn’t be a big deal if the city hadn’t made a relatively lame attempt at explaining away the warning.

All it did was underscore what has for decades been a lame, capricious, and arbitrary approach to code enforcement given most of the time it is based on complaints only which means it is only applied to those that break city rules who essentially tick someone off.

Manteca’s long-standing Sybil approach to property maintenance and upkeep via code enforcement that includes weed abatement is a disgrace.

I will likely get a notice this year to abate alley weeds unless fire department crews started their inspections later than usual. That’s because I pulled bigger weeds and weed whacked the rest at the start of March before the rains hit. Normally it doesn’t rain a lot in March but this year it did. As a result the weeds came back. I was unable to pay a repeat visit with the weed whacker until 10 days past the official date for inspections to start on April 1.

Manteca officials are almost proud of the fact they only enforce code issues by complaint unless it is a pile on charge connected with other criminal behavior. The exception, of course, is weed abatement.

The reason, we are told, is because of the fire danger. Piles of rubbish also constitute a fire danger. The city will cite for such items at the same time as their weed inspection.

Now, let’s look at a heaping of bureaucratic hypocrisy.

If it is a serious fire hazard — you will get no argument from me — then why did the city a few years back reduce their annual weed abatement inspections from twice to once a year? We were told at the time it was time consuming and costly.

But isn’t the best fire department the ones that work diligently to prevent fires from happening in the first place just like the best police department are the ones that aggressively push crime prevention measures?

One would think a city policy that says when fire crews are out and about throughout the year and notice weed-infested yards and/or property as well as piles of rubbish that they should pro-actively issue warnings and then follow up citations if nothing is done instead of waiting for a complaint to act or simply doing a once-a-year inspection?

As it stands now high weeds and rubbish that aren’t noticed during once a year city inspections apparently don’t constitute a serious fire hazard unless someone complains.

Then there is the perennial issue of the city telling people to do one thing and then doing something else.

There are more than two dozen sizable parcels plus “remnant strips” in the public right-of-way controlled by the city that aren’t abated of weeds by the city until well into August. Joining the list this year is the weed infested section of the recently opened Atherton Drive extension between Union Road and Airport Way where a long strip of high weeds has been created between the bike path and the cyclone fence along the 120 Bypass.

The city need not play the pandemic card on this one given they have a well-established pattern of the city being the last in Manteca to comply with their own rules.

I get that the city stepping up weed enforcement will cause grief. But if it truly is essential to reduce fire hazards and promote public safety why isn’t it being done? The fact the city has reduced its official weed abatement program in the last decade in half by eliminating one annual inspection date suggests otherwise.

And since the door has been opened, let’s talk about what constitutes acceptable front yard landscaping in Manteca. If a front yard covered in California Golden Poppies is a no-no how about a front yard covered in ferns? Or better yet since the drought has been over for years and municipal ordinances require front yard landscaping of some type why are there a number of homes that have simply dirt or dead grass for their front yards?

What caught the city’s eye about KT Jarnagin’s front yard? Is the fact it did not look tidy and neat as well as not failing into either the traditional lawn or xeriscape categories of design?

I have made the mistake of repeatedly asking city officials over the years why the city doesn’t crackdown on cars parked on front lawns — especially those that are inoperable — that can attract vermin as well as be a fire and safety hazard.

After staff concedes vehicles parked in such a manner are a clear violation of city law, I am always told point blank that people need to make a complaint before the city will do anything. Perhaps that explains how we’ve gotten to the point red light and stop sign running is epidemic in Manteca.

Here’s a novel idea. If the city has now reached the point they can devote resources to ordering yards full of wildflowers abated simply because they can detect weeds between flowers, why can’t they send notices to property owners during their annual inspections spurred by public safety considerations to order the removal of vehicles — operable and otherwise — that are parked on front yards where it is on top of grass or dirt?

It’s time to make adoption of property upkeep ordinances more than just public relation stunts to appease citizens given the City of Manteca is now forcing people to abate wildflowers in bloom on the premise they can spot weeds growing between them.