What if this was in your neighborhood?
One glance at the photo (below) of a house in Arden Arcade and you can readily see something is wrong. If you saw this house out your living room window, would you appreciate the view? What if you were selling a house - maybe your own- nearby. Would you be concerned about the impact on potential buyers? According to Sacramento County, the presence of thigh-high weeds and dead or diseased decorative landscaping is not just unsightly, it can be a fire hazard, have the potential for the harborage of rats and vermin, or substantially detract from the aesthetic and property values of neighboring properties. If this was in your neighborhood, would you call Code Enforcement or use the 311-Connect App? Imagine the prompt action that would occur if this was in our County Supervisor’s neighborhood. Does your neighborhood get that kind of responsiveness? Or has it been your experience that doing so often just gets an impersonal “thank you for letting us know” response? Perhaps you would not report the problem because you know the owner is elderly, ill or otherwise impaired. If so, would you be content to have the situation continue? Is there a neighborhood association or group of kindly neighbors you could work with to help that owner?
Sacramento County’s unincorporated area is enormous, but its code enforcement staff is not. The workload is massive: County Code Enforcement people had to respond to over 6,000 complaints last year. Perhaps that is why the County’s code enforcement program is so impersonal and why it does not tell people about its code enforcement staff. Sacramento County’s approach is to explain the rules and send notices in response to complaints. The Code Enforcement program is located within the County’s Development and Code Services Department, so that that, “all development is consistent with State Law and Building Codes”. Penalty fees are handled through the Department of Revenue Recovery. It is a regulatory arrangement that is vulnerable to buck-passing and can feel heavy-handed. By contrast, the code enforcement program in Rancho Cordova is within the Neighborhood Services Department. It presents itself as being about neighborhoods for contented people, with a mission to “promote and maintain a safe and desirable living and working environment”. Rancho Cordova’s approach has a distinct customer service feel; there is even a “Meet Our Staff” page on the city’s web site.
Look at the photo and ask yourself if the County’s approach works or if another way would get different results.