Neighborhood Code Inspections

My neighbors and I in Peaceful Valley received a notice last week that the City’s Code Enforcement Unit is going to be, “…conducting pro-active code inspections…in neighborhoods like yours…within the coming weeks.”

A couple of points from that notice that historically have caused heartburn for our vintage neighborhoods:

Alley maintenance. For those of us who have backyard alleys, our lots technically extend to the center of the alley. There are various “easements” (legal access) on that little strip of property, including utility easements and easements for solid waste pickup, bulk collection, and sewer service.

However, the city’s legal position has been that keeping the alleys free of debris and weeds are our responsibility in spite of those easements. They do periodically grade the alleys and apply Soil Sement (a surface treatment to keep dust down and pack the surface). When the budgets were flush, they would also spray for weeds even though technically they didn’t have to.

Vehicles. As noted, any vehicle visible from the street should be parked on a hard or prepared surface (not just dirt), and it should be registered and otherwise appear to be “operable.”

Outside storage. This is a real sticky point for some (and I’ve got a little work to do myself). As the notice says, “visible from outside the property,” is the key factor. However, there was a time perhaps 7-8 years ago when one of our neighbors really got into with the city after the inspector looked over the newly-raised backyard fence by standing in the bed of the city pickup. At that time, it seemed that the fence didn’t matter because he’d been dinged previously for a violation.

I’m hoping we won’t get into that sort of thing this time, but if you have questions you may want to look at the “Property Maintenance Ordinance Interpretation” that addresses, “non-customary, non-incidental objects,” and the terms, “accumulation,” and, “screening.” It is a 2004 document, but probably still applies whether we like it or not.

You may find the Code Enforcement frequently asked questions to be useful.

The Building Inspection Unit FAQs may be helpful, too.

And as irritating as this process may be, please refrain from giving the inspector a hard time. He or she merely “works for the man.” Yes, we’ve had some that were excessively enthusiastic in their duties, but if they give you a hard time or are unprofessional, take it up the food chain.

I left a message this morning for the inspector listed on the notice we got to clarify some of these points and will publish any significant differences from what I’ve posted above.

Until then, maybe I’ll see you in the alley!


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