Sunday, July 08, 2012

Leave me A Lawn

Good morning and a happy July 4 to all. Among the surpises, San Angelo is not the national hot spot. Not even close, and God willing, we might get rain today. The heat and rainfall we can only pray for and hope. By the way, saw my first Cardinal of this year this morning, and I mean the red bird, not the Catholic in the funny hat. Not being disrespectful, one of my aunts is a nun, but the bird really caught my eye

On to matters we can control, let's begin with City Council and the parking ordinance. As approved last time, with some amendments, parking vehicles on unimproved surfaces would be prohibited. Last meeting of Council we saw some changes, I'm not sure anyone has specific language yet. Is the street 36 feet or 32 feet, is the parking area 90 degrees (perpindicular to, though some time was spent defining perpindicular, do we teach geometry anymore?) from the street, how many cars, etc.

Just for fun, I am including some snapshots of my block in Northeast Angelo. When I moved here twenty years ago this block had myself, a widow, one self- employed fellow, a retiree, and two dope dealers. The widow died, the retired guy sold his house to a good family, and at least one of the drug-peddlers got busted. Folks, it's a really nice neighborhood, I don't lose sleep if I forget to lock the truck.

Now look at the snapshots. The nice family is multi-generational, when everyone is home at the same time, they have 7 cars. OK, the block in general looks like a used car lot.

What I want Council to understand is they are writing law for all of San Angelo. Not Bentwood or Paseo de Vaca, but all of us paycheck-to-paycheck rednecks in north-east Angelo. OK I will drop the dreaded word, "Lakeview". I hope to live long enough that becomes a distant memory.

On my block, having a parking problem is a sign of prospertity, something to be celebrated, "Hey Carlos, I see the kid I used to buy school candy from worked hard enough to buy a car". Sometimes we do well not to park in one another's driveway or block the mailman. Yes, Neanderthals that we are, we have on street mailboxes and 50 foot frontage. One vehicle or nasty notes from the mailman. We deal with this without help from Council.

As I understand what is coming up for second reading, MY driveway will be illegal. Same drive that was here twenty years before I moved in and the twenty years since, but a 12 foot single car curb cut, Jan or I will have to decide who rides the bus, and who sells the car. Ain't gonna happen. Jan isn't giving up her car, and I'm not walking to work! Paul I'm not putting you down, but don't ignore us. We don't have the choices available to you.

One of my closing comments last time was "If this passes, maybe we can hope it is as aggresively enforced as doggie limits or garage sales, in which case it will actually bother no one". That wisecrack BTW, really pissed some folk in the room.

We have I think 8,000+ open warrants, Sheriff deputies, Warrant officers, SAPD, they are not ignorant of this but Jeez Louise, we have so many people and so much time; which side of the pile you want us to start on, and feel free to grab a shovel. Oh and do we put the current domestic abuse call on hold while we chase down a three year old open warrant?

Here is my problem with this "Cars-on-the-Lawn" ordinance. It is an open door to selective enforcement. Does it cover the boat and trailer; how about the RV one might see parked by a home? A lot of people have limited space for their "stuff". Yes, my Libertarian instinct reacts negatively to any cheese-eating ordinance we can live without. You want a good "nuisance ordinance" I want one forbidding lazy people from pulling up and honking the horn instead of getting off their duff and knocking on the door.

Here we are talking property rights, the "home as a castle" rights, and I am reluctant to give any of that power to anyone. Am I allowed to tell my neighbor "Hey, you have too much furniture on the front porch, it looks tacky and might diminish my property value if I choose to sell. Which I'm not, but I'd like to control your property, just in case". If that sounds like an improbable stretch of logic it is probably because it is. What if I choose to paint my house the color of Pepto-Bismol, or Irish green? Does City Council own my house or do I?


  1. I will have more to say in a follow up article but here is some food for thought just to start.

    First off, I've looked at the ordinances for several dozen cities in Texas and find there are only 3 ways other cities deal with parking on lawns. Frequently, many ignore it. They use their code enforcement, etc. to go after bigger issues than fractions of a percent of property value. The bad streets are probably affecting the property value more than the car on the grass. Next is they outlaw parking on unimproved surfaces. No exceptions. You want to live in Abilene (for example) you won't park on the grass or bare dirt or ... you get my point. If it's not improved, you can't park on it. The third way other cities deal with it is an opt-in system. You don't like people parking on the grass, get enough people on your block or in your neighborhood to sign a petition and your neighborhood will be a grass free parking zone. The other neighborhoods with more cars then pavement will just have to get by some other way.

    One thing I noticed, of the people that spoke in favor of the lawn parking ordinance as proposed, their particular areas of interest would likely not be protected because the streets are too narrow or they are on major thoroughfares. Just how wide are the streets around Ft. Concho, Blackshear, etc.?

  2. Blackshear and Ft, Concho, mainly 36 foot streets, but it varies. A recent job my company contracted for; San Jacinto school on Spaulding St. Olden days, it was in ordinance that a city street would be wide enough to allow a team of horses and wagon to make a U-Turn. Might seem out of date, but have you tried to put a mule-team in reverse? Not a pretty sight. Spaulding is close to 100 foot. Not a lot of those left, but this goes back to when land was cheap.

    Just in case anyone cares, we measure street width from curb face to curb face, not back of curb.

  3. So without a 100' tape, large T-square and a copy of the thoroughfare plan, there is no way to enforce this proposed mess of an ordinance. And that assumes there are curb faces to measure from.