Almanac

News - September 11, 2013

Code enforcement gets a boost in Atherton

by Barbara Wood

Although Atherton will continue to cite violators of its city ordinances only when a complaint is received or a public official notices a violation, the town will soon increase the hours of its code-enforcement officer from 12 to 20 hours a week.

Councilman Jim Dobbie has also asked the police to take a more active role in reporting code violations they see during their daily rounds.

The City Council voted at its Sept. 4 meeting to add $36,000 to the budget to pay for additional code enforcement. Council members Dobbie, Cary Wiest and Elizabeth Lewis voted for the increase; Councilman Bill Widmer had left the meeting early.

In a report to the council, Community Services Director Michael Kashiwagi said that the town has been getting more complaints about misdeeds from neighbors lately, including six complaints made via the town's new website in its first 30 days "on issues such as right-of-way use, trees, drainage, and construction."

Mr. Kashiwagi said the extra hours will help the town do a better job at enforcing the code relating to such things as debris clearance, visibility, and illegal construction; with issues related to construction, such as work hours, parking, and working without a permit; and in addressing illegal business activity in the community.

Councilman Dobbie said he wants the Atherton police force to be more involved in the town's efforts to enforce its codes. "What I would like to do is make the police more aware that they are the eyes and ears, and not only catching criminals, but if they see things going on that are illegal or breaking our codes that they also help in reporting this so that we can get more information," he said.

"In general I think policemen think, 'my job is to catch criminals,' but in Atherton we have a different kind of police — we have community police," he said.

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