Image of City Manager Joe Lopez

City Manager's Blog

Dec 12

Our Strategy to Address Blight

Posted on December 12, 2019 at 4:28 PM by Thomas Reeves

The Blight Abatement Strategy is a major component of Modesto's 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, and never before has our City been more focused on beautification and overall quality of life. 

Cases of abandoned vehicles have increased by 43% in 2 years, while cases of illegal dumping have averaged over 2,500 across the last 4 years. Not only does illegal dumping decrease property value, it also increases the likelihood of individuals continuing this behavior and contributing to blight throughout the city.

That is why we have assembled a robust campaign to effectively enforce abatement codes in priority areas. The strategy will be targeting three leading objectives:
  1. The creation of a blight abatement advisory committee comprised of public and private stakeholders that will make recommendation to the city regarding program improvements, potential funding opportunities, and support with increasing volunteerism.
  2. Quarterly updates to the City Council regarding the progress that has been made on the Blight Abatement Strategy.
  3. The development of a consistent promotional and educational campaign that includes strategic communication with residents and business owners. 
Our strategy includes the implementation of a new solid waste plan, and increased enforcement through new video surveillance cameras.

Initiatives like these could not be made possible without the help of our supporters, including you, our residents and stakeholders. The community has an opportunity to be part of the solution by donating funds toward the installment of cameras.  Cameras are proving to deter illegal dumpers, and the more money we raise, the more cameras we place - even in your neighborhood!  Click here for more information about this fundraising effort, or email below.   

Aside from illegal dumping, the Blight Abatement Strategy also encompasses any and all nuisances that need to be maintained such as overgrown weeds, horticultural maintenance, and the removal of tagging.  The city currently provides a number of blight abatement services, including weekly garbage and green waste pick-up, street sweeping, graffiti removal, shopping cart removal, and programs for tire disposal and bulky item pick-up.

I would also like to highlight our new partnership with non-profit organization, “Keep America Beautiful” (KAB). This partnership is essential to establishing and sustaining blight abatement opportunities in our community. Affiliation with KAB includes national credibility, training opportunities, resources, programs, and community impacts grants.

Our goal is to increase pride in Modesto’s diverse neighborhoods and business districts through beautification efforts and by investing in community assets and amenities.  With the help of residents who report violations on the GoModesto! Mobile App, we have been able to target priority areas.

The responsibility of cleaning up our city is far too large for any one single team to handle alone, which is why we value our public-private partnerships and aim to cultivate these initiatives to better serve our city as a whole. We encourage residents to continue to help us report trash in streets or alleys by calling (209) 577-5494, emailing us, or creating a request on the GoModesto! Mobile App.

I would like to thank our partners who have already contributed to blight abatement and are working tirelessly to make Modesto a beautiful place to live.
Nov 19

MOES is Closing

Posted on November 19, 2019 at 9:30 AM by Thomas Reeves

The year 2019 has brought us many new and exciting projects; one of those being the opening of our city’s now acclaimed Modesto Outdoor Emergency Shelter (MOES). Since April, MOES has served over 700 individuals, and has consistently maintained a population of more than 400 people. Included in the larger figure, are 250 people who have exited MOES, 33 of whom secured permanent housing in some form.  Additionally, since its opening, over 3,100 individual services have been provided to MOES campers. 

MOES was always intended to be a temporary solution, and as we reach the end of this year, it is time to close down this temporary project.  As a means to transition MOES residents to the next stages of the housing continuum, we have a variety of alternatives lined up for the new year! Each story is unique to the individual experiencing homelessness and that is why we are currently case managing every resident at MOES to determine if they are willing to move indoors.

The Stanislaus County new Access Center Emergency Shelter, located on the Salvation Army’s Berberian Center campus, is set to open next week and will offer 182 beds in preparation for the MOES closing, plus an additional 50 beds at the Berberian Shelter’s existing operation. Designed as a low-barrier shelter, individuals and their partners, pets (spayed/neutered with up-to-date vaccinations), and possessions are welcome. 

Unfortunately, homelessness has and continues to be a concern in the City and we are making strategic efforts to aid the most vulnerable in our community. Through a Coordinated Entry Process at the new Access Center Emergency Shelter, the vulnerability of our homeless individuals will be assessed and priority given to those with the highest need.  The access center, that is planned to open in January, will house case managers and outreach teams ready to help address any obstacles that may be impeding residents from accepting other housing services.

Some may be concerned with the number of beds provided at the emergency shelters but I assure you these are not the only beds available.  As individuals transition into new housing stages, we are also increasing the number of beds through the housing continuum, ultimately preluding to our affordable housing goal. Between the City and Stanislaus County, we currently have a total of 2,729 beds available throughout the housing continuum, ranging from emergency shelters to affordable ownership. Not to mentions the additional 894 beds soon to be added. These beds are provided through partnered organizations within the city and county, such as Center for Human Services, Children’s Crisis Center, Haven’s Women Center, Family Promise, and more.

Despite our best efforts, we do anticipate a temporary surge back into the community of individuals who decline emergency shelter or other housing services offered, and are implementing a strict accountability element to our efforts.  The Modesto Police Department recently developed a robust plan to address illegal camping and vagrancy. This plan includes the deployment of the Crime Reduction Team (CRT), the Homeless Engagement and Response Team (HEART), the Crime Prevention Unit, and other tactical groups to patrol areas experiencing high vagrancy related issues. As we contact individuals experiencing homelessness, they will be directed to the Salvation Army, or other facilities with available beds where we hope they will embrace the opportunity to begin the road to a full life.

When creating solutions to urgent issues we constantly keep in mind the safety and well-being of our city as a whole. With the help of our partners and staff, we aspire to reduce homelessness in our community one step at a time, and we know there is more work to be done. 

For now, as we share patience through this evolving program, please take advantage of several resources:
  • If you feel unsafe because of an act of vagrancy, call the police department’s non-emergency line at (209) 552-2470.
  • To report vagrancy-related clean-ups, use the GoModesto app or GoModesto on the city’s website.
  • As always, for emergencies, call 9-1-1
MOES Is Closing
Nov 13

Final Investigation into April 2018 Accident

Posted on November 13, 2019 at 10:13 AM by Thomas Reeves

April 9, 2018 is a date that will forever serve as a reminder of a City employee lost on the job. A member of our Public Works Department family, Tyrone Hairston died while performing streetlight maintenance.

After the incident, the City performed three investigations aimed at learning what went wrong, and how accidents like this could be avoided in the future.  The results of the final investigation have now been shared with the City.

We’re sharing the results of this latest investigation out of an abundance of transparency.  There was messaging about transparency when we began the Serious Accident Review Team (SART) investigation, and we’re repeating that messaging now.  Full disclosure is of the utmost importance as we seek to change the culture at the City.

This latest investigation is a continuation of the City’s safety program overhaul.  In particular, this seeks to close the loop on the SART report which brought into question whether others in management should be held responsible for the death of Hairston.

We have reviewed the full report and have found it to be thorough and fair, and based on the findings in this report, the City has found that no additional disciplinary action is warranted against supervisors or managers still employed by the City.  

We all recognize that training is an essential component of any job function at the City, and the investigation found that the employees had been provided the necessary safety-related trainings for their specific job functions for which they were hired.  

The study also found serious failings by the supervisors in providing certain safety-related policies, procedures, and Personal Protective Equipment to Hairston and his coworkers.

The investigation makes clear that although certain policies and procedures existed, they were not being consistently followed, and that is a key driving force in changes being made across the entire organization.  It is also fully acknowledged that new policies and procedures were necessary as a result of the incident, and those have been implemented organization-wide.  

We’ve learned a lot since April 9th, and we will continue to strive toward a safe and secure work environment.

Since April 2018, the City has:
  • Hired a Safety Officer who will implement the steps recommended by the SART investigation to make sure this type of tragedy does not happen again.  The Safety Officer is providing necessary trainings and implementing safety programs.
  • Instituted many of the recommendations within the SART report including having monthly safety meeting and more frequent job site visits with division managers.
  • Stepped up its record keeping to ensure trainings and certifications are current.
  • Implemented safety tailgate meetings at the start of each job.
The City is investing heavily in training, personal protective wear, standard operating procedures, and equipment.

Nothing is more important than our employees' safety. Getting them home safely each and every day is our priority, and if we are cultivating a culture of safety in the workplace, our employees' family and our residents will be better served.  

Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and as I've told our employees, if you see something that is contributing to an unsafe work environment, say something to our team.

November 2019 Report