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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

This is a blog way overdue. There are so many issues revolving around the city’s code compliance department that it’s difficult to know where to begin. As councilmembers code is by far the issue that we and our staffs deal with constantly. There isn’t a day that goes by that we all don’t receive code complaints.

Ever since he joined council, Councilmember Ray Malnar has pushed for code reforms. Shortly he will put together an informal working group to review code and to make recommendations for reform. I am happily looking forward to joining his working group. After all, we councilmembers deal with code issues on a daily basis and know what the greatest issues are.

Let me begin by relating some history. In July of 1993, council passed Ordinance Number 1772. It was the first major revision to code in many years. This ordinance encompassed major revisions to the entire body of city code. Here is the first paragraph of this ordinance: Section 1.100 Title. The ordinance shall be known and may be cited as the ‘Zoning Ordinance of the City of Glendale, Arizona.’ Within the ordinance text, it shall be cited as ‘this ordinance’. (Ord. No. 1772, 7-23-93)”.

The ordinance goes on to state, 1.204 Repealer and Severability. The provisions of this ordinance, insofar as they are substantially the same as the provisions of ordinances repealed in Subsection A of this section, shall be construed as restatements and continuations thereof and not as new enactments (bold mine).” In plain English the provisions of this ordinance did not create new law but were crafted to further clarify existing law.

The ordinance clearly states that if any provisions create greater restrictions they are to be followed as stated in this portion of the text, “1.205 Conflict With Other Rules or Regulations. Where this ordinance imposes a greater restriction on land, buildings or structures than is imposed or required by other existing provisions of law, ordinance, contract or deed, the provisions of this ordinance shall control (bold mine).” This provision seems to reject the concept of “grandfathering” which allows a property or home existing prior to 1993 to be exempt from the new ordinance provisions. Based upon the language of this ordinance any new code provisions or regulations will be considered as refinements of existent code and it mandates that greater restrictions are to be recognized and applied.

One of the new provisions within this ordinance addresses the subject of residential parking specifically with reference to zoning districts R 1-10 (10,000 square foot lot sizes), R 1-8 (8,000 SF), R 1-7 (7,000 SF) and R 1-6 (6,000 SF). The text reads as follows:

“Section 5.300 URBAN RESIDENTIAL

R1-10, R1-8, R1-7–Single Residence.

Section 5.313 R1-6–Single Residence.

5.3184 Parking.

Refer to Section 5.312.

(Ord. No. 2090, § 3, 7-27-99)

5.312 Parking.

  1. Parking and driveways are permitted as follows: (See Figures R-1 and R-2)
  2. A parking area may not exceed thirty (30) feet of contiguous area or fifty (50) percent of the lot width as measured at the front yard setback, whichever is less.
  3. Within the front yard, a parking/driveway area is only allowed between the garage or carport and the street, except an area contiguous to the allowed parking/driveway which is consistent with the dimensions in #1 above.
  4. No parking is permitted in the front yard when the parking area:
  5. Is detached from the allowed parking/driveway area; or Would result in an area greater than the allowable width as described in #1 above.
  6. Circular driveways and similar circulation may be permitted within the front yard so long as:

                      A.  No long term resident parking occupies such circular drive; and

                      B.  The front yard contains no more than fifty (50) percent of the total square                                 footage in parking/driveway or other circulation.

           (Ord. No. 1772, 7-23-93)”

Does it occur to anyone that you almost need a PhD to understand the language and to apply the code? Although I’m sure the language meets the technical requirements of the law but as is usually the case, it’s difficult for the ordinary citizen to understand much less follow its requirements.

Now let’s throw this into the mix. The ordinance also grants the Planning Director the right to interpret provisions of the ordinance, “Section 3.400 Interpretations, Administrative Relief, and Administrative Review.

3.401 Interpretations.

  1. The Planning Director shall be responsible for interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance. Interpretations may be considered if there is a question of clarity of any development standard or other provision of this ordinance, or a review is required (bold mine) within the permitted use categories of a specified zone district.
  2. Prior to determining that a use is permitted within a specific zoning district, the Planning Director shall find that:
  3. The use is described and included in the zoning district;
  4. The intensity of the use will not adversely affect other properties within the district; (bold mine)”

This provision will become more relevant as I relate a series of current code complaints. Recently the city council has received a series of complaints from residents in the Ocotillo district about front yard parking. It appears that our code department is not acting upon them. Last year I had offered the same concerns about the very same issue to our code department. What seems to be occurring these days is that some residents are covering their entire front yards with concrete or pavers and then using the entire front yard as a parking lot for multitudes of their vehicles. In my district I have seen entire front yards covered with pavers and concrete.  Here’s an example from my district. As you can see the entire front yard has recently been concreted. I have seen multiple vehicles parked there and in this photo some are parked right in front of the front door of the residence.

I filed complaints about this activity with the code department last year. In response I was advised that these were not violations or the case was closed. Why you ask? Clearly (or maybe not so clearly) the 1993 ordinance spells out that that “no more than 30 feet of contiguous area or 50% of the front yard lot width” may be used for driveways and parking.  Common sense would seem to dictate that if you have concreted or paved your entire front yard and then use it for parking more than 3 vehicles you are in violation of code.

Ahh… but not so fast. Within the material  of the ordinance I cited above, the Planning Director can interpret any provision of this 1993 ordinance. Never, ever, in all my 17 years on city council have I ever seen the code department go to the Planning Director to ask for an interpretation of whether something is a code violation. That is exactly what code did in the Ocotillo district where front yard parking was becoming a major problem last year. In response to the code department’s request, the Planning Director toured the area in question and said that since the homes in that area were built prior to 1993 they were grandfathered in and the 1993 ordinance regulating front yard parking did not apply. He further stated that he did not believe it was out of character for the affected neighborhood.

Last year after the Ocotillo district complaints, I complained about exactly the same problem. Code used the Planning Director’s interpretation for that unrelated neighborhood in the Ocotillo council district as the basis for not citing exactly the same activity in my district and led me to believe that the Planning Director had toured my area of complaint as well. In fact, he did not. The opinion he offered in a memo to the code department was in direct response to the Ocotillo neighborhood parking issue, not mine.

Correction at 9 PM Feb. 9, 2018: After reviewing my code material I find that I misrepresented the Planning Director’s opinion. When I said Code can be confusing, I wasn’t kidding. The Planning Director was asked by the Code Department to tour the Maryvale Terrace area in the Ocotillo district last year. His opinion centered strictly on the installation and use of auxiliary driveways. In his opinion regarding that area he supported the installation of an auxiliary driveway to be used to enter an RV gate thereby allowing the property owner’s RV to be parked behind the gate. At that time he opined that auxiliary driveways were not out of character for that neighborhood and were permissible for that purpose. In addition, my notes indicate that the Planning Director did in fact tour the neighborhood in my district where I had registered complaints. He indicated that it is not a violation to have pavers or concrete to serve as additional driveways that are to be used for access through an RV gate to park in a backyard. He also opined that it is a violation to park on these surfaces where it is considered to be front yard parking and a code violation.

The question remains, why is the code department using this narrowly crafted opinion as a rationale to not cite for front yard parking? This photo clearly shows the homeowners are definitely in violation of front yard parking. The second question that remains valid is why was historical precedent ignored by the code department by asking the Planning Director to decide whether an issue is a code violation? As I stated previously, this is a first in my 17 year history as a councilmember.

What happened to Section 1.205 of the 1993 ordinance that states that greater restrictions within this ordinance prevail? If you follow the logic of code’s request of and acceptance of the Planning Director’s interpretation on this code matter in an Ocotillo neighborhood built before 1993, what does mean for other ordinance provisions that apply to all neighborhoods built prior to the 1993 ordinance? For instance, group home restrictions are enhanced in the 1993 ordinance. According to the code department’s reliance upon using the Planning Director’s interpretation for just one neighborhood built before 1993, it now opens the door for all other neighborhoods established prior to 1993. It would appear if a group home is established in a home built before 1993, then the 1993 restrictions do not apply. I didn’t go through the entire code but I bet there are other restrictions in the 1993 ordinance that also could be interpreted as not applying to a home built prior to 1993.

These actions raise several very important questions. Which concept within the 1993 ordinance is to be followed? The concept that greater restrictions prevail or the concept that the Planning Director can waive or interpret code requirements for neighborhoods built before 1993 (the concept of “grandfathering”)?

Code’s action of requesting the Planning Director to decide code requirements is precedent setting and opens the door wide for an unequal application of the 1993 ordinance as code has now accepted a rationale that enables it not to follow the proscription, “Where this ordinance imposes a greater restriction on land, buildings or structures than is imposed or required by other existing provisions of law, ordinance, contract or deed, the provisions of this ordinance shall control.”

My frustration is with code’s inability or unwillingness to address issues such as excessive front yard parking. It’s no wonder citizens are upset. I have heard repeatedly from folks all over the city that Glendale doesn’t look good anymore and they point to code’s ineffectiveness. I am not the only councilmember dissatisfied with the code department’s performance. Many, but not all, councilmembers have expressed the same dissatisfaction.

The leadership of the code department has expressed the belief that my and other councilmembers’ dissatisfaction with the department’s performance is a direct result of a lack of staff. But that is not the issue. It’s not whether there are 5 or 15 code inspectors but rather the effectiveness of the results of the actions taken by whatever the number of staff the department has in resolving an issue (and yes, that should include citing a resident for not following code).

Another code department rationale for a lack of successful resolution is that the department states that unless the complaint is ironclad in terms of proof of violation, city prosecutors will not file a case. Perhaps what is needed is the department taking more time and making a greater effort to meet the requirements of the prosecutors’ office to bring forward successful cases for adjudication. If the prosecutors’ office requires greater proof of a violation by completing actions A, B and C it would seem that is what code should be striving to meet. Leadership has said that they have taken cases to the Prosecutors’ Office only to be told that the case is too weak. Then it becomes incumbent upon code to do further work on a case to make it strong enough to be prosecuted.

I am anxious to participate on the working group that Councilmember Malnar will lead. If parts of code are outdated, we will recommend their removal. If parts of code are too weak, we will find ways to beef them up. If there are new issues that need remedies, we will find them. Keep in mind that this working group will have no formal authority so its conclusions may or may not be accepted. Perhaps most important of all, it is time for greater transparency and accountability and those are elements we must require of this department.

It’s time to make all  of Glendale look good again.

© Joyce Clark, 2018         

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

It has been 18 years and 208 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Since I have been retired from city council I still get calls from Glendale residents inside and outside of the Yucca district with code compliance issues. Today I visited a resident with a litany of code issues. All of these photos were taken on just one residential street in Glendale.

This person represents many of us in the community. We continuously try to maintain and/or improve the exterior and interior of our homes. We water our grass, plant new plants in spring or get an itch to remodel a bathroom. This person is no different from many of us.

In an attempt to be fair and balanced I have to say that while I was on council there were many times – not every time – that code worked diligently and solved many of my constituents’ problems. But at that time there were code inspectors assigned to specific areas of the city. I don’t think that is the case anymore. These inspectors were proactive and could write complaints as they viewed them without the need for a citizen complaint. I don’t know how the system is set up these days.

I have received enough complaints over the past few years to question Code’s current level of effectiveness and its level of responsiveness to citizens when they have no councilmember to advocate for them.

IMG_1516This most recent complaint is a case in point. When I was on council, Code could and did write up people for dead trees and untrimmed palm trees. Apparently that is not the case anymore. This citizen was told, “We don’t deal with untrimmed palm trees anymore.”

The city is not responsible for pigeons that seem toIMG_1513 congregate everywhere but in some instances where there may be a health or safety issue, the city does have the responsibility of advising a resident of a situation that is unsanitary. Look at the pigeons who have made a home underneath this cooling system on the roof.

When there were loud noise complaints dealing IMG_1512with barking dogs Code had developed a system that required 3 other neighbors to confirm the complaint and required the complainant to keep a log for several weeks. There was no such Draconian system for odors and I remember a citizen complaining about the cat smells coming from a next door neighbor’s house and code addressing the issue.

Previously the city had a contract with Maricopa Animal control to remove stray animals. In a cost saving measure that contract has been discontinued. Now a Glendale Police Officer has to respond. Officers are not equipped to deal with these types of situations. It also takes them away from performing real police work and responding to calls in a timely manner.

Much to my surprise I learned during my visit to this person that for odors the complainant must use the same system used for barking dogs. TheIMG_1507 complainant must fill out the same type of log and get neighbors to confirm and attest to the odor complaint. That is just plain illogical and unworkable on so many levels. This system is enough to turn away all but the most determined.

Then there are the sanitation issues we’ve all seen. I have seen people leave their trash receptacles on IMG_1497the street continually. There are others that put their cans out days before collection and then leave the cans on the street days after. Or what about loose trash? In our part of town they pick up loose trash the last week of the month. I have seen those who put new loose trash out immediately after having had their current stockpile just picked up. Code had and I don’t know if it still does, persons surveying residential streets for just these kinds of violations. I suspect these people are spread too thin to be effective.

IMG_1521IMG_1520IMG_1519

 

 

 

 

Has Code abdicated its responsibilities? Many citizens believe that Code looks for reasons to be nonresponsive. They complain that an oft used response is, “We can’t do anything about that.” Once again, it’s time for Code to dialogue with residents to find out what it is doing well and where  it is not being effective. Instead of telling residents what Code cannot do it is time to think outside the box and figure out how it can be more effective and responsive.

© Joyce Clark, 2016

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

It has been 18 years and 25 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Let’s talk about Glendale’s neighborhoods. Some are great. I live in a great neighborhood. Some Glendale residents do not live in a great neighborhood. Marginal neighborhoods are most generally to be found in Glendale’s Cactus, Ocotillo and Yucca districts…southeast, south and southwest.

When I was elected as the first Yucca district councilmember in 1992 (the first year of full implementation of the district system in Glendale) one of my very first actions was to invite the City Manager Dr. Vanacour, Assistant City Manager Pam Kavanaugh, and senior management (especially department directors) on a van tour of my district ending with a picnic lunch at O’Neil Park. I heard a lot of “oh mys” during the tour and when we reached O’Neil Park some needed to use its restrooms. I never saw so many people do such a quick about face opting to wait until they returned to City Hall.

My reason for this tour was that I recognized that while city resources had been used exclusively in north Glendale to support the development of the Arrowhead area it was done at the expense of the rest of the city. That figure has been pegged as north of $80 million dollars. I wanted Glendale’s senior management to refocus and to appreciate the desperate needs of some of Glendale’s oldest, long ignored neighborhoods.

Most people have heard, at one time or another, of the Broken Windows Theory.  Roughly it states that problems, if not dealt with as soon as they occur, become much worse. That is what was occurring not only in my district but in the Ocotillo and Cactus districts as well. I believed it was time for senior staff to redirect resources to stop the decay created by years of ignoring problems.

As a result of that tour then City Manager Dr. Vanacour and Assistant City Manager Kavanaugh championed my cause and developed plans to refocus on older neighborhoods. So was born the Neighborhood Partnership Program including Neighborhood Partnership Grants. It was not all that I envisioned but it was a start and committed the city’s agenda to redressing conditions in distressed neighborhoods.

As a councilmember I was often the bane of existence for the city’s Code Compliance Department. It was not uncommon for me to drive around neighborhoods making lists of code violations. I often took my council assistant with me so that she could write down addresses and violations at a jackhammer pace. I would turn my lists into Code Compliance and request periodic reports on the disposition of violations. I took the time to ride herd on the department and to require accountability.

Are there any current councilmembers that do this kind of proactive work in their district neighborhoods? I suspect not. There is a new breed of councilmember these days. At workshops and council meetings a smattering of questions sometimes surface but they are superficial at best. Once in awhile a genuinely insightful question will surface, usually from Councilmembers Turner, Tolmachoff or now, Malnar. Councilmembers Aldama’s and Chavira’s shtick is to thank everybody and his brother for everything. Vice Mayor Hugh and Mayor Weiers are often silent. Do any bother to research or do their homework on issues coming before them? Probably not…unless it’s a major public issue like the billboard controversy. Do they have neighborhood meetings…not once or twice a year district meetings but neighborhood meetings of 15, 20 people from a neighborhood where city issues are explained and neighborhood problems emerge? Probably not.

Genuine service to the community seems to be a thing of the past and when it is requested it is performed by a council assistant…not a councilmember. One of Councilmember Aldama’s constituents has been sharing the problems of her older neighborhood with me for the past year. She requested Aldama’s assistance. He was non-responsive and passed her off to others. When she directly requested assistance from Code Compliance she finally received some help. Was it all that she expected? No but it was a start. If Aldama had taken the time to intervene the assistance she received might have been even more robust.

This new crop of council assistants have no historical memory of Glendale, may not even live in our community and seem to have no investment in working with neighborhoods. Their focus seems to be political rather than service oriented.

We appear to have a council that attends requisite meetings and generally accepts all recommendations from staff; attends ribbon cuttings and events; goes to League of Cities and Towns meetings; and remains distant from the residents they serve.

The city also had a scalloped street program that used resources to finish partial streets and to add curb, gutter and sidewalks in areas where the streets had been ignored for years. Then the Great National Recession hit and all disappeared…the scalloped streets program, the Neighborhood grants program and the Neighborhood Partnership Program became toothless. Neighborhoods are once again ignored in the city’s quest to regain financial stability. That is understandable…to a point. Now the city is on the road to economic recovery. While the focus is on Glendale’s finances it can no longer be used as a rationale to ignore the basic issues confronting neighborhoods. I challenge senior staff and the city council to once again make neighborhoods a priority. Remember Broken Windows. If a problem in a neighborhood is ignored it will only get worse. Any city, even Glendale, is only as great as its meanest neighborhoods. Ignore them at your peril.

© Joyce Clark, 2016

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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