By Jim Boren | FresnoBeeHive.com
Fresno’s code enforcement practice for too long has relied on an aggressive “drive-by” approach that is aimed at solving neighborhood problems by writing tickets for code violations — many of them of the trivial variety. This style has angered many residents who view code enforcers as enemies instead protectors of neighborhoods.
The code enforcers have a difficult job. They play an important role in maintaining healthy neighborhoods, which can quickly go downhill if a few residents turn their yards into garbage dumps. They do it by enforcing the Municipal Code, which lays out many things that residents can and cannot do on their property.
For example, your backyard and side fence can’t be more than six feet high and a front-yard fence can’t be more than three feet high. It’s illegal to have rabbits, ducks, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, cows, and horses in residential areas. It’s also a public nuisance to have rubbish or junk on your property, including piles of scrap metal, lumber, concrete, asphalt, tin cans and tires.
As you can see, there’s a lot of room for interpretation, and an aggressive code enforcer can see junk where you see valuable items being stored.
Mayor Ashley Swearengin wants to change the code enforcement style. Part of the reason is the city budget deficit means that every department must use its resources better, and part of it is an attempt to tone down the shoot-from-the-hip-style of the code enforcement division.
The recent dustup over where food trucks can operate on city streets also plays a role in the proposed changes. That issue hit City Hall after city staffers began citing owners of the Dusty Buns Bistro Bus for selling food on Wishon Avenue in the Tower District. Dusty Buns owners have a huge following and they were very vocal at City Hall.
In the next few days, City Manager Mark Scott is scheduled to release a code enforcement plan outlining a new approach to code enforcement. The “drive-by” style is reportedly out, and code enforcers will be given a specific geographic area to serve to “build partnerships” with neighborhoods.
That sounds much more workable.
To read the city’s current version of code enforcement, click here. You’ll get the mission statement, a list of common code violations and much more.