A spring-cleaning campaign by Elk Grove’s code-enforcement staff targeting blight, public nuisances and safety hazards citywide has at least one resident crying foul.
Denise Brechbill said she has maintained an approximately 6-foot high hedge along the public sidewalk in front of her house for the 30 years she has lived in her Elk Way home. She doesn’t understand why she received a letter from the city this spring saying she was in violation of the municipal code. She was informed that her hedge was encroaching on the sidewalk and that trees needed to be trimmed.
Brechbill said she trimmed the trees and cut the hedge back so it is about 18 inches from the sidewalk, but she is balking at a city requirement that she lower the hedge to a height of no more than 3 feet within 10 feet of her driveway. She values the hedge for the privacy it affords, Brechbill said, noting that the 3-foot height would not serve that purpose.
Code-enforcement actions often are prompted by complaints, but for the past eight years Elk Grove has conducted a “spring cleaning,” said Rosa Tapia, the city’s code enforcement supervisor. From early March to early April, code-enforcement officers visit every street in the city looking for code violations, including overgrown trees and shrubs, weeds, accumulated garbage, junk vehicles, vehicles up on blocks and other conditions that constitute blight or safety hazards.
Property owners are sent courtesy letters notifying them of violations and giving them an opportunity to correct them before any penalty is imposed.
“A lot of residents are not familiar with what code enforcement does, and when we bring violations to their attention it’s a true shock to them,” Tapia said.
For code-enforcement officers, she said, it is an opportunity to educate residents about the municipal code.
“Our spring-cleaning program is about maintaining a high quality of life for our residents and keeping our neighborhoods safe and clean,” said Kara Reddig, deputy city manager.
In the case of Brechbill’s property, the hedge was overgrown and impeded use of the public sidewalk, Tapia said, adding that it didn’t allow enough room for someone in a wheelchair. The height of the hedge is an issue because it obstructs the view from the driveway, she said. The city code prohibits any sign, hedge, fence, structure or natural growth higher than 36 inches within 10 feet of a driveway.
A lot of residents are not familiar with what code enforcement does, and when we bring violations to their attention it’s a true shock to them.
Rosa Tapia, Elk Grove code-enforcement supervisor
As to why Brechbill’s hedge became an issue just this year, Tapia said, code-enforcement officers may have zeroed in on more serious violations in the neighborhood during past spring cleanings.
Brechbill argues that she has been unfairly singled out. Other properties in her neighborhood have the same types of issues code-enforcement officers cited on her property, but Brechbill said those homeowners have not received letters from the city.
Letters were sent to approximately 1,300 Elk Grove property owners during this year’s spring-cleaning campaign, notifying them of of code violations, Tapia said.
Most cases are resolved at the courtesy letter stage, she said. People typically correct the problem before a reinspection.
Property owners wishing to contest a notice of violation can appeal by contacting the city clerk’s office to schedule a hearing before a neutral party. The fee to file an appeal is $480 and is refunded if the property owner prevails.
Brechbill is awaiting reinspection of her property. Noting that she has thinned foliage on the hedge, Brechbill said she has no difficulty seeing pedestrians or approaching vehicles as she backs out of her driveway, and she intends to fight to retain the current height.