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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Code Compliance Class in GNW...

Tuesday evening, my wife and I made the short trip down to the lodge of the Great Northwest where we were joined by a dozen fellow residents eager to learn about the ins and outs of Code Compliance. I know, we live exciting lives now that our kids are grown.The event was hosted by our Deed Restrictions Architectural Control Officer (DRACO) Jose Morlett and he arranged for a City of San Antonio Code Compliance Supervisor, John Kelly, from Housing & Neighborhood Services to provide us with an informative and interactive briefing.

During the meeting, I took note of a handful of items that may be of interest to local readers.

The first thing that I was not aware of - and I am usually up on these types of things - is that you can report code violations directly to the city via the Internet. Is your neighbor growing chickens in the back yard? Get on the City's 3-1-1 page and click on the Code Compliance page and you can turn them in without even mentioning your name. How convenient is that? Of course, you can also just dial 3-1-1 on your phone and the dispatchers can make a report.

Here is another thing I was not aware of: we only have three Code Compliance officers covering the portion of District 6 from Loop 410, north. That is a big area friends, and the officers have loads of complaints to follow-up on. And given our record number of 100+ degree days, the officers are only in the field for about six hours a day.

The Code Compliance folks look for a host of issues such as dead cars parked in your yard, trashy yards (Officer Kelly showed pictures - they were impressive) and things that are, well, not compliant with city code. Did you know that you cannot park a car on the grass in your front or side yard? Did you know that if the vehicle in your driveway is not capable of starting and moving at least five feet to the front and five feet to the rear, they will have it hauled away to Pick-n-Pull and demolished? No trip to the impound lot, your little weekend project goes strait to the crusher! And, there is no cash for your clunker involved.

I was not aware of the fact that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act is going to create some havoc for folks fairly soon. The ADA requires that the sidewalk right of way be at least 36" unobstructed. This came up when I asked Officer Kelly about people being cited for having a basketball hoop on their sidewalk yet they can have a big huge cement decorative mailbox placed squarely over the sidewalk. Turns out, the ADA folks are going to attempt to get the city (and communities everywhere) to enforce the 36" right of way. So what do you do if you have a mailbox mounted on your sidewalk? I'd suggest you start thinking about building a 36" sidewalk around it. One idea the city has is to push for the Post Office to install more of those community type mailboxes and make home owners remove the mailboxes on their sidewalk. I don't like that option one bit! We'll see what happens.

Of course, one of my big complaints is graffiti and especially businesses that simply ignore it when they have been tagged. Officer Kelly reminded us that under current city code, as long as the business is occupied, they cannot force the business owner to cover the graffiti. If the business is vacant, they can force the owner to cover it.

I personally would like to see more customers of businesses exercise their privileged as customers and ask the owner to cover it up. Simply put, in this day and age, part of the cost of doing business is maintaining your storefront. If a patron got sick and barfed in the middle of HEB, would you continue to shop there if they refused to clean it up? Why then would you do business at a gas station or video store that won't take the time to clean up vulgar tags sprayed across the front of their building?
Officer Kelly had lots of really good information and answered questions from the audience, often fielding questions from residents who were slightly perturbed (I'm putting it mildly) about perceived inaction by his department. What we found though was that in some cases, action was taken, people were cited or perhaps went to court, and the judge basically let the violators off easy. But thankfully, Officer Kelly passed out his card and took notes, street addresses and made a list of violations he would personally look into.I have always found that by attending these types of meetings, you can really get straight to the person who can help you out, a whole lot easier than counting on a voice at the end of the phone. I hope that the folks who came to the meeting with complaints got the help they deserve.After Officer Kelly gave his talk, DRACO Jose Morlett expanded on several areas and how the Deed Restrictions differ from the City Code, and likewise how they are handled. I urge you to read the next issue of Passages where Jose will have a full article on many of his efforts to better enforce some of the crazy things you see as you drive around the area.

Got any chickens living near you? Don't forget to check out the Code Compliance web page and learn more about what is allowed and what isn't. And if you have a problem with a neighbor parking in the yard, give Jose a call.


Rich said...

What's up with the chickens? I thought I recently read in the paper that city residents could have "up to 3" chickie doodles in their yards? As a teenager I worked in a chicken house with thousands of those nasty birds...so I won't be having any around my place, other than in my fridge and on the grill.

Dave said...

I think some people move to Texas and just assume that every house is a ranch or a farm. So even though they have a back yard only 30 feet deep or so, they want to raise chickens, eat fresh eggs and milk their chihuahua every morning.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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