During the March 13 Oakley City Council meeting, the council held a work session to discuss Prohibited Uses of ADA Ramps and Illegal Second Driveways.
At the end of the 90-minute discussion, the council made several recommendations to staff that will come back for approval in the coming months which include:
- Increase tools to allow staff to place liens on people’s homes who illegally create second driveways and choose not to fix it—preventing residents from refinancing or selling their home until its fixed.
- Amend the municipal code to begin a fine process for illegally parking on second-driveways. It will be updated to say people may park in approved driveways (main driveway).
- Limit recreational parking of boats, RV’s trailers to only 1-per household.
- Vehicles parked that create a blind intersection or “sight triangle violation” may be towed.
- Oakley council encouraged staff to create an educational campaign to make residents aware of what is legal and what is not.
Here is a recap:
Per the staff report:
City Staff seeks City Council input and direction regarding an on-going problem of residents utilizing ADA ramps as driveways in violation of federal, state and local law; and, the related installation of second driveways in violation of City Code. The City is undergoing an “ADA Transition Plan” required by federal law and this analysis has brought further to light the inappropriate and unsafe use of the ADA ramps as driveways. Also, for safety and aesthetic reasons, City Code only allows one driveway per residential lot, except for lots over 15,000 sq. ft. in size. The Code also prohibits any obstruction of the “sight triangle” – this is the area needed for drivers to see clearly at the edge of intersections.
Many instances of the use of the ADA ramps as driveways and the installation of second driveways occurred prior to the City’s incorporation. Use of the ADA ramps as driveways and many second driveways have since have been installed without the City’s knowledge or permit. No permit would be granted in these instances and we advise residents of this that do ask; however, the large number of existing installations frustrates residents that want to do the same. We also receive complaints from residents who see neighbors installing these driveways. These residents complain that the driveways are unsightly and damage neighborhood property values. We also receive complaints from time to time about why we allow the parking of boats and RVs in the front driveways in residential areas.
During this work session, city staff presented examples of these situations noting while convenient, they are not allowed, and properties have second driveways without permits.
“We know whatever angle that eventually this moves to, there will be a lot of outreach to the stakeholders, the residents themselves,” explained City Manager Bryan Montgomery. “Also, just be aware we have received a lot of complaints by residents who don’t like what they see because they think it damages their property values. As well as realtors marketing properties, is this a legal driveway or not.”
Montgomery told the council they are the policy markers and had choices, but warned the council that they may have come to a point where it would not be a good idea to do nothing. He also said once they move towards a policy, he expects the council chambers to be full—the ones using the ADA ramps as second driveways.
“Those that we do talk to that are concerned about their property values and feel like what their neighbors are doing is appropriate, they aren’t likely to show up here,” said Montgomery. “You as the policy makers, the silent majority is out there, and you have to think no matter what you are hearing, you may not be hearing the full community here in this room.”
Montgomery showed during his presentation a number of homes that were not using ADA ramps, but were hoping over sidewalks onto concrete strips of decomposed granite that can be installed over a weekend to park their vehicles.
“When we tell people, they are not supposed to do this, they get angry,” said Montgomery.
Councilman Kevin Romick explained the reason why they have code enforcement is so neighbors could get along and suggested if people want anarchy, they could choose to purchase a home with 20-acres and place a home in the middle.
Councilman Doug Hardcastle said this was a no-brainer when it came to issues involving obstruction of the “sight triangles” and views are blocked with traffic.
Montgomery suggested the council could implement a “gradual compliance” where folks who invested in ADA/second driveways, they could continue to enjoy it, however, a lien would be placed on a home and when you sell it, it would have to be fixed—for the City to release the lean, you would need to restore the property to back to where it should be.
“In theory, in the next 20-30 years, each of these current issues would be resolved. That is one option” said Montgomery.
Romick explained the councils 2006 decision to allow RV and boats to be parked by highlighting how it was a much smaller community then and people moved out here to enjoy the delta, but noted people are coming here from communities that don’t allow boats or like to see them.
“As we continue to mature and grow as a community, there are going to be those people who come here from areas that don’t allow boats, like the community’s around us, that don’t like to see boats and RV’s in the driveway. I think we are going to have to re-look at that whole proposition again,” said Romick. “As our community grows its going to be imperative for us to make that choice and I think move away from allowing that use of driveways and I think once we do that, we eliminate some of the need to have larger driveways and larger accesses.”
Councilwoman Sue Higgins asked if they could write a Cease and Desist letter to everyone in violation of using the ADA ramps letting them know they are in violation of state and federal law.
Kevin Rohani, Public Works Director/City Engineer explained the Oakley clientele saying the issues are broad and won’t be resolved overnight.
“We have been engaged with these folks when we go talk to them. One of the things they basically tell us to use polite terms, leave, go away, we came to Oakley to do what we want, when we want, and no one is going to tell us what to do,” explained Rohani saying they will enforce the visions of the council noting that some of the ADA’s are safety hazards.
Higgins asked if the city could sue a resident first for breaking the law.
Rohani deferred to city legal but noted there is a failure to communicate because people believe they are entitled to two-driveways, however, in Oakley, people are allowed one.
“We are fortunate we have only had a lot of close calls, but it only takes one accident,” said Rohani.
Rohani also explained how some of the homes have turned into an RV or boat yard saying staff wonders if people are parking all of their items only or storing them for other people—he suggested the council address this in policy in the future.
Josh McMurray said staff was looking for direction of how to address this because they are getting a few requests a week for second driveways and they are not easy to deal with.
“When you get that person at the counter, a lot of these people that move to this house, they move to that house because that improvement is there and that is where they are going to store that RV or boat,” said McMurray. “It’s really an education to the community and how we educate the community on what kind of improvements are allowed and what is not allowed.”
Councilman Kevin Romick suggested the first thing the city needed to do was begin educating the public.
“We need to reach out to the public, realtors, contractors and everyone involved in home improvement, home purchasing process letting them know what is legal and not legal,” said Romick. “So when the realtor selling somebody a piece of property with a second driveway on it and they are saying this is what I want, let the realtor make them aware they may be required to rip that out of here pretty quick here because that is illegal.”
Romick suggested it would be great if they can begin to crack down on contractors for doing illegal work—he suggested they begin to report them to the state board.
“The first thing we need to do is educate, then we need to stop everything happening from here on out and putting penalties on anything that happens as of a certain date in time and saying going forward we do not allow this and if we see it we will require you to rip it out. Sorry, this is what we have to start doing” stated Romick. “Then we have to go back and look at what has been done, whats been out there for 20-years, 5-years or 6-months and say how do we rectify this. I like that last option, putting liens on it saying as the house changes over, they have to remedy any changes they put on it.”
Romick further explained that people did get away with it, but now its going to cost you if you refinance or sell your house.
Mayor Randy Pope called that a “saving grace for staff” so they can simply say “okay” and file a lien and eventually it will get fixed.
Vice Mayor Claire Alaura stated they needed to address the idea of parking RV’s and boats in front of home because it’s a changing city and they were becoming the dumping ground for other cities.
The Council discussed each issue one by one:
Parking of RV’s and Boats (2 hr 25 min mark)
Hardcastle recused himself due to a conflict (business). The council then discussed
Pope asked if current use of parked RV’s and Boats would be grandfathered in. City staff said that in their opinion, it’s a use allowed under the current code. If you change the code, there was no permit that authorized them or way to track it.
Romick suggested that if people did want to park an RV or boat, it can only be on their legally permitted main driveway and limit it to one (boat or RV). Romick, Higgins and Pope all agreed to direct staff to work on code that would allow for one recreational vehicle park in a driveway—Alaura wanted all boats and RV’s banned.
Extra Driveway Width (2 hr 43 min)
Right now, the City of Oakley has a 50% rule where if you have a 2-car garage, it can be 20 feet. A 3-car garage can be 30-ft. Recently added was you could add another 10ft if you have a pie shaped lot. City staff has drafted an amendment to address this by allowing 10 ft if its adjacent to the garage side—this will come back before the council at a future meeting.
The council agreed that an unconnected second driveway was “bad” but to add width to existing driveway is “good”.
Pope asked what do we do about the people that have already done this?
Alaura cited they should receive a notice of gradual zoning as a good tool—recording a lien.
“We may not get them to turn it around, but later,” said Alaura.
Higgins said the residents need to know that it is illegal, and they could be sued.
“It should mean that anybody in Oakley could sue them because they are doing something illegal,” said Higgins. “It’s a civil suit. Their neighbors could sue them because it’s a safety hazard. You can chose to address it or wait and have the lien.”
Pope suggested that they notify the resident of the violation and they have to remedy it, but the enforcement of it is a notification of the lien.
“You thumb your nose at us, fine, we are recording on your lien on your Title, anytime you try and sell, refinance then you gotta do it and there is no if and or butts,” said Pope. “That is our hammer.”
Staff explained that is what they are doing now, residents are given a 20-day notice to correct it which doesn’t get much action, however, when the lien is delivered to them then the resident calls and goes over their options and in most cases the resident decides to “keep it” knowing that they could not refinance or sell the home until its fixed.
City legal explained that while the City can also be sued, it does protect the city because by placing a lien, it shows that they were not negligent because even though they knew about an issue, they attempted to correct it.
Montgomery warned the council that when they begin to educate the community, the community will show up angry. He estimates that some of these items can come back before the council in a couple of meetings and outreach could begin.
“It would be a lot easier to turn our heads because of the crap we get frankly, but this is the best for the long term of the community,” said Montgomery. “It’s the safest and legal way to do it.”
Hardcastle suggested that the number one priority should be to first address the homes that have created a safety issue before anything else.
Current Issues (sight triangle) at 2 hr 58 min mark
Pope wanted to know if the city already had code on record stating people could not create a blind intersection by parking your vehicle. Staff said they have it on two fronts—vehicles or obstacles.
Pope suggested that the city draft a municipal code that would allow staff to cite people for illegally parking on second driveways on their own property if it’s within the sight triangle saying the municipal code can address this.
“I am working on two separate things, the lien for building the structure of the illegal driveway, we are going to make you tear it up when you refinance or sell your home (tear up first 5-ft in a public right of way),” said Pope. “In the meantime, we don’t want you parking your car. So we have enforcement mechanism if you are creating a blind intersection. I want an enforcement mechanism if you are not creating a blind intersection.”
Staff suggested adding language that says you can only park your car on an approved driveway or concrete adjacent to your driveway—if you are, it’s an administrative citation regardless of how you got it parked there (a code violation/parking ticket).
Montgomery confirmed that the direction the council was headed was that we will tell property owners we will place a lien on the home for the illegal driveway, but we also don’t want you parking on it as well.
Pope explained this will prevent people from continuing to drive up curbs and they no longer can only enforce this by catching people in the act, now it addresses the parking. Staff said typically, its 10-30 days for correction. Montgomery added that citations range from $100 to $500 dollars.
City staff will bring back the items for city council approval at future meetings.
To view the council meeting, click here.