In the coming months, Lodi City’s Code Enforcement Division may be rebranded as “Code Compliance” to make the division sound less like a punishment arm of the city and more like a team. orientation.
The rebranding is part of the process of transitioning the code enforcement staff from the Lodi Police Department to the Community Development Department of the City of Lodi.
Lodi’s city council discussed the possible transition at its shirt sleeves meeting on Tuesday morning.
“We’re just trying to soften it up a bit (the title),” said director of community development John Della Monica. “If the application is necessary and quotes have to be written, the application of the code will not have a different attitude from that of the police department. Our responsibility is to ensure the safety of the community while dangerous circumstances are managed. “
Enforcement of the code was once part of the community development department, working closely with the planning, construction and neighborhood departments of the community improvement division, according to Tuesday’s agenda.
He was transferred to the police department in 2008, and city manager Steve Schwabauer said the reason may have been that city staff at the time believed that the officers in charge of enforcement of the code wear badge could improve compliance with city codes.
Police and community development services have worked together over the past three months to make the transition with the goal of strengthening community participation and expanding collaborative efforts.
Lodi Police Chief Sierra Brucia said there appears to be a gap in supervision between the code enforcement services of the two departments. On the one hand, officers receive general supervision from the police department, and then they receive community development assignments.
Often times, Brucia said the message can be confusing.
“I wouldn’t say that we are not always on the same wavelength, but we also don’t know what each other’s roles and responsibilities are,” he said. “By consolidating supervision in one place, I think we can get a little clearer direction for the employees. “
Brucia said there are currently two vacancies in the code enforcement division, and a third is on the horizon with impending retirement. Now is the perfect time to bring code enforcement back to the city, as vacancies will only be filled once council makes a decision.
Della Monica said that in the meantime, her department had a few home inspectors with a history of code enforcement, so they would be able to take on officer roles until the positions are filled.
City construction official Dennis Canright said that with the rebranding in “code compliance,” the city will work with residents to bring their properties into municipal code compliance if there is a perceived violation.
“The goal is compliance. Some people aim to punish. It would not be the case here, ”he said. “(The goal is) also to offer solutions. Sometimes I think what we have in the ministry is a lot of people with a lot of years of experience. This can give some of that knowledge for compliance and options for people. “
City Councilor Shak Khan presented statistics revealed at a previous council meeting and was concerned that enforcement of the code might not address all of the issues raised by residents in the city.
These statistics showed that the code’s enforcement responded to 850 cases in 2019, and 745 cases opened in 2020 were still open. The division had closed 105 cases.
“What worries me is what makes us slow down the fact that we can only close 105 cases,” he said. “How much improvement will that make by hiring another code enforcement officer, and how quickly are we going to be able to clean up?” “
Khan noted a hot spot on Central Avenue that he brought to council’s attention earlier this year. The property in question has a yard full of refrigerators and debris, he said, and he has received several emails from residents about it.
Brucia said law enforcement cases were on hold due to the division having only two full-time employees in recent years.
“Our agents have several answers,” he said. “One is a proactive approach where they go out there and look for specific violations. They proactively challenge these violations and are among those 745 cases. Some of them are from the city, like the Sacramento street fire, or the town hall or the council will report to us, and these go on the workload. Some are from community development or construction, where they notice issues in their own work that are passed on to us and those are on the list. Then there are the citizens’ complaints and these can range from a basketball hoop on the road to failing structures to weed control. The workload makes it difficult to close files.
Della Monica said that as the division moves to his department, he hopes for more cooperation from residents who may be willing to volunteer.
He said there is currently a movement in Lodi in which community volunteers – such as church and service groups – want to help clean up some of the scourge around the city.
While this raises many legal and liability issues for the city, he said the plan is to have these volunteers hand over informational materials to municipal code violators with free resources on how to clean up their properties. .
Brucia added that before the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement partners regularly went to the public and provided briefing materials to offending residents. The department recorded an 80% compliance rate when residents were contacted by partners, he said.
Now that California has fully reopened, the partners are resuming their duties and Brucia has said it could help community development efforts to educate offenders.
“I think this concept is good,” said Mayor Alan Nakanishi. “I like the idea of policing and community development working together, especially with the idea of volunteers. In the past we’ve had churches that have gone to the Eastside and cleaned up places. And to have a channel to get volunteers, I’m happy to have that in place.
Staff will bring an action point to the board at its next regular meeting, which will take place at the end of July. The July 7 meeting was canceled.