By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa residents can now be fined $100 or more for leaving their garbage cans at the curb too long, but the City Council increased the grace period from 12 hours to a full day to make it easier for people to comply with the new rule.
Council members also stressed that the change was not an effort to raise revenue from fines, but rather to gain voluntary compliance with a rule aimed at keeping neighborhoods clean and safe.
“A lot of people are concerned that we’re out there looking for fee income, slapping those trash cans with ordinance violations, and that’s just not the case,” Councilman Gary Wysocky said.
Mike Reynolds, the city’s senior building inspector and head of code enforcement, said it was true “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that his officials will not be out looking for violators.
Rather, they will respond to complaints, and even then not very quickly or forcefully. Complaints about garbage cans or other refuse containers being left out more than a day before or after scheduled pickup days will be given a low priority, he said.
An educational letter explaining the new rule and its purpose will go out to the address in question within 21 days, Reynolds said. In virtually all such cases, people comply with such rules once made aware of them, he said.
Only if they don’t, and follow-up contact failed, would fines be considered. The first violation would be $100, the second $250 and subsequent fines $500, he said.
The rule reinstates a section of the city code that was “inadvertently” eliminated when it was revised in 2004 and again in 2009, said City Attorney Caroline Fowler.
Steve McCaffrey, director of government affairs for North Bay Corp., which serves about 40,000 residential households in the city, said his firm supports the move.
“This is a very common practice,” McCaffrey said, adding that his firm would be happy to inform residents about the change in their next bills.
J.K. Karrman, who lives in Rincon Valley, said she worried about how the rule would affect the elderly and disabled, calling it “an abuse of power” by the city to levy such fines.
“It’s just not right,” she said.
Elizabeth Gatley said she was glad the move wasn’t a “money grab” by the city. But she wished people would, instead of complaining about their neighbors, talk to them about the problem directly and maybe even offer to help.
“If the residents of Santa Rosa would just wake up and be more friendly to their neighbors, it might solve this problem and we wouldn’t have to do this at all,” Gatley said.