News

Palo Alto looks to beef up code enforcement

City Council votes to add new officer position to 2016 budget

Blasting a gas-powered leaf blower is technically illegal in Palo Alto, but that offers little solace to residents like Bill Rosenberg, who routinely hears their defiant roars.

The city's ban on leaf blowers "gets no publicity and absolutely no enforcement," Rosenberg told the City Council on Monday. A few years ago, he discussed the topic with a police officer who confirmed that the law doesn't really get enforced, he said.

"I'm sympathetic," Rosenberg told the council. "The police do have more important things in town to do. On the other hand, we do have an ordinance and that should be enforced."

Part of the problem is that the city's code enforcement takes place largely on a complaint basis. The city has two code-enforcement officers who take care of all the complaints. Their workload has been steadily rising in recent years, as the number of code-enforcement cases went up from 473 in fiscal year 2005 to 609 in 2014, a 29 percent increase, according to city data. The number of re-inspections has risen from 796 to 1,398 during the same period, an uptick of 77 percent.

Now, the city is making a move to ramp up its code-enforcement operation by hiring a third code enforcer who would lead the team and expand the amount of work that the team could accomplish by 50 percent, according to a report from Planning Director Hillary Gitelman.

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The new position proved a tough sell during last month's budget hearings in front of the Finance Committee, which voted to remove it from the budget. But on Monday, the City Council reversed that decision and agreed to restore it.

The idea, council members said, is to make the code-enforcement team more proactive when it comes to leaf blowers, long lingering construction projects and new developments that fail to provide promised public benefits.

Councilman Greg Scharff, who sits on the Finance Committee, said the committee rejected the proposal because the existing two-person team already seems to have a handle on the existing backlog of code-related complaints.

"Obviously, it's better to have more capacity in the system," Scharff said. "What we heard as a committee was that we're getting the work done and that really didn't make for a strong argument for why we need a new code-enforcement person."

During the budget-review process, the committee also requested that City Manager James Keene identify three positions within the entire city organization that could be cut if the need arose to reduce staffing. The decision by Keene to include the new code-enforcement officer position as one of the three further validated the committee's decision, Scharff said.

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But Councilman Pat Burt argued that the committee's focus on the complaint backlog is "not a correct consideration." Historically, he said, code-enforcement officers have been proactive as well as reactive.

Today, many code violations take place but are not reported by residents. That doesn't mean the city shouldn't be enforcing them. For instance, the city has many codes that are proactively enforced, whether it's speeding drivers or cars parked illegally next to a red curb.

"We don't go after speeders only if someone dials 911," Burt said.

Councilwoman Liz Kniss, who sits on the Finance Committee but broke ranks and supported adding a third code enforcer, fully supported Burt's position.

"There are a number of areas in town where you see buildings that are half done, lots that are left open and a whole variety of issues," Kniss said. "And I think it's up to us to make sure that essentially we're keeping an eye on what's happening in our community."

Survey results suggest that the lack of proactive code enforcement has not gone unnoticed. In the 2014 National Citizens Survey, only 60 percent of the surveyed Palo Alto residents ranked the city's code-enforcement program as "good or excellent."

"It's an area where we think the Planning and Transportation Department can be better," Gitelman said.

The new position means the department will be able to give more attention to "planned-community" projects to make sure they have fulfilled their conditions of approval. It will also help the department respond to complaints as they come in, Gitelman said. Ultimately, all eight council members (Eric Filseth was absent) voted to restore the code-enforcement position.

The new code-enforcement officer is one of three new positions that Gitelman has requested for her department. The other two, a parking manager and a traffic manager, were approved by the committee and the council with no dissent. The only other department that is getting a substantial staffing increase is the Library Department, which will see 3.3 new full-time positions and 1.5 new part-time positions. The new positions will allow local libraries to expand their hours of operation by 14 percent, or 32 hours.

Other items that are included in the budget, but are expected to see major modifications in the coming months are the city's commitments to funding Project Safety Net, a collaborative that aims to promote youth well-being, and its allocation to the city's animal shelter.

Project Safety Net is preparing to switch to a new "collective impact" model with a more formal structure and a new director.

The city's budget also includes $250,000 for transition costs for a new operation model for animal services, which will likely involve a partnership with an existing nonprofit on the expansion of the city's small animal shelter.

The council tentatively approved the budget by an 8-0 vote and is scheduled to formally adopt it on June 15. The budget presented to the council includes a General Fund with $186.1 million in revenues, $185.5 million in expenditures and a surplus of $480,000 (the surplus was $600,000 but went down to $480,000 after the $120,000 code-enforcement position was inserted back into the budget).

The budget reflects both the city's thriving economy and its growing ambitions. Revenues have gone up by $14.1 million, or 8.3 percent, thanks in large part to big boosts from hotel and sales taxes. Expenditures, however, have risen just as fast, with the city significantly boosting its capital spending and adding new positions.

The new budget includes a five-year capital-improvement program that totals $543.9 million, 64 percent greater than the five-year program included in the current budget.

Vice Mayor Greg Schmid, who chairs the Finance Committee, called the city's capital investment the most noteworthy part of the new budget.

"We are really following a trend of reinvesting in ourselves for the long run and that's a notable triumph," Schmid said.

Yet the budget also reflects the growing cost of employee salaries and benefits, with the latter taking up an ever greater portion of the compensation package. This trend, Schmid said, prompted the committee to take a cautious stance on Keene's proposal to increase staffing by 13 positions.

"Every time we're hiring someone, we aren't just hiring someone for this year, we're making an investment in the long term and we have to make sure that we have revenue streams that can meet those obligations," Schmid said.

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Palo Alto looks to beef up code enforcement

City Council votes to add new officer position to 2016 budget

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Jun 9, 2015, 3:48 pm

Blasting a gas-powered leaf blower is technically illegal in Palo Alto, but that offers little solace to residents like Bill Rosenberg, who routinely hears their defiant roars.

The city's ban on leaf blowers "gets no publicity and absolutely no enforcement," Rosenberg told the City Council on Monday. A few years ago, he discussed the topic with a police officer who confirmed that the law doesn't really get enforced, he said.

"I'm sympathetic," Rosenberg told the council. "The police do have more important things in town to do. On the other hand, we do have an ordinance and that should be enforced."

Part of the problem is that the city's code enforcement takes place largely on a complaint basis. The city has two code-enforcement officers who take care of all the complaints. Their workload has been steadily rising in recent years, as the number of code-enforcement cases went up from 473 in fiscal year 2005 to 609 in 2014, a 29 percent increase, according to city data. The number of re-inspections has risen from 796 to 1,398 during the same period, an uptick of 77 percent.

Now, the city is making a move to ramp up its code-enforcement operation by hiring a third code enforcer who would lead the team and expand the amount of work that the team could accomplish by 50 percent, according to a report from Planning Director Hillary Gitelman.

The new position proved a tough sell during last month's budget hearings in front of the Finance Committee, which voted to remove it from the budget. But on Monday, the City Council reversed that decision and agreed to restore it.

The idea, council members said, is to make the code-enforcement team more proactive when it comes to leaf blowers, long lingering construction projects and new developments that fail to provide promised public benefits.

Councilman Greg Scharff, who sits on the Finance Committee, said the committee rejected the proposal because the existing two-person team already seems to have a handle on the existing backlog of code-related complaints.

"Obviously, it's better to have more capacity in the system," Scharff said. "What we heard as a committee was that we're getting the work done and that really didn't make for a strong argument for why we need a new code-enforcement person."

During the budget-review process, the committee also requested that City Manager James Keene identify three positions within the entire city organization that could be cut if the need arose to reduce staffing. The decision by Keene to include the new code-enforcement officer position as one of the three further validated the committee's decision, Scharff said.

But Councilman Pat Burt argued that the committee's focus on the complaint backlog is "not a correct consideration." Historically, he said, code-enforcement officers have been proactive as well as reactive.

Today, many code violations take place but are not reported by residents. That doesn't mean the city shouldn't be enforcing them. For instance, the city has many codes that are proactively enforced, whether it's speeding drivers or cars parked illegally next to a red curb.

"We don't go after speeders only if someone dials 911," Burt said.

Councilwoman Liz Kniss, who sits on the Finance Committee but broke ranks and supported adding a third code enforcer, fully supported Burt's position.

"There are a number of areas in town where you see buildings that are half done, lots that are left open and a whole variety of issues," Kniss said. "And I think it's up to us to make sure that essentially we're keeping an eye on what's happening in our community."

Survey results suggest that the lack of proactive code enforcement has not gone unnoticed. In the 2014 National Citizens Survey, only 60 percent of the surveyed Palo Alto residents ranked the city's code-enforcement program as "good or excellent."

"It's an area where we think the Planning and Transportation Department can be better," Gitelman said.

The new position means the department will be able to give more attention to "planned-community" projects to make sure they have fulfilled their conditions of approval. It will also help the department respond to complaints as they come in, Gitelman said. Ultimately, all eight council members (Eric Filseth was absent) voted to restore the code-enforcement position.

The new code-enforcement officer is one of three new positions that Gitelman has requested for her department. The other two, a parking manager and a traffic manager, were approved by the committee and the council with no dissent. The only other department that is getting a substantial staffing increase is the Library Department, which will see 3.3 new full-time positions and 1.5 new part-time positions. The new positions will allow local libraries to expand their hours of operation by 14 percent, or 32 hours.

Other items that are included in the budget, but are expected to see major modifications in the coming months are the city's commitments to funding Project Safety Net, a collaborative that aims to promote youth well-being, and its allocation to the city's animal shelter.

Project Safety Net is preparing to switch to a new "collective impact" model with a more formal structure and a new director.

The city's budget also includes $250,000 for transition costs for a new operation model for animal services, which will likely involve a partnership with an existing nonprofit on the expansion of the city's small animal shelter.

The council tentatively approved the budget by an 8-0 vote and is scheduled to formally adopt it on June 15. The budget presented to the council includes a General Fund with $186.1 million in revenues, $185.5 million in expenditures and a surplus of $480,000 (the surplus was $600,000 but went down to $480,000 after the $120,000 code-enforcement position was inserted back into the budget).

The budget reflects both the city's thriving economy and its growing ambitions. Revenues have gone up by $14.1 million, or 8.3 percent, thanks in large part to big boosts from hotel and sales taxes. Expenditures, however, have risen just as fast, with the city significantly boosting its capital spending and adding new positions.

The new budget includes a five-year capital-improvement program that totals $543.9 million, 64 percent greater than the five-year program included in the current budget.

Vice Mayor Greg Schmid, who chairs the Finance Committee, called the city's capital investment the most noteworthy part of the new budget.

"We are really following a trend of reinvesting in ourselves for the long run and that's a notable triumph," Schmid said.

Yet the budget also reflects the growing cost of employee salaries and benefits, with the latter taking up an ever greater portion of the compensation package. This trend, Schmid said, prompted the committee to take a cautious stance on Keene's proposal to increase staffing by 13 positions.

"Every time we're hiring someone, we aren't just hiring someone for this year, we're making an investment in the long term and we have to make sure that we have revenue streams that can meet those obligations," Schmid said.

Comments

Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:15 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:15 pm
14 people like this

How many reminder notices has city hall sent to the Bay Area Gardeners Association? None? Well... .


Greg
Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:21 pm
Greg, Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:21 pm
10 people like this

Doesn't our council know the leaf blower ordinance is enforced by the police department? How does that 3rd position make sense of noise is handled by police? Am I missing something?


Paco
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:36 pm
Paco, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:36 pm
32 people like this

City of Palo Alto seems to be hiring more managers but no workers. It's time for city manager Keene to move on and take all the unemployed buddies of his,who he hired as managers ,with him. Why doesn't the Palo Alto Weekly do a investigative report on the number of new management positions created by Keene during his reign? We don't need more paper shufflers, we need workers!


misnomer
Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:41 pm
misnomer, Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:41 pm
4 people like this

The article goes well beyond the title which should read "staffing changes included in the new budget."


Neighbor
Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:48 pm
Neighbor, Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:48 pm
24 people like this

Can't say that the leaf blowers annoy me much - at least the gardeners are gone quickly.

I get much more noise from neighbors leaving their barking dogs outdoors all day, utilities crews using chainsaws and chipping machines for hours on end fairly regularly, noise from garbage trucks and others backing up, and lawnmowers, to name but a few.

Seriously folks, we live in suburbia. Noise is a fact of life.


Sally-Ann Rudd
Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:48 pm
Sally-Ann Rudd, Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:48 pm
20 people like this

Seems that with the massive amount of new construction in Palo Alto a third code enforcement officer would be a no-brainer.


Observer
Southgate
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:03 pm
Observer, Southgate
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:03 pm
13 people like this

Leaf blowers are just the violation that was brought up last night. There are many many violations of codes that aren't enforced. Like Public benefits promised in return for PC zoning. Too many to mention.

It was nice to see Gregg Scharff trying every excuse again and again to get rid of the Code Enforcement hire. Staff is too busy etc.

The Born Again Residentialist has returned to his true values, supporting developer and real estate special interests. Fellow realestate lawyer Berman supports him no matter how far out Scharff goes.


common sense
Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:20 pm
common sense, Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:20 pm
8 people like this

The code enforcement officers should have as part of their workload the enforcement of the benefits that were suppose to a part of all the previous PC zoning changes


neighbor
Greenmeadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:34 pm
neighbor, Greenmeadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:34 pm
9 people like this

Just had a gas leaf blower creating noise once again right behind my house. This is the second time I've talked to the gardner, politely requesting they follow local laws. He knows, but both times acted like he'd never heard of a code regarding gas blowers. I also said politely that this had to be my last request -- the next would be a call to the city. Gas blowers are not only noisy, but incredibly polluting as well.

As for barking dogs, I am amazed by the rudeness of some neighbors, but appreciate the many who train their dogs and provide adequate attention. A few barks don't bother me, but excessive, prolonged barking is not ok, especially early morning or late night. If a dog barks for hours, I would call animal control because something could be very, very wrong -- it would leave me concerned for the safety of the dog and/or its owner (especially senior residents living alone).


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:39 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:39 pm
28 people like this

So they want a traffic manager? Will that help get them to fix the Town & Country light? School's out and again, it's still not synchronized.

We're approaching 10 years. That's a decade.


DT PA
Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:48 pm
DT PA, Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:48 pm
20 people like this

And what about the gardner who comes early Sunday morning with the blower. I could care less about a leaf blower at 11 on a week day but do not enjoy waking up to one Sunday am.


Ellen
College Terrace
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:12 pm
Ellen, College Terrace
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:12 pm
8 people like this

A third enforcement officer is ridiculous. I am surrounded by "gardeners" blowing and mowing and making an incredible amount of noise, dust, and pollution. I've asked them to go electric, but they say it is too expensive. I've offered to let them use my electricity, but they say electric is too slow. Their equipment is getting older and noisier. I've asked the City to enforce the regulations - they say they will, but nothing changes.

I guess it's time to encourage neighbors to COMPLAIN.


PA resident
Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:24 pm
PA resident, Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:24 pm
13 people like this

[Post removed.]


Cat Mom Leonorilda
Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:37 pm
Cat Mom Leonorilda, Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:37 pm
10 people like this

The noise from gas blowers lasts about an hour, if that much. The noise from for-profit construction profiting developers and not neighbors lasts all day long from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. If someone is unfortunate enough to be in earshot of a construction project, their days are ruined for many months at a time. Come on folks, let's put this in perspective.


pls better this time
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:43 pm
pls better this time, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:43 pm
9 people like this

[Post removed.]


Kazu
Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:20 pm
Kazu, Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:20 pm
10 people like this

"Blasting an gas-powered leaf blower is technically illegal in Palo Alto..."

A law that is not enforced effectively does not exist. The ban of gas powered leaf blowers was routinely ignored right from the start. Why can't the landscapers used rakes and brooms instead?


musical
Palo Verde
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:34 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:34 pm
2 people like this

72-hour on-street parking rule?


What DO they do?
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:07 pm
What DO they do?, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:07 pm
11 people like this

Can someone tell me what code enforcement the two existing officers actually do? I mean, has anyone known them to do anything?

Having dealt with this office personally, all we got were repeated, "we've notified <the offending party> and they promise to do better" emails. And then Ms. Gitelmann told us to call the police instead.

Betting a third officer won't change that at all.


Resident
Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:10 pm
Resident, Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:10 pm
9 people like this

So what you are telling us is that the first call to order is to right a violation against the city workers. Just the other day we witnessed a worker maintaining the landscaped median on Oregon Expressway using an electric leaf-blower plugged into a gasoline powered generator.

Honestly,if a tenth of the residents had to rake the leaves themselves, the ordinance against leaf-blowers would be removed.Come on people get out of your houses during the day and stop whining.


Shari
University South
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:11 pm
Shari, University South
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:11 pm
17 people like this

Leaf blowers, dogs off leash, smoking downtown and in parks, sit and lie ordinance, riding bikes on the sidewalk on University Ave, fences around trees up for years…….all going on daily and need to be enforced.

I'm glad the city is hiring another code enforcement officer because the last time I called about a fence that has been around a tree for at least 5 years the lady on the phone said that she and one other person are the only code enforcement officers and they can't handle it all. They never got back to me because it was low priority and the fence is still up around the tree and the litter and debris has been collecting inside the fence for years!


Shari
University South
on Jun 9, 2015 at 11:18 pm
Shari, University South
on Jun 9, 2015 at 11:18 pm
14 people like this

PA Resident - yes, it was Judy Glaes and she wasn't very friendly. I was shocked how she conducted herself on the phone. She was complaining about the fact that there are only two code enforcement officers for the whole city. So, maybe it's a good thing that we will hire another officer.


Crescent Park Dad
Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:09 am
Crescent Park Dad, Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:09 am
5 people like this

@ online name. I agree that the TC / Paly lights are way overdue for fixing. However, the TC lights were installed 6 years ago (2009), not nearly 10 as you stated.


PA mom
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 1:15 am
PA mom, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jun 10, 2015 at 1:15 am
11 people like this

Resident and others,

it's not helpful to tell people who are bothered by gas-powered leaf blowers to just stop being bothered by them. I work at home, so just "get out of your houses during the day" isn't an option. Not only does the prolonged high-decible noise interfere with workers' concentration and night workers' sleep, but they are a major cause o air pollution and high consumers of fossil fuels. Communities who strive to reduce their carbon footprints ban them. It's about time Palo Alto enforces the ban again and I commend the city counsel for doing so.

Thank you PACC members for voting for bringing back enforcement.


Dave Hoffman
Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 8:59 am
Dave Hoffman, Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 8:59 am
15 people like this

There are so many quality-of-life code violations of city regulations that are on the books but almost never enforced, it drives me crazy! Whether it's the gas-powered leaf-blowers, bikes riding on University Avenue/Cal Train underpass, dogs off-leash, speeding (when's the last time you saw anyone enforcing the speed limit on Embarcadero or Middlefield?), not to mention the watering restrictions -- there are many houses in my neighborhood with lush green lawns despite the restrictions implemented weeks ago. I'd really like the city to take a break from approving new developments, renovations, and new residential construction to enforce some of these regulations.


Anciana
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2015 at 11:22 am
Anciana, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2015 at 11:22 am
5 people like this

About the gas leaf blowers. I speak Spanish, so I talk to the gardeners I see when I walk in my neighborhood. They are unfailingly polite, they stop using the blower so I can pass by without being subjected to the loud noise and the bad smell, but they do know -- the many workers I've spoken to -- that the gas-powered blowers are illegal in Palo Alto. But they are faster and more convenient, so the gardeners continue to use them knowing that the rule against the practice will not be enforced.


Scofflaws
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2015 at 11:38 am
Scofflaws, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2015 at 11:38 am
12 people like this

The police need to take stop sign runners seriously. It is a HUGE problem on ALL of the off streets off Bryant. It endangers school kids on bikes as well as pedestrians and joggers.


Nat
Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 11:46 am
Nat, Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 11:46 am
7 people like this

Judy Glaes has responded to every complaint I have made and has seen the job through. And this is over a period of years. I don't understand PA Resident's allegation that she doesn't do her job.

Leaf blower violations are handled by police and not code enforcers.
There used to be a special worker just for complaints who asked for license plate numbers and names on trucks and looked up who the gardener was. I think he was part of the police dept. but his job was removed. Now the police only want to know the address and if they have time, will check out the complaint. A warning is given only if the police catch the violator in the act.


mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:09 pm
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:09 pm
5 people like this

The leaf blower ordinance has never been enforced. The chief of police at the time refused to enforce it, and the council just went along with her. Only a negligee number of gardeners use electric blowers. The gardeners en mass behave as if the ordinance doesn't exist.


neighbor
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:16 pm
neighbor, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:16 pm
5 people like this

to Anciana,
Despite your defense of the gardeners, some of us have different experiences, quite negative in fact. They know the rules but don't follow them. It is time for the City of Palo Alto to enforce its laws/rules and I don't care if its the police or code enforcement.
Also many times when I am driving down a street I see gardeners blowing leaves, debris, dirt INTO the street directly on passing cars like mine. It is not appreciated by us drivers, and veering into the opposite lane is a reaction that some drivers do, endangering the rest of us. I don't but resent that my freshly washed car is now covered in dirt. They should blow into a small pile OR rake and pick up the staff as I myself do in my own yard. Merely blowing it all into the street is not helpful and in fact obnoxious.
Also, it is incredible, but in my neighborhood there are three different gardeners that attend homes on SATURDAY. Technically it may be legal, but they have really loud leaf blowers and since there are on the street behind me I can't openly see them to go discuss this with them. I guess the homeowners don't care. Most of the rest of residents who use gardeners have them come Monday - Friday during business hours. However, we have our Saturdays interrupted and disturbed by these three gardeners (I assume different because the homes are not cared for in sequence, there is a time gap). I guess the homeowners are out (but some us like to rest on Saturdays at home...)


Kazu
Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:21 pm
Kazu, Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:21 pm
1 person likes this

Our city government is certainly dysfunctional. Who elects these people anyways? Perhaps a recall election would help our elected officials take things seriously.


What DO they do?
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:27 pm
What DO they do?, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:27 pm
5 people like this

I completely agree with neighbor - I find it obnoxious that people have their gardeners come on Saturday, when most people want to relax and enjoy their yards. I would love to see an ordinance that forbid any kind of equipment on Saturdays, just as we now have for Sundays.

Back to the original article though, which was not about leaf blowers, if the code enforcement officers don't enforce ordinances or conditional use permits, what DO they do? What work have they been doing that has them so over-worked that we need to hire another (and a manager at that)?


Kazu
Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:31 pm
Kazu, Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:31 pm
2 people like this

@Scofflaws wrote:

"The police need to take stop sign runners seriously. It is a HUGE problem on ALL of the off streets off Bryant. It endangers school kids on bikes as well as pedestrians and joggers."

And while they are at it, they can cite all the jaywalkers as well.

@PA mom wrote:

"Thank you PACC members for voting for bringing back enforcement."

What enforcement? Have you read the posts in this thread? There is little to no code enforcement. The PACC needs to start doing their job better. If the last 30 years are any indication, they won't. If that is the case, we really will need to just deal with it. Thank goodness for car washes! Nothing coats a vehicle with dust and dirt like a leaf blower gone bad.


Mike-Crescent Park
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 2:54 pm
Mike-Crescent Park, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jun 10, 2015 at 2:54 pm
5 people like this

It would not surprise me if the non enforcement of laws like the leaf blower regulation end up encouraging ignoring of other laws. Treatment of our streets and neighborhoods by non residents is not getting better. Trash thrown from cars, long term street parking for East Palo Alto, high speed limit commuter short cuts, etc. sort of like the broken windows enforcement issue in NYC.

As a resident I drive through our neighborhoods daily, especially my own Crescent Park. I also bike over to the baylands through Crescent Park and Duvenek St Francis 2-3 times a week. Every single day during any daylight hour I witness multiple incidents of gas leaf blower use. A while back I stopped and asked a few gardeners if they knew it's illegal. I got everything from " I don't understand" to shrugs of yeah but so what. Nobody said they would change. My own gardner of many years would use a gas blower if I hadn't asked them many times to use electric. There is no downside for any of these gardeners. Before most at least bothered to use the lower noise models but now I'm encountering more of the super loud models. I guess they don't expect to be caught.

This article is on code enforcement for laws on the books. But the real damage from leaf blowers of any kind is the absolutely huge amount of dust, dirt and debris blown into our air every day. Mothers would be appalled if they were aware what their kids breath in Palo Alto. My MD neighbor sent me an article on leaf mold and resulting breathing difficulties- and its blown into the air by leaf blowers daily. As the drought persists and we move into the dry season the problem gets worse. Look at the surface of any outdoor object at your home and you will find its coated with a lot of fine dust in just a few days. The first rains each fall bring down a shower of black muck from blower tree leaves coated by blower dust clouds onto anything below. It's especially obvious on the paint and windows of parked cars but anything under trees gets it. So even if you are not home during the day and not bothered by the noise, leaf blowers are still doing a number on you and your family.


mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 10, 2015 at 3:18 pm
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jun 10, 2015 at 3:18 pm
2 people like this

I speak Spanish too and all the gardeners I have talked to told me the same thing:they know they will never be cited, so they will continue to use gas leaf blowers. Even in the extremely unlikely event they are cited, and none of them know even one gardener who has been cited, the fine is very small and doesn't scare them. As to the argument that gas blowers are faster and more convenient, well, so is running a red light when you are in a hurry. Since when do we obey only the laws that don't inconvenient us?

The residents who allow their gardeners to use gas blowers should do a little research on the terrible pollution and health hazards those thing create and cause. Stop being so selfish.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 3:57 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 3:57 pm
Like this comment

"The residents who allow their gardeners to use gas blowers should do a little research on the terrible pollution and health hazards those thing create and cause. Stop being so selfish."

No, they need to do a little research on the terrible pollution and health hazards those things create and cause TO THEMSELVES, even if they're not home when the blowers are beibg used, then act in their selfish best interest.


Look South for the Answer
Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 4:06 pm
Look South for the Answer, Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 4:06 pm
7 people like this

The city of Santa Monica had a similar ineffectual leaf blower law. They turned it around by switching the fine from the gardener to the homeowner. No one wants to punish the poor struggling gardeners, but start laying the fines on the homeowners, and things will change.

The second piece that made it work was allowing anyone to submit a violation to the city via iPhone app. Snap a photo of the leaf blower, submit to the city, and a violation letter shows up a couple days later. Warning the first time, then escalating fines. No additional code enforcement personnel needed.


Annie
Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 4:27 pm
Annie, Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 4:27 pm
1 person likes this

While we're on the topic of code enforcement, what about keeping cars and construction fences off the sidewalks? There are so many construction fence footings sticking into the sidewalks all over midtown. They are a terrible trip hazard.

The rolled curbs here make it difficult to know where to park, but really people, the sidewalk is for pedestrians. Park your car in the street!


still waiting
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2015 at 6:33 pm
still waiting, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2015 at 6:33 pm
Like this comment

The City doesn't even enforce existing ordinances and is lacking other
ordinances needed to prevent hoarding of trash and storing of garbage
cans in front yards. So it is not just a staffing issue, it's a policy
response that is required. Where is the City Council? Still waiting.


Resident
Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 7:54 pm
Resident, Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 7:54 pm
1 person likes this

[Post removed.]


Johnny
Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 8:22 pm
Johnny, Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 8:22 pm
2 people like this

[Post removed.]


musical
Palo Verde
on Jun 10, 2015 at 10:26 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Jun 10, 2015 at 10:26 pm
1 person likes this

@still waiting -- that's not trash in my front yard, it's "art."


Resident
Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 10:47 pm
Resident, Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 10:47 pm
Like this comment

@ Musical

So, what you are saying, is that you would not have a problem, if they cleaned up their "art" using gas-powered equipment?


Marie
Registered user
Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 11:51 pm
Marie, Midtown
Registered user
on Jun 10, 2015 at 11:51 pm
1 person likes this

One problem for code enforcement officers is that there are no penalties for code violations.

A couple years back, my neighbor put up a six foot fence next to the sidewalk, following the example of his other neighbor, which is against code. High fences next to the sidewalk make it harder to exit safely as well as making the neighborhood look like a fortress. Check out how Loma Verde looks between Alma and Waverley.

My code enforcement officer was polite and effective in having the fence next to me reduced to the proper height, probably because the house was in escrow and the new owner was unwilling to buy a house that knowingly violated the city code. Sadly, two years later, his neighbor's fence is still the same and I have not been able to find out whether he has a valid variance or just refuses to comply, given there is no penalty.

The code enforcement officer for my neighborhood has had some success in having neighbors whose landscaping blocks the sidewalk, trim their bushes. But there are still more that do not. When you combine cars parked on sidewalks with rolled curbs with bushes blocking half the sidewalk, sidewalks become impassable. While this is uncommon, it is not rare.

I welcome a third code enforcement officer.

OTHER POSSIBLE REMEDIES:
* Fines for persistent violators.
* A list of outstanding notices of code violation on the cities website by owner
* Notification to realtors of outstanding code violations by property so they will be required to notify prospective purchasers of the violations.


Hmmm...
Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2015 at 7:59 am
Hmmm..., Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2015 at 7:59 am
3 people like this

I always wondered when I saw the gardeners with the electric leaf blowers plugged into a gas generator on wheels that is pulled behind them. You can see then maintaining the landscaping in front of City hall several mornings each week. Are the gas generators quieter or more fuel efficient than just using a gas leaf blower?


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2015 at 8:06 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2015 at 8:06 am
3 people like this

8.00 am Thursday morning. Noise from tree trimmers' chain saws which we had most of yesterday in a neighbor's yard, started on time today! I expect the chipper will start again soon.

Just as noisy. Just as messy and polluting. Just as annoying. How come gas blowers are against the law because of noise when chain saws and chippers are even more annoying and last much longer!!!!!!


Ventura OG
Ventura
on Jun 11, 2015 at 11:00 am
Ventura OG, Ventura
on Jun 11, 2015 at 11:00 am
1 person likes this

@Hmmm... No, but they are in compliance with the regulations the city currently has in place.


Resident
Midtown
on Jun 11, 2015 at 7:39 pm
Resident, Midtown
on Jun 11, 2015 at 7:39 pm
2 people like this

@ What DO they do?

I completely agree with neighbor - I find it obnoxious that people have their gardeners come on Saturday, when most people want to relax and enjoy their yards. I would love to see an ordinance that forbid any kind of equipment on Saturdays, just as we now have for Sundays.

[Portion removed.]


What DO they do?
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2015 at 8:34 pm
What DO they do?, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2015 at 8:34 pm
Like this comment

[Post removed.]


Resident
Midtown
on Jun 11, 2015 at 10:42 pm
Resident, Midtown
on Jun 11, 2015 at 10:42 pm
2 people like this

@ What DO they do

Darn, I missed your post! I would like to move to Atherton, problem is I just can not afford it!


stanhutchings
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2015 at 10:11 am
stanhutchings, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jul 7, 2015 at 10:11 am
1 person likes this

Walking down the sidewalk on Rinconada Avenue with my granddaughter, we were enjoying the lovely fragrance of blooming star jasmine. Suddenly our noses were insulted by the combustion products of a gasoline powered leaf blower, our ears were assaulted by the screeching whine of the blower, and our eyes were watering from the dust and debris blown about.
There is no reason for gasoline powered blowers in residential neighborhoods. In addition, they have been against the law for many years now. Electric blowers are bad enough, they kick up a cloud of dust, debris, spores, pollen, etc. and have an annoying sound. We have asked our gardener to use the electric blower only for large flat areas: the driveway and the brick patio. We may ask him to use a rake or broom in the future.
Perhaps it is time to levy a fine against the home owner whose yard is blown by a gasoline powered blower. With an increase for each subsequent violation. This should quickly put an end to gasoline powered blowers, or else provide the city with another revenue stream.
Regards,
Stan Hutchings
285 Rinconada Avenue


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2015 at 1:12 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2015 at 1:12 pm
1 person likes this

To whoever wanted to ban gardeners from working Saturdays as well as Sundays.

Well, you may have gardeners, but in this house it is those who work who spend part of their weekends mowing the lawn and doing yard work. Not everyone in Palo Alto has money or the inclination to do things that are easily done by the homeowners at the weekend. Some of us actually find it relaxing to do our own gardening. When would you prefer us to do it, 9.00 pm after we have come home from a long day at work?


Maman
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2015 at 2:09 pm
Maman , Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2015 at 2:09 pm
7 people like this

What about the illegal drinking (often in front of small children ) at the neighborhood parks?

Other than at Rinconada, there has been no enforcement of the non-drinking code.

Yesterday at Bowden Park there was a trash can filled with whiskey, tequila, rum and vodka bottles. Children were pulling the bottles out of the can and sometimes breaking them, a hazard in itself.


Craig Laughton
College Terrace
on Jul 7, 2015 at 2:13 pm
Craig Laughton, College Terrace
on Jul 7, 2015 at 2:13 pm
Like this comment

>Part of the problem is that the city's code enforcement takes place largely on a complaint basis.

No that is nearly the FULL problem. "Complaint based" means that no enforcement will happen (nor is it expected to be enforced). If our PACC truly wanted to solve this problem with gas-powered blowers, it would simply have our police officers ticket the scofflaws when they see them...no excuses. Even better would be to ticket (fine) the home owners AND the gardener. The problem would disappear overnight, and we would not need another hire.


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