In Alameda, code enforcement is a reactive program not a proactive program. Staff responds to complaints rather than going out and looking for violations. Complaints come from any number of places. Often they are received from neighbors and tenants. A fair number of complaints are forwarded from police and fire when they run across health and safety violations in their normal course of business. When complaints are received they are prioritized as either high, medium, low or secondary. High priority cases include illegal units, housing code violations, and dangerous buildings; medium priority cases include work without permits, abandoned vehicles (on private property), vacant buildings and graffiti; low and secondary priority cases include garbage, illegal signs, noise and illegal fences.
Every effort is made to visit the site of the alleged violation and confirm its validity as soon as possible. Once a complaint is confirmed as valid, the property owner is contacted to schedule an inspection and attempt to gain compliance. Many cases are resolved at this stage, the property owner makes the required corrections, the case is closed and all is right with the world. Other cases take more persuasion before compliance with the Alameda Municipal Code is reached. Enforcement efforts become increasing more demanding and can include the issuance of citations, a rare but sometimes necessary step. In the most difficult cases, where the safety of building occupants or neighboring properties are effected and the City is unable to gain compliance, the City Council may authorize civil proceedings against the property owner.