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Tear down that wall, Mr. Weatherford
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One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

I get that.

But there still has to be standards to keep blight in check.

Dead grass and even enough inoperable vehicles to compete with Pick-n-Pull is one thing.

The house from hell complete with a yard to match is another.

Up the block from my house is a place that is now in foreclosure. There is nothing unusual about that. The dead grass isn’t a big deal. Nor is the massive mosquito breeding swimming pool in the back. The same goes for the homeless person living apparently without the bank’s knowledge in the garage. It’s just part of life in Manteca in 2011. All of those things will eventually be taken care of once the foreclosure is put on the market and sold.

What won’t be remedied is the city’s decades-old lip service to blight.

If blighted conditions don’t happen in a newer neighborhood, they essentially take the tactic that there is nothing they can do to change things citing state rules governing subdivisions that exist before 1988.

Code enforcement folks have been dutifully coming by over the past year trying to address concerns of neighbors much closer to the hell house than I am. Apparently the city failed to notice the three-foot masonry wall abutting the narrow sidewalk complete with a wrought iron gate that opens up – and is left open most of the time – to block the narrow sidewalk.

Forget pedestrian safety in older parts of town.

And unless I am completely misunderstanding city codes, a solid block fence at that location isn’t legal. And if it is legal, the city needs to revisit its ordinances and close the loophole. It’s not because I don’t like the looks of it – I don’t and it’s irrelevant whether anyone likes the looks. It is a safety hazard first and foremost.

The yard for years has looked like a transfer station for the county dump. The renters conveniently hauled things in and out at all hours of the day and night. For what purpose, I don’t know. Perhaps they were operating a business. Perhaps they were pack rats. Or perhaps it was something else.

Since they have left, I don’t miss the bicycle and foot traffic in front of my house at all hours of the day of people carrying bags of stuff to the address and leaving almost empty handed. Nor do I miss the alley traffic in the wee hours of the morning.

The police were aware that the address had more traffic after midnight than all three 7-Eleven stores in Manteca between midnight and 6 a.m. No way can they be faulted. They kept an eye on the place for possible illicit activity. And state parole officers have made arrests at the address.

What I do fault, though, is the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil of municipal leaders. They don’t act until things get real bad.

Here’s a suggestion, Mr. Weatherford. Tear down that wall.

That, though, won’t address the long-term problem that impacts every neighborhood in this town.

Let’s use the neighborhood outreach process the city is currently engaging in to make a real difference.

If there is a hang-up about being able to outlaw parking 10 cars in front yards (as long as they’re registered), putting furniture in front yards for months, and generally piling up rubbish as if they are trying to create bonfires or nests for rats, then let’s put in new rules one neighborhood at a time backed up by the municipal code.

I’m sure you could get 100 percent consensus – or close to it – for all property owners in Powers Tract as an example to agree to new property upkeep standards designed specifically for the neighborhood. No homeowner and no landlord want their property to go to hell.

Obviously, doing it on a citywide basis with blanket rules can be problematic. It would change existing rules and not everyone would be on board. But if you zeroed in on the correct constituency – property owners – get them on board and then address real concerns neighborhood by neighborhood it can work.

Powers Tract, as an example, has issues related to how others pass through the neighborhood.

The repaving of Moffat resulted in travel lane being shifted slightly to the north to accommodate a turn lane in the center. Truckers started to park on top of intersections creating blind spots for drivers and pedestrians. The city has addressed the worst location on Moffat at Cowell by painting the curb red.

Trucks shouldn’t park illegally overnight or for extended periods on city streets. But a nice reasonable step would be marking curbs to make sure they don’t park in locations that are a detriment to the public’s safety.

It is time the city really helped people take back their neighborhoods or prevent them from slipping into blight. Tighter property maintenance standards easily enforceable are key.

They certainly don’t – and shouldn’t – be as tight at the ones at Del Webb. But Del Webb standards are a model of how you can prevent blight from destroying a neighborhood and bringing crime, drugs, and other anti-social acts with it.