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  Weeds Be Gone!
Robert Scott | Del Mar Fire Marshall

 

A group clearing weeds in Crest Canyon near a home.
Photo Carol Kerridge

 

The City’s revised Weed Abatement program is now being implemented. The inspector, a part-time employee of the city, is Dawn Robinson with an office in the Annex. She is an experienced fire fighter and already at work , inspecting properties in the Wildlands Urban Interface zone in Del Mar. The new inspector knows about native plants, and you can be assured that the program will not be heavy handed and that forced abatement will be performed as a last resort after all attempts to get voluntary compliance have failed.

The Weed Abatement phone line is 858-704-3662. You will need to leave a message and she promised to get back to you within 48 hours. E-mail her at Inspector@delmar.ca.us. She will accept invitations to inspect your property in totality rather than by a driveby, if asked.

No inspector is allowed to go on private property at any time-unless invited. The inspector must do her best she can looking at overgrown vegetation from the street, (this is law other public view points), or from property of a person complaining about another property.  If a resident wants to schedule an inspection there will be a weed abatement phone line at the fire station that customers/citizens can call to schedule inspection appointments.  With respect to notices and the weed abatement program:
Receiving a courtesy notice does not constitute being entered into the enforcement system. The goal of the courtesy notice (not required by law) is to inform homeowners that they may have overgrown, dead or dying vegetation that should be removed. When an owner receives this notice, that is their opportunity to call the inspector (if they want to) and schedule an inspection appointment. If after 30 days no appointments or contact is made, the inspector will re-inspect the same property that any courtesy notice was sent to.

If a property owner takes no action to schedule an inspection or reduce the fire hazard, they will receive a 15 day certified mail notice, asking them again to remove the hazard or schedule an inspection. At that time, the owner still has an opportunity to schedule an inspection. The certified mail notice is meant to show proof of receipt of service, (not to be punitive) yet a time extension (15 to 30 days) can still be granted to the homeowner, so they can have ample time to schedule an inspection at their property, understand the requirements for reducing the fire hazard and take action to remove the hazard.

Our goal is to reduce and eliminate fire hazards using a “compliance thru education” approach. This means meeting homeowners at their property, explaining to them what is required to eliminate overgrown or hazardous vegetation, and following thru with them to ensure the work is done. Forced abatement is a last resort. We do not want to abate property and prefer voluntary compliance. In order to properly conduct this program and eliminate fire hazards prior to fire season, we need to conduct inspections of property (public and private) and assess the fire hazard. The reason we send Courtesy notices is to identify areas of concern, so we can organize our calendar and schedule appointments with interested homeowners (not all homeowners are interested in meeting with us). We cannot possibly conduct this program in an efficient or timely manner and reduce the fire threat prior to fire season, if we go door to door city wide and try to set appointments, prior to sending a courtesy notice. If persons are not home, or not interested in inspections, we lose valuable time in inspection and identification of potential hazards.

Again, since this program is city wide, time is a critical factor.   Its worthwhile to note that the Government Code does not require a courtesy notice, nor 50 total days of notification, using three separate notices, (30 day courtesy; 15 day certified mail and 5 day property posting). By law we must only give two notices spanning 20 days. In the interest of reducing the fire hazard and not specifically abating property, the Del Mar weed program proposes 50 days and three separate notices. This is certainly in the property owners favor. The only reason I mention this is to again clarify the City and Fire Departments commitment to reduce the fire hazard by educating property owners, not thru forced abatement of any property. Again, abatement is a last resort.

 

 
 

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