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September 16, 2009 > Neighborhood beautification

Neighborhood beautification

By Dustin Findley

Gloria Anaya, Senior Housing Specialist, taught the Community Advisory Commission (CAC) everything they needed to know about the Neighborhood Beautification Ordinance (NBO).

The NBO was adopted back in 2000. The main reason for doing it was the need for a minimum standard for upkeep and maintenance.

It covers excessive outdoor storage, which could be furniture, discarded items, debris, garbage, machinery, scrap metal, and so on; attractive nuisances, dangers visible from the public right of way, clotheslines, tarps, construction project items, and more.

In terms of landscaping and things that have to do with people's front yards, the NBO has guidelines for overgrown and dead vegetation and weeds, especially those that obstruct the public right of way.

City staff in charge of enforcing the NBO looks at buildings that may be boarded up, buildings that may have been left in the middle of construction, awning covers, peeling paint, leaning or falling fences or gates, parking on unpaved surfaces.

The NBO also covers vehicle repairs that are being done in the public view.

Citizens can do minor repairs on their own vehicles in their driveway, otherwise in the garage with the door closed.

Only 50% of your front yard can be paved over.

In terms of the processes of the actual enforcement of the NBO, the staff receives complaints via telephone, email, or fax, prioritizes them, safety concerns taking top priority, and follows up on the complaints.

The service request is available online on the Milpitas Website under City Government, Departments, click on Planning and Neighborhood Services. Under neighborhood Services click on Report Violations.

The Neighborhood Beautification and Graffiti Hotline is (408) 586-3074. Dial zero (0) to talk to a real person.

Once staff receives the phone call they do generate a service request, no matter what the complaint is. All complaints are documented and entered into a system.

On the first follow-up staff verifies that there is a violation. If there is a violation staff issues a notice to abate, and the owner has 15 days to abate the violation.

When staff goes out they try to do as much education as possible to maximize their time. They tell how to abate, and the consequences for no compliance. Staff's goal is to encourage compliance without having to send a notice of violation. If the violation is not abated, and the property makes no contact with staff and there is no visible progress by the deadline, staff issues a citation.

The first citation is $100, second $200, third and subsequent citations are $500.

Citations can be contested in a hearing with the principal housing planner, if the necessary amount is paid to the City beforehand.

The main goal is to achieve compliance, so the City strives to work with residents to find a compromise. In rare instances the City actually needs to perform abatement to remove a hazard, with the permission of the property owner.

State building code has rules regarding Christmas lights: Temporary electrical power and lighting installations shall be permitted for a period not to exceed 90 days for holiday decorative lighting and similar purposes.

Felix Reliford, Senior Housing Planner, told the commission that the rule retains more authority as part of the Uniform Building Code (UBC) rather than the Milpitas NBO incorporating a similar rule, because it is regulated by the state.

Commissioners recommended putting some kind of notification about Christmas lights on the City website.

City staff is looking into recovering abatement costs and fees through putting a lien on the property when the situation arises.

The community advisory commission approved the recommendation to make no changes to the enforcement policy.

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