Responding to complaints from residents, a team of six officers from Contra Costa County Code Enforcement swept into the Town of Discovery Bay last month and issued hundreds of notices for county ordinance violations.
There also were complaints about the improper storage of boats, trailers and recreational vehicles (RV), the code enforcement team issued a notice to comply to 325 residents.
“When we issue the notice to comply, it allows the property owner or the tenant to come into compliance by either removing the boat or RV from the driveway; screening the boat behind a fence or taking it to an (offsite) storage place to store it there,” said Joe Losado, managing director of county code enforcement. “They have 10 days to do that. If they don’t do that after 10 days, then we can go out and issue administrative fines. Our whole goal is to gain voluntary compliance. If somebody calls up and says they need an additional 10 days, we generally allow that.”
In 2002, the county updated its Boat and Trailer Ordinance to require that vessels, trailers and RVs be hidden from view from a public roadway. The ordinance requires that boats – along with RVs, mobile homes and travel trailers of any type – be kept in a garage or moved to a side yard behind a fence or foliage that hides a minimum of 90% of the boat, trailer or RV from view. According to the county, covering the vehicle with a tarp or plastic sheeting is not considered adequate covering. The code also prohibits the use of these vehicles for living or sleeping.
The county also notes that compliance with this ordinance can rarely be achieved when the vehicle or vessel is in the front of a driveway.
“We support the county’s efforts in enforcing the ordinance because it eliminates blight, it frees up parking and it has everybody playing by the same set of rules,” said Town Manager Dina Breitstein.
District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis concurred: “Thank you to Discovery Bay residents for making our office aware of the extent of the problem and to Contra Costa County Code Enforcement for taking quick action.”
While the sweep was not part of a regularly scheduled initiative, Losado said that regular enforcement minimizes violations.
“It’s becoming routine,” Losado said. “The routine is caused by receiving multiple complaints from citizens and from the Town of Discovery Bay saying ‘It’s getting out of control. Can you come out and do a sweep again?’ It seems like if we do it once a year, it seems to keep it in control.”
Once a notice to comply has been issued, a code enforcement officer will revisit the location to determine if the property owner or tenant has remedied the violation. A note to violation can be issued if the condition has not been corrected. It warns that a fine will be issued if the violation is not immediately corrected. The fine can be up to $4,300.
“In my 19 years of doing this, I don’t think we’ve ever had to fine somebody,” Losado said. “When we issue that note to violation, they have 10 days to correct it. In that 10 days I have not seen somebody not correct it. Once they see the potential fine, they have the reaction, ‘Wow. I need to make this a priority in my life.’ And they move it.”
The county ordinance applies only to private property. Vehicles left on public property, like the street in front of a home, are the responsibility of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office. According to Losado, some violators will attempt to skirt the county’s notice to comply by moving an improperly stored vehicle to the street. Doing so technically resolves the county’s ordinance violation as it’s no longer stored on private property. However, the county also limits parking in the same spot to 72 hours, and local homeowners association by-laws may impose stricter limits. A vehicle left in the same spot for more than 72 hours can receive a warning, be cited or be towed.
“Unfortunately, we do run into people (who say), ‘I’ll put it on the street and it becomes the sheriff’s jurisdiction,’” Losado explained. “Before we did our sweep, the sheriff’s office was informed that we (were going) to do this, so they’re prepared for people to move them out and play their game. Fortunately, the percentage of people that do that is very small.”