The City of Carlsbad is strengthening its laws and adding a code compliance officer to improve the way it responds to complaints and address code violations that pose a threat to public health and safety and diminish the quality of life in Carlsbad neighborhoods.
The amendments to city laws, called the Carlsbad Municipal Code, will clarify the definition of a “nuisance” and authorize enforcement officers to declare a nuisance administratively. Under the previous system a code violation had to pose a public health or safety threat to be declared a nuisance. The code revisions allow the city to declare any code violation a public nuisance and proceed accordingly.
The code amendments will also streamline the process of declaring a nuisance. Previously an alleged violation had to undergo four separate City Council actions to be declared a public nuisance. Under the new system, code compliance or other enforcement officers will be able to declare a code violation when a property owner does not voluntarily comply, and the city manager will be able to direct follow up actions without further City Council action. During the notice of violation, property owners will have the ability to appeal decisions of the enforcement officers to the city manager.
The purpose of the revisions is to better serve the community by giving code compliance officers the ability to respond in a timelier manner to community complaints and ease neighbors’ concerns. Under the previous system it could take four months or so for the City Council to declare a public nuisance, whereas the revised system will reduce that period to 30 to 45 days.
Some common code violations include building or making changes or additions to a home or structure without a permit, abandoning vehicles on the street or on private property, or piling up junk in a home’s back yard. Such violations can pose a public health or safety threat, or diminish neighbors’ quality of life and thereby represent a public nuisance.
The city is also developing a phone app called “GoRequest” that will allow residents to report violations over smart phones and mobile devices. The city hopes to implement the GoRequest program by the end of this calendar year.
“We’ve been noticing that complaints have been getting more complex and involve issues that cut across several departments, so they require more coordination between departments,” said City of Carlsbad Housing & Neighborhood Services Director Debbie Fountain. “The code revisions and new technology will improve customer service by allowing our enforcement teams to keep up with a changing world.”
The changes will also enable code compliance officers to address potential violations as soon as they detect them in the field, such as property owners altering residential properties for commercial use in violation of zoning codes, instead of waiting for a complaint from the neighborhood.
The new code compliance officer will increase the number of officers to two from one. This will double the force and improve efficiency. The city has also implemented a wireless technology called “GoEnforce” that officers use in the field. This web-based program allows officers to use mobile devices to create and access records, thereby increasing their time in the field while reducing their time traveling to and from the office.
The new code compliance officer is expected to be on staff this autumn.
—City of Carlsbad