City of Monrovia takes a hard look at Code enforcement;
One resident questions $250 fine
By Terry Miller
A Monrovia City resident on Norumbega Drive received a $250 citation dated August 20 stating, in part, that the resident ‘s ‘landscape shall be continuously maintained with regular watering of plants/grass.’
Patricia Neville was quite taken aback by this seemingly heavy-handed citation which the city says ‘must be paid within 15 calendar days for her partially green lawn.
The paradox here was not lost on the resident or this newspaper as we are in a severe drought and the state has mandated conservation of water, which is exactly what Ms. Neville has done.
Now, according to Neville, the city wants to ‘punish her’ for doing exactly what she and thousands of residents are mandated by law to do – conserve water.
The letter Neville sent to the city is printed here:
I am appalled to have received a $250 citation from the City of Monrovia for my partially green lawn last week. The photo accompanying my citation is enclosed.
I need not cite the statistics on the current drought, as I received and read the “Conservation & Drought Monrovia’s Emergency Water Shortage “ …
It is unconscionable to be issuing both over-watering and non-watering citations at this time.
I believe the City of Monrovia is on the wrong side of history pursuing a dead vegetation ordinance in a severe drought.
The eco-balance of our city is far more important than my neighbor’s view of my lawn. Regardless of all the other reasons to conserve water at this time, the wildlife are coming further down onto Norumbega to drink from our water sources and sprinkler runoff. I see the deer, raccoons and coyotes each morning at dawn when I go run up toward Canyon Park.
I have been discussing the status of my front yard with Rick at the City for months, and have greatly improved my curb view with plants and grass, getting verbal sign off from Rick one month before receiving my citation in the mail.
I request my citation be cancelled, and furthermore request the dead vegetation ordinance be suspended by the city until the drought is improved. I will use my unique situation to begin a campaign for suspension of the ordinance.
Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing the City of Monrovia taking appropriate action that is responsive and appropriate to the circumstances.”
We contacted the city regarding the “Warning or Administrative Citation” and were informed that citation was not only due to dead vegetation and or/ brown lawn but also issued due to “trash and old vehicle in the yard.” Enrique Macias, Jr. , the issuing citation officer of code enforcement said that Patricia Neville had been notified many times of her violations in the past year.
Steve Sizemore, Community Development Director for Monrovia City said the city first sends and “education letter” to the resident alerting them of a potential code violation. This was sent to Ms. Neville Sept. last year. Then, as is policy, a second ‘warning” letter goes out, in this case May 14, 2014. In July an extension letter was mailed out and on Aug 20, the citation and order to pay $250 was sent out.
This is when Ms. Neville contacted Monrovia Weekly.
It seems clear that there is a lot of confusion about the city’s right to enforce the state mandate and what it all means to the average homeowner. It’s essentially about education, says the city.
“ We don’t want to be the water police.” Mr. Sizemore told Beacon Media in a telephone conference call Tuesday afternoon.
The city also accurately pointed out that a good lawn can easily survive and thrive on 3 days of watering per week. In fact, experts say that many of us over-water our lawns.
There are also positive alternatives to lawns, with drought tolerant plants that are code compliant and help reduce one’s water consumption. Many cities offer rebates and assistance to those willing to put in drought tolerant landscaping.
These are the conditions which are set in place now.
No person shall hose wash any sidewalk, walkway, driveway, parking area or other paved surface, except as required for sanitary purposes.
Washing of motor vehicles shall be done only with a hand-held bucket or hose equipped with a positive shut-off nozzle.
No water shall be used to clean, fill or maintain levels in decorative fountains unless the water is part of a recycling (recirculating) system.
No restaurant, hotel, café, cafeteria or other place where food is sold, served or offered for sale shall serve drinking water to any customer unless expressly requested by that customer.
All customers shall promptly repair all leaks from indoor and outdoor plumbing fixtures within 48 hours of discovery.
All lawns, landscape or other turf area shall be watered down not more than every third day between the hours of 5 p.m. and 10 a.m.
No person or customer shall cause or allow water to run off landscaped areas onto adjoining streets, sidewalks, or other paved areas due to incorrectly directed or maintained sprinklers or as the result of excessive watering.
In response to our posting of Ms. Neville’s letter, the city send Beacon Media a clarification letter, which we print here it its entirety.
“Dear Monrovia Weekly,
In response to the letter published on your website dated August 31, 2014, we are happy to comment on how Monrovia’s Code Enforcement process intersects with the current Phase 1 water restrictions.
The City of Monrovia is currently under mandatory water restrictions, which includes limiting watering of lawns to every third day from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m. This request for citizens to restrict excessive water usage is consistent with California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued Emergency Drought Regulations, which increase restrictions on water usage.
At the same time, our Code Enforcement officers our tasked with enforcing the Municipal Code concerning code violations. These two processes can co-exist. Our water conservation regulations do not suggest that property owners let their yards die. Blighted landscaping impacts a neighborhood in a negative way which could lead to a decline in property values of the surrounding properties. Even with a severe drought, overgrown weeds and unmaintained yards are not allowed. It is possible to have a landscaped property that is both visually appealing and compliant with conservation efforts.
The City of Monrovia is unique in its enforcement of code violations. Violators are sent an education letter and a warning letter before any citations occur. The intent is to work with the violator to gain compliance. The citation is the last resort should the education process fail to yield minimum compliance. The City of Monrovia takes the drought and need for water conservation very seriously, as we do our enforcement of City Codes. We all need to work together to come up with practical solutions that achieve both of these goals.
Director of Community Development”