Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fire Drill at the Health Department

Following up on my second public records request to the Environmental Health Department (EHD), the program coordinator and I played “telephone/vacation tag” for a few weeks before we spoke.

My intent with this visit was to copy the entire contents of the five file folders (three inactive trucks, one active truck, and one active commissary) and review everything at home.

At 10:00 a.m. on the morning of December 10th I was at the EHD copier. At 10:05 a.m. the fire alarm went off and all employees and visitors had to evacuate the building and walk three or four blocks to the designated assembly site at a parking lot under the cross-town freeway. It was NOT a drill because a fire truck responded to the alarm. The story I heard was that someone had burned something in the break room microwave. Of course, out in the cold, I had to give the program coordinator a ribbing by accusing him of doing anything to avoid giving me access to the records. I did finish copying the files after the all clear was given.

That night I went through each page, individually, and teased its story out and into my notes. I was heartened to find that the pages I obtained last August to create the “Timeline” were sufficient to prove my “expansion” argument, but more pleased with creating a chart, with ALL the intervening data, that made for a compelling visual.

The chart depicts the three critical dates in 1993 and 1994 that prove TLC Catering both enlarged AND expanded its business use of the property AFTER being explicitly told the prohibition against enlargement or expansion in the Cantu letter. The result was well worth the second visit to EHD (even with parking fees, copying fees, fire drill, etc.) and the night of analysis and charting. Now, when the right time comes to present the case, I won't have to "spell it out" because I've "drawn them a picture."

My problems are: 1) I have been crediting City of Manteca officials with far too much ability to understand law and read written words; 2) expecting the City of Manteca to know what's in their files, or even to locate them, and to be even remotely helpful in aiding a thorough investigation; 3) the EHD (the grandmother) and the City of Manteca (the grandfather) do not combine their separate dealings with TLC Catering (the spoiled, manipulative child) in order to operate from "the big picture."

Anyway, next steps involve receiving the last-requested public records from Manteca, interleaving already received building permit information into my "Timeline," requesting DMV records for license plates on certain catering trucks and the commissary trailer, and searching within Manteca's 1986 annexation records to verify any "grandfathered" levels of legal but non-conforming use.

(Damn! I'll miss that icemaker when it's gone!...)


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