2010–Ah, Another Petaluma New Year

Good morning on this first day of 2010! 

As with most new years, I suspect 2010 will be more of the same with a few surprises tucked in to keep it interesting…

  • Debates and discussions over local and state revenues, budgets, etc. will continue. 
  • As it is an election year, you can expect a flood of campaign promises, literature, and the usual political posturing and pandering for votes.

The full nature and extent of my participation in the election cycle has already been discussed in Petaluma Politics–Campaign 2010 

The only question before me now is what I will “cover” in 2010. 

Will it be abandoned shopping carts? 

 

Granted, shopping carts have been a constant visual plague in Petaluma. Fortunately, their numbers have been greatly reduced due to the efforts of Raley’s and Safeway to keep them confined on their lots.  Unfortunately, other stores have not been as proactive.  Nonetheless, I see no reason to resume my “coverage” of shopping carts.  You see one cart, you’ve seen them all

 Should I resume following the Petaluma Graffiti Trail?

I abandoned the graffiti beat in 2009 for practical and personal reasons and see no reason to resume it in 2010. Graffiti has become an established part of urban culture in our society and Petaluma is no exception.

How about Trash?

Trash is an “attractive” subject in that there are many photographic opportunities. It also is a low risk subject as it is not likely you will see your name written on a wall if you write about it.  I recently acquired a camera with a powerful telephoto that enabled me to identify all the objects floating in the lake at Lucchesi…

But alas, how many photos of cups, bags, and bottles are too many? I suspect those displayed here will be sufficient unto the cause for 2010.

Looking forward…

We will just have to see what comes along.

At a minimum, I will post a blog monthly on subjects yet unknown.

……

As an aside, I started this WordPress blog in May, 2009. For a retrospective look at some of the photos used in my WordPress posts, go to Pixels of Petaluma (2009)

Happy New Year!

9:00 AM–Do you know where your bed is?

Over the years I have witnessed and photographed many an interesting scene in P-Town. 

…Just when I think I have seen everything…

Tuesday morning, August, 25, 2009, I encountered the following in the parking lot of the former Mervyn’s store…

August 23 2009 004

Of course, one can think of many possible captions for this scene and readers are more than welcome to offer their own…August 23 2009 003

Perhaps this is a sign that a furniture store is going to move into the former Mervyn’s building! If so, they already have a potential customer…

August 23 2009 005

In the alternative, perhaps we are looking at a bed-napping victim?

Petaluma’s Vacant Homes–Holding Back The Blight

It is not “news” to report that the national recession has taken its toll on homeowners in the form of foreclosures.  Even a casual observer can see that Petaluma is also suffering from the foreclosure tsunami.

In some of Petaluma’s neighborhoods, more and more homes are sprouting  bank foreclosure notices… 

abandoned-homes-august-2009-003

or “”For Sale” signs–sometimes two…

For Sale For Sale...

Vacant Homes

Unoccupied homes can become an eyesore if they are not maintained or, even worse, they can become an attraction for vandals or squatters. In some cities, squatters have moved in and established utilities, thus living rent-free until discovered. Since banks take forever to put a property up for sale, squatters can live for up to 18 months before being evicted.  For a TIme article on the situation in Stockton, Ca. (Click Here)

Fortunately, things have not gotten this bad in Petaluma. However, I do wonder if we may have more vacant homes than homeless people.

There is something you can do to help prevent a problem developing with an unoccupied home in your neighborhood.

City Code Enforcement

If there is a property in your neighborhood that you think is becoming a problem, you should contact Code Enforcement…

  • Go to their Web Page  and click on the link titled “On-line Complaint/Violation Form” (Preferred Method of Contact)
  • In the alternative, call the Code Enforcement Complaint Line at 707-778-4469

If you suspect drug and gang activity, call the Police Department directly at 707-778-4372.

If you have general questions, you can also contact Code Enforcement by e-mail at codeenforcement@ci.petaluma.ca.us

Citizen reporting is essential, as City staffing levels do not permit pro-active enforcement.  The identity of those making inquiries or complaints is not disclosed.  They “… have no problems being the bad guy, so you don’t have to. Due to our lack of staffing, we may not be able to address every complaint right away, but we will get to it…Keeping your neighborhood clean and maintained is one of the best ways to deter crime and keep your property values up.”

As an aside, while this article focuses on coping with problems with unoccupied houses, you should also contact Code Enforcement if you have concerns about a house that is occupied.

When to Report

If something does not look or seem right, feel free to contact Code Enforcement or the Police Department as outlined above. Some signs to look for include…

  • Overgrown vegetation
  • Weeds that haven’t been cut or pulled
  • Graffiti
  • Piles of junk, trash and garbage.

Recently, a vacant home purchased in foreclosure was being remodeled for resale. The contractors left the house unattended with the front windows and garage door open–for two days. It was an open invitation for mischief.  Fortunately, a neighbor decided to call the police on the second night and they came out and secured the property.

Another current case involves a vacant foreclosed property with open windows, curtains blowing outside the window, and an unsecured garage door. In addition, newspapers, flyers and new phone books can be observed littering the front sidewalk…

abandoned-homes-august-2009-005abandoned-homes-august-2009-001

In closing, keep in mind that even when a complaint is addressed by the City, there are usually additional delays because the process of identifying the owner (usually a bank) is quite cumbersome.  In some cities, such properties have become so numerous they have initiated legal action against the banks.

Let’s hope it does not come to that in Petaluma…

Petaluma Budget Woes

Petaluma Budget–More Hits Coming?

The short answer to the question—more than likely.

____________________

First–Consider the fact that local tax revenue from tourism is falling. For details, see the recent Press Democrat Story.

Second–County real estate assessed values declined for the first time in history, thus lowering revenue from real estate taxes (Press Democrat Story)

Finally–According to a database provided by the Sacramento Bee, the new California state budget will reduce or borrow the following from Petaluma’s City and redevelopment budgets:

• City of Petaluma $1,112,587
• Petaluma Community Development Commission $5,074,284

For additional information, check out the story and links on CaliforniaCityNews

These revenue shortfalls will play out in many aspects of our civic life–not the least of which is park maintenance. 

I recently commented on the state of affairs around the pond in Lucchesi Park and the Community Center.  Fortunately, the fountains have once again become operational. However, the pond still seems to be in need of attention. Finding the funds for this purpose will, I imagine, be extremely problematic.

…Lucchesi Pond…

Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 002Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 009Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 011Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 012Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 017

Coralling & Hobbling Shopping Carts Part II

In April, Safeway implemented the Carttronics cart control system. Basically, it is an electronic control system which prevents the easy removal of the carts from the parking lot…

Carte Signs 001

If the cart goes beyond a certain point, the front wheel locks…

 

I have already noticed behavioral changes in some people. For example, one of Petaluma’s most prolific “Kart Kleptos” now uses a K-Mart Cart or a Staples Cart when shopping at Safeway…or any other store for that matter.

A more practical solution frequently employed by determined Safeway “cartnappers” is to simply transfer their groceries to the cart of another store (currently Staples is the number one choice, with K-Mart and Longs as close runners-up) and take off.

Of course this means the other stores are probably wondering where all their carts are going.

Raley’s in Petaluma recently opened a new store with an electronics cart control system similar to the one installed by Safeway…

Carte Signs 002

Raley’s also stenciled warnings in the parking lot…

Carte Street Sign

The systems installed by Raley’s and Safeway have drastically reduced the number of abandoned shopping carts in our environment…Reducing scenes such as these…

A resounding thanks to both stores!