Tag Archives: law

Lyon wants to make crime-fighting the number-one priority in West Sac


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Jeff Lyon wants to make changes on the West Sacramento’s city council – perhaps more so than anybody else on the ballot.

Almost two years ago, Lyon and his wife bought an 1897 Victorian in the “Washington” neighborhood, a couple of blocks from the state Department of General Services offices (which are in the ziggurat building). He’s been working in those offices for some time. After moving in, Lyon started talking to his new neighbors in West Sacramento.

JEFF LYON: Running to change the city's top priority (News-Ledger photo)

JEFF LYON: Running to change the city’s top priority
(News-Ledger photo)

“It was a shock to my wife and me to hear that many of the neighbors had just got used to the fact that there are homeless transients and panhandlers and beggars walking the streets,” he told the News-Ledger. “Almost all of my neighbors had been the victim of a crime from a homeless person.”

And a nearby church was exacerbating the problem, he felt, by “feeding the homeless seven days a week and giving them clothes and camping supplies.”

“It was a daily parade of homeless people coming from the river. Since our house is right on their travel corridor, they’d come by twice a day, back and forth,” Lyon added. “Whenever you have them coming by, you have the resultant activity, which can include everything from public urination, to drinking in public, drugs in public, shouting each other, fighting – there were many fights in the church.”

Lyon said he encouraged the church’s landlord to sell, and encouraged the new landlord – developer Mark Friedman – to terminate the  church’s lease while the property awaited a new use. The church is gone now.

But the experiences led Lyon to become a spokesperson for the loosely-formed Washington Neighborhood Association, and he has been to the city council to lobby for a crackdown on illegal activities many times since moving in.

The group’s “action plan” for the homeless situation (you can see it at Lyon’s website, www.CleanUpWestSac.com) includes three piers, said Lyon. The first is “compassion” in attacking the homeless issue.

“If a homeless person wants food, shelter, substance abuse training, job training, mental health services, we’re going to get them to that service,” he explained. “Right now, Yolo County has services for each of those needs. . . We don’t need to replicate those services in West Sacramento.”

“Enforcement” is the second tenet of the plan. Lyon wants the local city and police to “make it clear we will not tolerate illegal camping in this city.”

And the third element?

“The third part of that plan is that we are going to elect representatives to the city council who support our cause, it’s as simple as that.”

Reducing the city’s crime rate is, in fact, Lyon’s number one priority. Currently, the city’s leaders have assigned “flood protection” to that number-one spot.

“I think that flood protection is a high priority, but not higher than public safety,” argues Lyon. Let’s say (flood protection) is second to public safety. . . Everything else is secondary because it does not do us any good to have new streetcars, new hotels or new development if 100 percent of the citizens do not feel safe 100 percent of the time.”

The council’s response to Lyon’s arguments has been silence, he said, and that’s part of why he gives the current council poor marks for its job performance.

“In general, the city council of West Sacramento is doing a lousy job, and I’ll tell you why,” he commented. “The main reason is I’ve publicly asked them in one of my speeches to meet with myself and my neighbors here in the Washington neighborhood to talk about our concerns about the homeless. We got no response. They completely rebuffed us.”

Nevertheless, he believes he can work with the incumbents if he’s elected to serve with them.

“I believe in the democratic process, which is majority rule,” he commented. “It’s my goal to win over each member of the city council to the way of the people’s thinking. When I get elected, they will see that my main priority is public safety. I’m going to reach out to get them aboard.”

Lyon supports the city’s development plans:

“Any development of the City of West Sacramento, whether it’s the Bridge District, Southport, the new hotels – they’re okay as long as public safety is the top priority and crime is reduced.”

He has a couple of other primary goals.

“One is to roll out the red carpet for businesses that create jobs,” Lyon said. “I built a restaurant in Texas 20 years ago and my permit only cost me $500. . . I couldn’t have opened my restaurant if I had to pay $50,000, $70,000 or $100,000 in fees like they do here in California or West Sacramento.”

In the 20 years since that restaurant opened, he reports, it has paid over $2 million in local sales tax, $180,000 in property taxes and “the best benefit is that my restaurant has employed 40 people for over 20 years.”

So Lyon would like to reduce business fees “as low as I can get them.”

He also hopes to “right-size” the city government, after doing a study of work flow at city hall.

“When I got to be chief of my section at (Department of General Services), it was the first time in history they reduced the size or downsized the staff,” he said. That happened after he studied the work flow and made a recommendation to reduce staff, by attrition.

If similar studies show there are too many people in one department or not enough at another in city hall, he said, changes could be made. Layoffs won’t be necessary.

“We don’t have to fire anybody,” said Lyon. “Through attrition, we just don’t have to backfill anybody.”

Lyon, 58, lives in his north-city home with his wife, Grace. They have five adult children in their blended family, all living outside the home.

Lyon lived in different areas while growing up, and earned bachelor’s of science degrees in both chemistry and chemical engineering. He has worked for oil companies as an engineer, in public affairs and in real estate management.

He worked for the state’s Department of General Services office (two blocks from his current home in West Sacramento) for about 13 years before retiring this year.

Other candidates seeking the two available seats on next month’s city council ballot are incumbents Mark Johannessen and Chris Ledesma as well as fellow challenger Nancy Heth-Tran.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

West Sac: odd/even watering days and other new rules approved


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

As California’s drought continues, the state has tightened up its rules required the City of West Sacramento to follow.

On Wednesday (Aug. 6), West Sacramento declared a “water shortage emergency, stage two.” Local residents and business owners are still being asked to cut their water use by 20 percent from last year, and a number of “voluntary” conservation measures are now becoming “mandatory.”

But staff and several city council members said at last week’s council meeting that they hope they’re not creating a culture of informing on neighbors, and a climate of punishment. They’d rather see neighbors helping each other fix faulty sprinkler systems than informing on each other.

“We will only issue penalties after the third or subsequent violation,” said Paulina Benner, the city’s environmental services manager, at the meeting. “The first two notices will simply be notices informing people of a violation.”
(Some information for this article was taken from video of that meeting.)

The city will do “outreach” informing people of the new rules – using the city “iLights” newsletter,” a printed newsletter, information in residents’ utility bills, social media and press releases,” said Benner.

She said the city government itself is trying to “lead by example.”

“We’re implementing some additional conservation measures such as drastic cutbacks in landscape irrigation and closure of our ‘splash park’ (at the city recreation center pool in Southport), and we’re reducing our street sweeping frequency,” said Benner.

She said those measures are saving over five million gallons per month, or enough to serve about 670 residents.

At Wednesday’s meeting, city officials noted that they have posted signs on street medians and other public-owned property where green grass is being allowed to go brown, explaining that the City of West Sacramento is deliberately reducing its watering.

MARK JOHANNESSEN, City Council Member   (News-Ledger file photo)

MARK JOHANNESSEN, City Council Member
(News-Ledger file photo)

Councilman Mark Johannessen acknowledged this, but added, “I know staff is making sure we at least keep the trees alive.”

Johannessen also suggested using water bills to give residents more information about their water use and about how to conserve it:

“We don’t have water meters throughout the city and there’s really no way to tell who’s using what unless you’ve got a water meter in,” said Johannessen. But he suggested letting metered homes know what they’re using and what they’re being asked to save, and telling them “here’s how you do it – you put a brick in your toilet, and those things.”

The city now has a tip line for messages about water wasters. It’s at (916) 617-4545.

Councilwoman Beverly Sandeen said she hoped the community would come together to save water:

“My hope is that when this gets announced tomorrow and subsequent days, people come together,” said Sandeen. Instead of having the first thing they do be to go to their phones to report their neighbors, they’ll actually knock on the (neighbor’s) door and say ‘Do you need help? I know how to change the timer (on your sprinkler system).’”

The new rules are:
— Using potable (drinkable) water for washing sidewalks and driveways is prohibited.
— Using potable water for washing streets and parking lots is prohibited.
— Using potable water to wash down buildings or to cool building roofs is prohibited.
— Watering of lawns or landscaping between noon and 6:00 p.m. is prohibited.
— Outdoor watering limited to an odd/even schedule. Customers with street addresses that end in an odd number may only irrigate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Customers with street addresses that end in an even number may only irrigate on Wednesday, Fridays, and Sundays. No irrigation is permitted on Mondays.
— Washing a motor vehicle using a hose without a shut-off nozzle is prohibited.
— Using drinkable water in a fountain or other decorative water feature is prohibited unless the water is part of a recirculating system.
— Using drinking water to water outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff to adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots or structures is prohibited.

The suggestions become “law” on September 5, reports the city clerk.

Tip line: (916) 617-4545 (leave a message with information about water being wasted)

For more information, go to cityofwestsacramento.org/water.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

West Sac is saving water, but is way behind on water meter use



By Steve Marschke, News-Ledger Editor

As California struggles to deal with a drought, West Sacramento has shown good progress toward meeting the governor’s goal of cutting water use by 20 percent.

But the city is out of compliance with state regulations requiring the use of metered rates to bill its residential customers for water, the News-Ledger has learned. Most local homes are still being billed at a flat rate, regardless of whether they use a little water or a lot.  In most cases, in fact, they’re billed at a flat rate even if they have a meter in place.

That’s in contradiction to the California Water Code.

As in other Central Valley jurisdictions, older homes here were not built with meters installed. There is no way to measure the water being used at one of these residences until a meter is added as a retrofit. West Sacramento is still adding meters to many of its pre-1992 homes, working from neighborhood to neighborhood. For example, this spring contractors installed water meters in front of about 600 homes near Park Boulevard.

The city’s public works director, Denix Anbiah, spoke to the News-Ledger by phone and email this week about the issue.

DENIX ANBIAH, West Sacramento Public Works Director (courtesy photo)

“There are 12,615 residential customers,” he wrote. “We have already installed about 8,400 meters.”

But just because a meter is installed doesn’t mean it’s used for water billing. Right now, residential customers with meters in West Sacramento stay on “flat-rate” billing until they contact the city (617-4575) and ask to go to metered service. Until they do, they continue to pay a fixed service amount regardless of how much water they use. (Local businesses are handled differently; they’re already all billed “volumetrically,” according to how much water their meters show they use.)

So out of 8,400 metered homes and 12,615 total homes in the city, only 910 are currently on “volumetric” billing, said Anbiah. The rest – almost 93 percent of the city’s residences – are  still on the old “flat” rates. They’re neither financially rewarded for saving water nor penalized for using a whole bunch of it.

Even where residential water meters are installed, only about 11 percent of them are actually being used as a basis for a water bill.

Does this matter?

Peter Brostom, Water Use Efficiency Project Manager for the State of California, believes it does.

“The state thinks it’s important for customers to be given a financial incentive to save water, which volumetric pricing provides,” he said. “It’s been shown to be an effective tool in reducing water use – up to 20 percent in some localities.”

Metered water rates are also required by the State Water Code.

West Sacramento’s public works director said he believes the city falls under Section 526 of that code. That section required West Sacramento to be selling water at metered rates to all of  its residential customers by March 1 of last year.

Anbiah acknowledged that the city is out of compliance with this directive, but said the city will be fully metered – and fully using those meters – by 2018. He added that this noncompliance shouldn’t cause major problems for West Sacramento as long as it fixes the problem as it plans to.

“If we are not in compliance, the consequence is that we don’t get a preferred rate the next time we negotiate a (Central Valley Project) water contract, which will go into effect in 2020,” said Anbiah. “We are scheduled to be in compliance by 2018.”

INSTALLED WATER METER (Courtesy of City of West Sacramento)

(Courtesy of City of West Sacramento)

The state’s Brostrom said there could be other consequences for West Sacramento if it stays out of compliance with metering requirements.

“They won’t be eligible for grants and loans (from the state) because they have to self-certify that they are meeting the metering regulations of this code section,” he said. But he added that the State of California doesn’t have an active method to enforce metering or to levy penalties on the city for failing to use meters. “A third party could challenge the city in court on their noncompliance with the law,” he said.

Even without water meters in use for most West Sacramentans, though, a voluntary local conservation drive has started to pay off in the city.   Governor Jerry Brown asked Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent. West Sacramento is almost on that mark.

“We are going to the city council this Wednesday and we are going to report 19.4 percent savings,” said Anbiah of the local public works department. That number compares water usage during several recent months with use during the same period here last year.

That conservation rate stands well against savings reported elsewhere in the Sacramento area. The Sacramento Regional Water Authority says “residents in the Sacramento region have reduced their water use by 18 percent from January through June compared to the same timeframe in 2013.” (Their comparison may include a slightly different group of months from West Sacramento’s analysis.)

But as the drought continues and some parts of the state fail to save much water, California is now mandating that some “voluntary” conservation measures become “mandatory.” West Sacramento officials plan a campaign by social media, the city website, digital message boards on the streets, and other means to get the conservation message out.

“State regulations prohibit certain actions – for example, it is illegal to wash your sidewalk or driveways with potable (drinking) water,” said Anbiah. “If somebody is washing a vehicle without a shut-off nozzle at the end of the hose, that is illegal. If somebody is over-irrigating a landscape and if the water is going into the drainage system a significant amount of time, that is illegal.”

Watch for more news on odd day/even day lawn watering rules and other water use restrictions to come out in the near future. (Editor’s note: the West Sacramento City Council approved new mandatory water restrictions on August 6; the News-Ledger will report on those shortly.)

Do you have a neighbor who is still flooding the storm drains with runoff from a sprinkler system?

You can report water wasters by calling the city’s new dedicated message line at (916) 617-4545. According to a city staff report, they’ll be checking these messages twice a day and following up with landowners when necessary.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

City considers restraints on pot growing

NEWS-LEDGER– DEC 4, 2013 —

Local law already bans pot dispensaries and backyard medical marijuana groves —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

The City of West Sacramento is poised to again tighten the restrictions on anyone growing marijuana at home.

The city has already outlawed marijuana dispensaries, the cultivation of marijuana for dispensaries, and any kind of outdoor marijuana cultivation. Although a state initiative legalized marijuana for medical use in the state, it still remains illegal under federal law.

A staff report for this Thursday’s planning commission meeting suggests that the commission put further city restrictions on those growing the plant for their own use, including:

— Continuing to outlaw outdoor growth of the plants

— Limiting indoor growth to 120 square feet per property, with a required minimum amount of ventilation and maximum wattage of growing lights.

— Allowing cultivation only when the grower lives on the property

— No cultivation in nonresidential zones or within 600 feet of schools or child care centers.

The staff report said that, after tracking court cases involving the rights of users of medical marijuana, city planning staff believed such restrictions would pass legal muster.

A number of residents have complained about neighbors growing the drug, said the report. Some have complained about the odor of the plants, and others have worried that the plants are a magnet for thieves and crime.

Citing data collected since 2008, the report said:

“The total number of narcotics complaints shows a peak in 2010, decreasing slightly thereafter, and then a slight rise this year. However, the number of complaints that specifically identify marijuana has doubled every year to 2012, with 2013 slightly below. . . The calls for service and crimes (plant theft, residential burglaries) related to the cultivation of marijuana have doubled since 2010.”

The city planning commission will be asked to consider the new restrictions during its meeting 6 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 5)  at city hall, 1110 West Capitol Avenue.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013