Since residents in Alameda County were told to shelter-in-place on midnight of Mar. 16, the Piedmont Police Department has been busy educating residents and visitors about the limitations of the order.
Over the past week, police responded to a couple dozen incidents about non-essential landscaping. In an effort to demystify the order’s regulations, the Exedra asked Piedmont Police Capt. Chris Monahan to walk the community through what enforcement of the order looks like and the order’s bottom line.
On Apr. 21, PPD issued written warnings for two landscapers working on a residence on Bonita Avenue. They were asked to cease their “non-essential” duties, but police received a call shortly after revealing the landscapers had returned to their duties. “They were caught continuing to perform landscape duties after being warned earlier in the day,” said Monahan.
Both gardeners were given written warnings for violating the county’s order. Police then followed up with the homeowner and company supervisor. “Different landscape companies have been calling and asking what is and isn’t allowed, which is good on their part,” said Monahan.
The county’s shelter-in-place order considers arborists, landscapers and gardeners essential business, “but only to maintain the habitability, sanitation, operation of businesses or residences, or the safety of residents, employees, or the public.” Professional landscaping and gardening for cosmetic or upkeep purposes is strictly prohibited.
The bottom line is homeowners can maintain their own residences, but contract services are only allowed to address safety and sanitary issues. “If a pipe breaks or you’ve got a tree that looks like it’s going to crash on your house, then get somebody out to prevent something dramatic,” said Monahan. “If you’re getting plants changed, weeding done or your lawn mowed, that’s strictly prohibited.”
California’s Mar. 19 executive stay-at-home order draws on Government Code section 8665 to enforce the order. Anyone who violates Code 8665 could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000, imprisoned for six months or both. Alameda County’s Mar. 31 shelter-in-place order states that those who violate the order can be guilty of a misdemeanor and be fined $50 to $1,000, imprisoned for up to 90 days, or both.
Many of the incidents were related to gas leaf blowers, which irks Piedmont residents on a daily basis. The city has a long-standing ordinance prohibiting gas-powered leaf blowers, except those used by public agencies on public property. PPD has only issued a few citations to those in violation. Police have found warnings are usually enough to get compliance.
Due to stricter stay-at-home orders, police will be ramping up efforts to curb usage of gas leaf blowers. “We are looking at taking on a more active role to make sure we’re documenting who we’re warning,” said Monahan. “If we’re running into subsequent violations with the same person, that may lead to a citation.”