At the start of Pomona’s City Council meeting on Monday, Mayor Norma Torres, just back from the U.S. Conference of Mayors held in Miami, began singing the praises of the city of Wilmington’s zero-tolerance code enforcement policies. She was especially giddy about the automatic $500 fine that accompanies first offenses, and the way the city of Wilmington put a picture of the violated property on the citation notice, preemptively quashing any defense proffered by scofflaws.
“Nobody fights these in court,” Torres beamed. Torres also noted that Wilmington could issue a citation every day, if they wanted to, forcing property owners to clean up their mess quickly.
The current code enforcement policy in Pomona is to issue a warning first, then crack down if the property owners don’t comply. In the Lincoln Park section of Pomona, some residents have asked the city to clean up several alleyways that are overrun with weeds, alleys that they consider unsightly and dangerous to drive down. The city has responded that it’s up to the community to tidy things for themselves. If the alleyways in Lincoln Park suffered from problems like graffiti, illegal dumping or wayward shopping carts, there would be a quick resolution. No such action for weeds.
Monique Valadez, public information director for Pomona, says that clearing weeds is not part of the city’s civic responsibility. She cited Article VI, Section 18-261 of the Pomona Municipal Code, which states, “all weeds and all rubbish and refuse upon the sidewalks, parkways and alleys within the city are public nuisances which shall be abated by the property owner abutting the sidewalk, parkway or alley.”
When asked if the homeowners were aware of the code, Valadez said that the city makes an effort to keep them informed. One Lincoln Park resident, Sarah Peterson, said that she is aware of the code. Though she and her family have not been cited, she knows neighbors who have. “If they weren’t aware of the code before, they become so after they’ve been warned,” she said. Some of these neighbors are high-profile Pomona citizens, including Councilperson Paula Lantz and downtown property owner Ed Tessier.
Which begs the question: if Mayor Torres’ plan took effect, how would these citizens react to an automatic $500 fine?
Not all cities deal with alley maintenance in this manner. Neighboring Claremont makes a distinction between “public and private vegetation,” according to Michael Felten of the Code Enforcement Office. If the offending vegetation is the result of a crack in the asphalt, the city will come out to clean it up.
What’s in a Name?
Even as Pomona celebrates the opening of its 26th park—the Veterans Park Soccer Complex in west Pomona—an effort continues to rename one of its oldest parks in honor of a revered citizen, Tony Cerda. After acquiring close to 2,000 signatures in a petition drive to change Madison Park (a.k.a. Sharkey Park) in south Pomona to one named for the humanitarian Cerda, the organizers were denied by the Parks and Recreation Commission, which deadlocked 2-2 in a vote and justified their stance by invoking a city regulation that makes it difficult—if not impossible—to ever change the name of a public property.
Several Cerda supporters pleaded their case to the council during the public presentation period, painting Cerda as a compassionate man always willing to help others, including complete strangers, and a pioneer in the development of Pomona recreation. One woman, Barbara Burke, who worked with him at Cal Poly Pomona said that Cerda was devoted to providing “better access to health care . . . to everyone.” Another supporter, Pomona resident Joey Fuentes Jr., asserted, “no way in the world that park would have been built” without the work of Cerda. The most compelling testimonial came from a former gang member from La Puente. “I used to come to Pomona to cause trouble,” he said. One day, after his buddies had got their “butts kicked” in a fight, he was abandoned and left fearing for his life. It was Tony Cerda who found him who took the gang member under his wing to get him off the streets. Cerda would help the same man later in life as well, after a military discharge and a bout with alcoholism.
“I was just another punk,” the former gang member admitted. Getting short on his alloted time for public presentation he added, “How much time does it take to say the guy saved my life? He was here for Pomona and everyone.”
Whether Pomona wants to recognize the contributions of Cerda is the question.
Pomona City Council Meeting – 7-7-08
Pomona City Council Meeting – 7-7-08