Sunday, May 2, 2010

Solano County Grand jury report notes city's progress in code enforcement

By Jessica A. York / Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 04/30/2010 01:04:13 AM PDT

Less than a year after the previous Solano County grand jury issued a damning condemnation of Vallejo's code enforcement division's proactivity, a new report indicates an encouraging turnaround.

In their report last July, grand jury members only noted one instance of proactive code enforcement by the division's staff, referring to regular volunteer outings to paint over public graffiti.

"Department actions are usually complaint-driven as opposed to action initiated by department employees," that report stated, and separately, "The process for resolving Code Enforcement complaints is very cumbersome and appears to take a ridiculous amount of time. It may actually take years to resolve a clean up issue."

Vallejo's Code Enforcement employees are tasked with enforcing the city property maintenance laws, and have three code officers "on a good day," said Code Enforcement Manager Nimat Shakoor-Grantham, to manage about 40,000 real estate parcels.

In the latest grand jury report, issued Monday, the division was commended for making "improvements in important areas."

"The 2009-2010 Grand Jury commends the City Manager, City Council, Code Enforcement Department and the many volunteers who have come forward to improve the city's appearance and image," the report reads. "The Grand Jury is encouraged by these improvements and is confident that improvements will continue."

Specifically, the report cites improved complaint tracking, training and use of volunteers and receipt of a state grant to hire a part-time inspector.

Shakoor-Grantham attributed the division's turnaround to a "wake-up call" from the grand jury to "think outside the box," and support from city management.

"We heard them," Shakoor-Grantham said. "Just in addition to what we already had in a significant workload, we did what they said we needed to do -- which was basically to be more proactive. I've become more proactive myself, I get out and get more proactive cases."

Pending improvements to the division include several foreclosure-related ordinances being drafted, and a code violation complaint database accessible to all city staff, Shakoor-Grantham said.

"Yes, I know that there are still quite a few properties in Vallejo with code violations," Shakoor-Grantham acknowledged. "We still think that with what we had, we're doing the best that we could."

City Manager Bob Adams praised the new report in an e-mail message.

"I'm elated that the city's efforts, and especially those of Ms. Shakoor-Grantham and the Code Enforcement staff, are being recognized," Adams wrote.

Contact staff writer Jessica A. York at (707) 553-6834 or

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