Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chumming for Whales

This script is so predictable it does not take a mentalist to recite the lines before the (very bad) actor speaks them.

  • Months ago, a code enforcement officer said to me, "Anyone can have a commercial icemaker on their property."
  • During the same conversation he said, "The activity going on next door is not a business."
  • Last week, a code enforcement supervisor tells me, in essence, "Anyone can have several giant metal freezer boxes on their property."
  • And I am now informed (below), "Anyone can collect abandoned catering trucks on their property."

These are the "quality of life" issues as determined by code enforcement officers of the City of Manteca.

This latest exchange took place over a "Papa Bear" sized catering truck, a "Mama Bear" sized vending vehicle, and a "Baby Bear" sized Buick Regal, all parked along one edge of the property next door. All have "For Sale" signs in the front windshields, but nobody can see them because they are totally faded, scootched down sideways behind the windshields, the windshields so dirty it's hard to see them, and they cannot be made out from the sidewalk in any event. Just giant metal boxes on wheels, no longer used in the unlawful TLC Catering business.

The City of Manteca has an on-line program for communications from the citizenry. At city council meetings, the administration simply cannot figure out why so few complaints come through the system versus people calling the police department. Well, here's an example of the shallow and specious responses one gets from the one in charge of code enforcement.

-----Original Message-----From: Manteca Help Line [mailto:manteca@user.govoutreach.com]Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 2:43 PMTo: Richard BehlingSubject: Manteca-CRM: New Request # 197462 [3132316139643362]

Dear Richard,

Thank you for contacting the City of Manteca. We appreciate the opportunity to assist you and assure you a positive experience with us.

The Problem you submitted was:

Request type: Inoperable Vehicle on Private Property


1. Abandoned mobile food preparation unit (catering truck).

CA license # 4A09350, no current tag. Cast-off from unlawful business operation. Permanently located alongside parking spot of remaining operational truck and used as unauthorized storage unit.

2. Abandoned mobile food vending truck.

CA license # 3V60905, no current tag. Cast-off from unlawful business operation.

3. Abandoned automobile – Regal.

CA license # 732PGK, no current tag.

When a person signs up and logs in, the messages are tagged with all that indentifying information. But the city employee who responds to it is anonymous unless he/she signs the response. In this case - nothing - and this message was irresistable to one who speaks with a mellifluous voice like unto God.

-----Original Message-----From: Manteca Help Line [mailto:manteca@user.govoutreach.com]Sent: Monday, November 17, 2008 2:44 PMTo: Richard BehlingSubject: Manteca-CRM: Closed Request # 197462 [3132316139643362]

Dear Richard,

Your request # 197462 has been resolved with the resolution:

All vehicles on the property are whole and complete and are operable. Current registration is not required unless a vehicle is to be operated upon a public roadway.

How disingenuous is that answer? Any moron, myself included, knows he can't drive without tags! The whole point of the complaint is to get an officer, well-versed in the Municipal Code and its intent, to apply such code to the situation at hand. An even larger issue is this: Equipment formerly used in the unlawful business cannot be "legalized" merely by abandonment, because it then becomes "abandoned." Duh... like, do I have to explain the code to him?

(Of course, this anonymous soul seems to need all the help he/she can get.)

-----Original Message-----From: Manteca Help Line [mailto:manteca@user.govoutreach.com]Sent: Monday, November 17, 2008 6:14 PMTo: Richard BehlingSubject: Manteca-CRM: New Request # 198750 [3437656466356137]

Dear Richard,

Thank you for contacting the City of Manteca. We appreciate the opportunity to assist you and assure you a positive experience with us.

The Complaint you submitted was:

Request type: Abandoned Vehicle


See Request # 197462, closed prematurely.

Thank you for verifying the operating condition and registration status of the three vehicles listed in the complaint. However, your report does not answer to the definitions spelled out in Manteca’s Municipal Code, Section 8.20.010, A. and D., for abandoned and inoperative vehicles.

These three vehicles are not registered, appear by sight to have been left to the elements, and cannot be lawfully operated upon any highway. Section 8.20.020 recounts the city council making the finding that since the 1980’s the accumulation of abandoned or inoperative vehicles on private property (three’s a crowd!) tends to reduce the value of private property and to promote blight and deterioration and declaring such storage a public nuisance.

The one possible exemption is if “A vehicle” [singular] is completely enclosed within a building in a lawful manner where it is not visible from the street or other public or private property. That would apply threefold to this accumulated fleet, yet the subject property has no such structure or facility.

For the twenty-two months I have been personally aware of these vehicles, there has never been any apparent good faith effort to dispose of them. Indeed, the sun-faded and obscured “For Sale” signs in the windows are truly only diversionary window dressing.

Quit dithering around and issue the "ten-day notice of intention to abate and remove the vehicles."

From my experience with the "Make-The-Citizens-Think-We're-Listening" reporting system, I would strongly discourage anyone from routing any messages to code enforcement for the present... unless you like chumming... and get a nibble like I did.

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