Monday, October 13, 2008

Darker and darker

In the only instance of unsolicted follow up to my complaint by city personnel, the Associate Planner called me. (That was because his name was on the website as originator of the entry.) I sent him the following email, in which I also reference the city's noise ordinance:

From: Richard Behling
Date: 3/18/2008 2:53 PM
To: ''
Subject: Noise complaint followup

Dear Mr. Rey,

I got your return phone message this afternoon, but decided to write the followup you requested.

Last Wednesday, 3/12/08, a police officer contacted my neighbors and inspected their “grandfathered” business permit. I know because he also knocked on my door just as I was preparing to leave for an evening meeting elsewhere. After showing him the offending machinery (from my side of the fence), I made the mistake of walking with him to the sidewalk out front, which allowed my neighbor to engage us. Another escalating, but non-productive, exchange took place before I had to leave. The officer told me if he had to respond again to this situation, he would do nothing unless I signed a citizen’s arrest warrant against my neighbor and took her to court. Pretty draconian, I thought.

The officer must have stayed to talk more with the woman in an attempt to remedy the situation. On Sunday morning she installed one sheet of plywood directly in front of the icemaker at the fence line – something the officer had suggested to me on Wednesday. I fear that my neighbor took action on the officer’s low-cost and minimalist idea, probably interpreting compliance with that as the official end of the dispute. As a remedy it is utterly ineffective. She may want it viewed as a good faith effort, but I see it merely as an evasive maneuver to head off real noise abatement requirements. I did not tell her (because she wouldn’t listen) that the officer’s visit was only one step in doing background for this complaint.

Even though the City of Manteca allowed this business to continue in a residential area, I really must insist that the levels outlined in the city code for noise events and cumulative nighttime noise load be met. I will not agree to waive those requirements.

Richard Behling

This may help.

Manteca Municipal Code, 9.52.040 Specific prohibited noises.

Notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter, the following acts and the causing or permitting thereof, are declared and deemed to be in violation of this chapter:

. . .

J. Commercial Establishments Adjacent to Residential Property. Notwithstanding any provision of this code to the contrary, continuous, repeated or sustained noise from the premises of any commercial establishment which is adjacent to one or more residential dwelling units, including any outdoor area part of or under the control of the establishment, between the hours of ten p.m. and eight a.m. that is plainly audible from the residential dwelling unit’s property line.

A little after midnight on March 25th, the police officer and his sergeant pulled up to the curb between our houses in their squad car and stayed for about a half-hour. Maybe they got out of the car to listen from the sidewalk. In closing the case, the sergeant's report said he didn't hear any loud noise, and enforcement against any loud noise would require me signing a complaint against my neighbor.

I had already submitted a written complaint. Further, I had supplied the municipal code section about residential noise and, guess what, the code did not say the noise had to be loud to be in violation! Why would the city not enforce their own noise ordinance, especially against a business that had no business being in a residential area?

On March 28th I logged onto the city's website to check the complaint's status. It was CLOSED! No call, no email, no nothing, just closed with the sergeant's report. This was really beginning to smell fishy.

Date Closed: 03/25/2008 03:14 AM by Joseph Aguilar

Reason Closed:

Re-visit of location on 3/25/08 @ 12:15am-12:45am. I heard no loud noise heard from property line at city sidewalk/street. Officer Hooten pointed out the area of the noise complaint by Mr.Behling. Officer Hooten had visited sight on 3/12/2008. The noise complaint by Mr. Behling; Officer Hooten found there is an ice machine thats in a shed near the fence line, which runs when it is filling. Mr. Behling has been explained by Officer Hooten that he could sign a complaint for loud noise disturbing his peace, citation would be issued and report written if he desired; he would need to call the Police Department. I had Dispatch check the log for 2008, there is no request for calls for service with either the 786 or 810 address.

Here's where the lights began dimming and I started going crazy. But, hey, my education regarding the dark underbelly of the city had just launched.

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