Code Enforcement Neighborhood Improvement
Community, Community Development

Code Enforcement Strengthens San Mateo’s Neighborhoods

San Mateo's Code Enforcement Team

San Mateo’s Code Enforcement Team from left to right: Jesse Medina, Code Enforcement Officer I; Christine Civiletti, Code Enforcement Manager; and Debra LaPalm, Code Enforcement Officer II.

“Enforcement doesn’t always have to be the first resort when it comes to code enforcement issues,” says Christine Civiletti, San Mateo’s new Code Enforcement Manager. “Many of the cases we see in San Mateo can be handled by informing and educating a resident. This way they have the ability to resolve the issue on their own, and we work with them towards self-compliance.”

Putting a positive face on code enforcement may be a herculean task, but if anyone can do it, Civiletti is the one. She has the experience and the right attitude to do the job. She is passionate about helping people and would like to see code enforcement build stronger relationships with residents and neighborhoods.

Code Enforcement is now a division of San Mateo’s Community Development Department, and Civiletti is the first to bring a new vision to this challenging function.

Before arriving in San Mateo, Civiletti spent 11-years working for the city of Fremont, most recently as a Senior Code Enforcement Officer. There she facilitated several neighborhood projects and was able to foster stronger relationships by encouraging people to work together. One of her projects brought together a group of community volunteers that provided time, skills and materials to help put a new roof on a resident’s house. “It’s rewarding to give people the ability to improve their quality of life,” she says.

Changing the culture of code enforcement in San Mateo

Working with the community in a positive way is an approach that will improve the perception of code enforcement. Within the first year, Civiletti envisions an open line of communication between neighborhoods and code enforcement officers.

“Having conversations within neighborhoods is a good first step,” Civiletti commented. On June 23rd a neighborhood meeting was held in the North Central neighborhood. It provided an opportunity for neighbors to connect with one another and for code enforcement officers and residents to meet.

Code Enforcement focuses on self-compliance

Codes, guidelines, and rules are the essence of code enforcement. However, San Mateo’s new approach focuses on information and self-compliance. The city working with neighbors to understand requirements.

Residents expressed the most amount of concern about the impacts of the home occupation ordinance. Many felt that it wasn’t working and needs to be re-written. “After going back to study the code, we realized that it needs to be enforced

differently,” Civiletti stated. The new approach to enforcement will launch in August, and focuses on informing those operating a home-based business, with or without a permit, with the requirements they need to comply. Those operating a business without a permit will also receive information on how to obtain one. Code enforcement will make sure business owners get the appropriate permit.

Additionally, Code Enforcement is partnering with the Police Department to organize meet and greet events in specific neighborhoods. Community members can come to these events, have a cup of coffee and discuss the issues impacting their neighborhood with police and code enforcement officers.

Taking a look at the big picture

San Mateo’s code enforcement officers are highly dedicated and want to create strong, healthy communities. Civiletti encourages her team to look at the bigger picture. A complaint may begin with garbage, but it’s usually so much more. Taking a step back brings perspective and provides the ability to see what more can be done to make improvements within a neighborhood.

“Being effective in this field depends on how you look at an issue,” Civiletti stated. “My vision is to establish relationships and ensure that the community and enforcement officers work together in a positive way.” For more information, please visit www.cityofsanmateo.org.

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