Monday, November 3, 2008

K.I.S.S. (for Manteca City Hall)

Well, THAT election is over. The radio pundits said, "We have to educate the voters!" My observation is that educating voters is virtually identical to graduating seniors from high school.

The candidates I voted for did not win. {~sigh~} One incumbent is returning to the Manteca City Council. The other may or may not, depending on the final count, because there was only a seven-vote spread last night between second and third. The official canvasse will take a few days.

Back to "educating" Manteca city managers again, I took up the pen (or, keyboard) and sent a letter to the Director of Community Development (a.k.a., Planning Director.) This is the guy who is supposed to be in charge of everything zoning related, including home occupation permits. After meeting with two of his guys last week and leaving only three documents with them, I now included an entire copy of my report and the report of last week's meeting.

November 5, 2008

Mr. Mark Nelson
Director of Community Development
1001 West Center Street
Manteca, CA 95337

Dear Mr. Nelson,

I am requesting a home occupation review by the Director of Community Development, under authority granted him by the Manteca Municipal Code, Section 17.25.020, regarding the following illegal home occupation expansion:

While still part of unincorporated County of San Joaquin, Lynda Allen and Theresa Brassey, owners of TLC Catering, began parking one or two catering trucks on their residential property at 18594 South Fishback Road. From the beginning they operated with only two permits: 1) a business license from the City of Tracy, and 2) a Health Department permit for each truck from the County of San Joaquin, Environmental Health Department (EHD). For whatever reason, the County of San Joaquin allowed that use of residential property, but never issued any Conditional Use permit.

On December 17, 1986, the property was annexed into the City of Manteca and the address was changed to 810 Fishback Street. The city "grandfathered" the existing business use (that is, the parking of trucks); the city did not "grandfather" the business as a whole.

In 1991, a TLC application to EHD indicated they were still using outside commissaries to re-supply the catering trucks.

In 1992, the City of Manteca adopted its Home Occupation Permit ordinance.

Sometime in early 1993, a complaint was lodged against TLC Catering and City personnel responded with some type of enforcement action. This incident caused TLC to request a determination of legal status from Manteca's Planning Department. The City's letter was issued on June 29, 1993, and clearly explained the doctrine of "grandfathering"; that is, TLC could continue to park their trucks on the property, but no more than existed in 1986, and no other business use of the property would be permitted.

(The content of the complaint, the resolution, and the file copy of the determination letter were requested months ago, but the City files have not yet been produced.)

On September 17, 1993 - only eighty days after the letter - TLC made a very risky business decision. Against the instruction they just received, they decided to increase the number of trucks and to build a commissary for all those trucks and to do all this on-site, on their residential property, to avoid renting commercial space elsewhere.

This business enlargement is illegal because of the "grandfather" restriction on business use expansion AND because this 1993-94 commissary project is subject to Manteca's 1992 Home Occupation ordinance. Lynda Allen, Theresa Brassey, or TLC Catering did not even bother to apply for a home occupation permit.

Manteca Planning Department and Code Enforcement were A.W.O.L. while TLC Commissary was born. On July 13, 1994, EHD issued a Commissary Permit to TLC Catering, after much of the following was accomplished.

  • A portable building (with building permit?) was brought onto the property to serve as the dry commissary.

  • A metal walk-in freezer and a full size steel shipping container (building permits?), with roof-mounted compressors, were installed to store frozen products.

  • Various refrigerators to hold perishable ingredients for use in the mobile food preparation units (catering trucks).

  • Commercial delivery trucks from Crystal Dairy, Hostess Cakes, and Oroweat make regular deliveries to the property at 3:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, and other times.

  • The crowning achievement was to acquire an antique commercial icemaker to produce up to 400 pounds of ice a day for use on the ice-cooled trucks. (Not rated for household use and wrongly located, all the noise goes to the neighbors!)

  • In addition to all the commercial equipment, sheds, porches, and coverings (more building permits?) were constructed all around the property to protect their investments from the elements.

  • Plugging in the trucks at night, floodlights, strings of yard lights, and all the commercial appliances draw power... LOTS of power. Seven massive solar panel units were installed and wired into the property grid.

  • Solid wastes from the catering trucks were (and are) stored on-site in an open pickup truck until taken off-site to the refuse transfer station.

  • Liquid wastes from the catering trucks were (and are) stored on-site in barrels until taken off-site by a pumper truck.

    Please correct this unconscionable situation. This is a power assigned to the Planning Director by city law. I am not seeking the closure of the commissary, merely its relocation to a properly zoned location. This is not code enforcement's call; they will be obligated to carry out the decision, but they do not make the decision.

    Enclosed you will find a copy of the report, with footnoted attachments and other enclosures, received by Mr. Pinkerton on September 3rd. In addition are my notes of my October 29th meeting at City Hall with Mr. Meissner and Mr. Rey.

    Respectfully submitted by,

    Richard W. Behling

    Enclosures: Timeline Regarding 810 Fishback Street, with footnotes and attachments.
    Review of EHD Public Records.
    Commissary Operations Observed.
    Abatement Options and Special Conditions.
    Notes on Meeting with Mr. Meissner.

Let's see how much more time Mr. Nelson needs to wrap his head around the facts.

Actually, Mr. Nelson was just appointed as a big cheese with the Redevelopment Agency (RDA.) Since my neighborhood is blighted by an operating business, with business noise and abandoned business equipment littering one particular parcel, perhaps the RDA could redevelop that parcel back into a residence? Hmmm... our tax dollars at work.

(I hope he gets it done before the infamous O. Rex [spawn of the insatiable T. Rex] trundles himself down the hallway at the smell of new blood.)

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