The City of Turlock is taking a stricter stance on private property left in public spaces, following City Council action on Aug. 14. This is the second regulation the Council has adopted in the past month that came out of discussions regarding vagrancy and illegal activity in Turlock’s downtown area and citywide.
The City Council voted 5-0 to amend the Turlock Municipal Code regarding the removal of personal property illegally stored in a city park, street or public area from seven days to 24 hours after giving notice of impending impoundment.
Turlock Fire Marshal and Director of Turlock’s Neighborhood Services Department Mark Gomez brought the ordinance amendment before the City Council at their Aug. 14 meeting.
“We felt the 24-hour (ordinance) would give us a better tool to deal with the blight within our community and help us deal with the quality of life,” said Gomez.
Gomez said that Neighborhood Services deals with large amounts property left in public areas, such as parks, on a daily basis. He said in one incident city staff removed 1.2 tons of property left behind like trash on public areas and the City averages over 100,000 pounds of items left in public spaces that has to be hauled to the dump each year.
Turlock Downtown Property Owners Director Molly Amant urged the Council and those in attendance at the Aug. 14 meeting to think about the impact mounds of various items left on downtown walkways has on business owners.
“I urge everyone to think about if you owned a business downtown … and you had a huge pile on Main Street on a bench, just right outside your doorway where private property no longer pertains, and it has to stay there for seven days,” said Amant.
It wasn’t just the business association that showed support for the ordinance amendment, Turlock Gospel Mission Executive Director Christian Curby also voiced his support for the change from seven days to 24 hours notice.
“It’s not so much just about the particular incidents, how many times the City receives a call about property in the street and the folks that are losing that property or have left their property stored in the public right of way, it’s also about folks that live in the neighborhood that surrounds the place that I work, the Turlock Gospel Mission….I get calls and visits almost weekly from a neighbor saying, ‘hey, somebody left something in the alley behind my house’ or ‘somebody left some garbage in front of our driveway’ etcetera, etcetera. We spend a lot of time on the phone with Neighborhood Services and they’re doing a great job, but I think one of the challenges Neighborhood Services faces, and certainly we do as well, is this part of the municipal code saying that seven days notice has to be given. I see a pile of stuff and seven days goes by, then it gets moved 15 feet and is there for another seven days,” said Curby.
Council member Bill DeHart questioned going from seven days down to a one day notice, but said he was surprised to learn about the amount of property Neighborhood Services hauls away each month.
“In regards to property left in public areas unattended, 24 hours is sufficient. There are numerous municipalities doing this,” said Police Chief Nino Amirfar.
Gomez said Neighborhood Services is proactively addressing the issue of property left in public spaces and not just waiting for complaints to come in.
This is the second regulation the City Council has adopted aimed at addressing illegal activity in public spaces. At their July 24 meeting, the City Council approved modifying the hours that all City of Turlock parks are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. to dusk, on a trial basis with a report back on its effect on crime to the City Council in January.