City lowers the bar

Barking dogs, garage sales, signs get the upper hand

The city is going to stop enforcing parking-on-the-front-yard ordinance.
  • The city is going to stop enforcing parking-on-the-front-yard ordinance.

In Jean Hoeger’s neighborhood, cars parked atop the front yard are becoming the norm. And with recent changes in code enforcement, residents have lost their chance to get the municipal code enforced.

“In the College area, the problem is widespread,” Hoeger says. “On Mary Lane Drive, 90 percent of the houses are mini-dorms, so there are cars everywhere. It’s unsightly and illegal, and the city is going to stop enforcing parking-on-the-front-yard ordinance.

The city recently divided up the list of offenses that were already low priority for code enforcers, and decided there are some that they just won’t enforce any more.

Not that abandoning the low-priority complaints will dramatically lighten the workload for the 23 zoning and 17 more inspectors who look at a combination of code violations in the Code Enforcement Division of Development Services. Last year they got 15,583 complaints.

At the beginning of 2018, seven types of complaints were moved from the lowest of three enforcement categories to "alternative compliance," city spokesman Scott Robinson confirmed. Those include:

• Barking dogs

• Garage sales

• Lighting onto adjacent property

• Noise (mechanical, animal, other nuisance per parameters in SDMC)

• Parking in front yard

• Signs

• Street trees

Signs are another nuisance issue in the College Area – freestanding signs that advertise vacancies in the mini-dorms. According to the municipal code, the signs are supposed to be temporary. Hoeger says that the SBMI Group, which manages about 60 mini-dorms in the neighborhood, leaves theirs up year round.

“They have every right to advertise vacancies, and in the summer there are vacancies. But once school starts again and the houses are full, those signs should come down,” she said. “They don’t.”

“The city is saying we should go talk to the neighbors about our concerns, and if that doesn’t work, try mediation,” Hoeger says with disbelief echoing in her words.

City spokesman Robinson says that’s about right.

The city has long had three tiers of code enforcement: Priority 1, immediate threats to health and safety; including dangerous structures, exposed electrical wires, and leaking sewage. Inspectors get to these violations within one business day.

Priority 2 is for ‘significant code violations,’ substandard housing and abandoned properties, illegal grading and other offenses that degrade or disrupt the environment. The department promises to get to these in five days.

The offenses in Priority 3 have to do with "quality of life," garage sales that never end and garages being used as residences or for storage(!) Before the split, it had about 40 types of code violations or inspections – food trucks and mobile home parks, vehicle repair in residential neighborhood, construction without proper permits and so on. They are supposed to be investigated within 30 days, or as staffing allows.

Unlicensed marijuana dispensaries fall into Priority 3.

So do lower quality of life issues, where food trucks, outdoor merchandise displays and push charts, sidewalk cafes and billboards landed. Ditto with mobile home park routine inspections. Those enforcements and inspections will occur as staffing allows.

In City Heights, front yard parking isn’t so much an issue. But some residents say they feel like they live next door to a flea market.

“There are people who’ve had a garage sale every weekend for years. It only stops while they’re on vacation.” says a woman on 43rd street. She didn’t want her name used because she didn’t want her neighbors to think she might have or wanted to report them. “It’s live and let live.”

Garage sales fell into the third level by code enforcement’s triage ranking. But to have any chance of enforcing the code stop is upsetting to City Heights residents.

“We really wish we had more code enforcement in City Heights,” said Jim Varnadore, a resident who also serves on several City Heights community groups. “We worry about the nuisance violations not being enforced.”

Varnadore says the problem starts with the department not having enough inspectors and other resources. Since 2016, the division has handled more than 15,000 complaints, according to department statistics. With a 2018 budget of $7,883,880 (up about $400,000 from last year), expanding services is unlikely. At this year’s budget hearing, councilmembers asked for more inspectors but it isn’t clear if that wish list was funded.

City Heights has its neighborhood specific problems – starting with chronic, repeat garage sales, Varnadore says. He also mentioned barking dogs and garages stuff full of junk while the residents’ cars take up street parking.

“Nobody will come and do anything about that,” he said. “Your only salvation from a barking dog is to buy the property and evict the resident and the dog.”

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Unbelievable. So not only will these violations never be enforced, the city is begging off enforcing over thirty others—leaving just nine they'll bother themselves with. Bet everyone in the private sector wishes they could simply decide to do only one-fifth of their job requirements and still get paid the same.

At this point, they might as well rename the "Get It Done" app to "Get Over It."

This is typical of the "do nothing" city hall. They've been useless for decades, except when political pressure and attention were applied. There was a time when code violations were dealt with if you could get your city councilperson to pass the report along to the slugs and then follow up. But while such use/misuse of the council representative's time and attention did make a difference, it just made the shortfalls permanent. They never have enough staffing in any area because there is insufficient funding. How long will San Diegans accept such excuses and start to demand that the city government do its jobs?

its a "do nothing" city hall. because there is nothing in it for them

What makes any neighborhood a desirable place to life is quality of life issues. Many of San Diego once desirable neighborhoods are slipping rapidly into slums. No big deal if you are not the one living next door to a chronic barking dog or you a "car lot". As quality of life issues go ignored by the City violent incidents between neighbors will go up. I'll bet the City will still respond to complaints from La Jolla residents.

Notice that all of the unenforced laws are of consequence only to neighbors, not major political donors.

Why do we paid clowns to make laws if they are not going to enforce them. Let's get rid of some councilmembers.

If it's not enforced, it's not a law. It's a suggestion or a wish.

Dogs bark. It's what they do. They should be low priority.

What you can't fight is the city. A neighbor got a permit to take two parking spaces from the street and do a curb cut which moved those spaces to his own front yard, which he paved. He has a concrete slab in front if his little house. It is over the legal limit but not by much so the city let him keep it. The curb cut? It's illegal too as there is less than a car's length between it and the next curb cut, but he went down seven, that's SEVEN times to the permit office until they finally granted his permit. No wonder City Heights is a parking lot.

The garage has been illegally converted into an apartment three times, taking away yet another required parking space. The first two times the owners were caught and had to remove the work and restore it to a garage. This third time I think they're going to get away with it. I'm sure each time the property is sold the new owner is told, sure you can convert the garage and add another unit to your income property. More density and less parking. The city doesn't care.

At least dogs don't drive cars. (Or blast Ranchero music at 6am.)

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