The City of Santa Clara operates in compliance with hundreds of written codes that are designed to maintain a healthy, safe and clean environment, carry out land use policy, and preserve the quality of life standards that residents and businesses enjoy in our community.
There are many types of codes: City Codes, Fire Codes, Uniform Building Codes, Uniform Housing Codes, Zoning Ordinances, Vehicle Codes and Penal Codes. Code enforcement is a responsibility shared by staff of several departments in the City of Santa Clara. To be effective and efficient, code enforcement also needs the cooperation of residents and businesses.
Because there are so many codes - many involving complex technical or legal issues - residents frequently have questions about code enforcement and their role in making Santa Clara a better place to live and work. The following information will answer the most frequently asked questions about code enforcement in our community.
How are codes enforced?
The code enforcement process is typically initiated in several ways: 1) observation of a code violation by City staff as they patrol the community and do their jobs; 2) as a consequence of an action (for example, an application for a building permit or a request for a zoning variance); or 3) in response to a complaint by an individual.
The City relies on residents to help identify possible code violations, particularly in these areas:
- Illegal signs such as advertising flyers
- Graffiti on public or private property
- Shopping carts on streets, sidewalks, etc.
- Illegal dumping of garbage and debris
- Abandoned and/or inoperable vehicles
- Illegal dumping of oils, and other hazardous materials, into storm drains
- Overgrown foliage blocking stop signs, impeding sight of driveways, or making corners dangerous
- Large commercial vehicles (semi's) parked in residential neighborhoods
- Residential businesses causing traffic/noise problems
How do I notify the City about a possible code violation?
A complaint about a possible code violation is made by letter, telephone, email, or in person to the appropriate City department. [See the contact information below.] In an average year, the City receives several thousand complaints related to possible code enforcement violations.
Please be prepared with specific information, such as the address of the property, detailed description of the situation, and the length of time you have observed the situation. Complaints may be made anonymously (however, this may restrict the City's ability to follow-up on the complaint or our ability to obtain additional details which might assist in resolving the situation). Information leading to the identity and apprehension of a person who defaces any building or property with graffiti in the City of Santa Clara may qualify for a monetary reward through the City's Graffiti Watch program.
What is the procedure for following up on possible code violations?
City staff responds to code enforcement complaints according to the impact of the violation on the community. Situations that appear to pose a serious risk to health and safety are given top priority; others are pursued in the order in which they are received.
For all types of code complaints, the first step in the follow-up procedure is personal contact by a City staff member to ascertain if a code violation exists, and to request remediation. If the individual responsible for the situation is not available, or appears unwilling to voluntarily correct the code violation in a timely manner, a notice of violation or a citation may be issued. The City may also take court action if the situation poses a significant risk to the community or if the individual has ignored previous notices/citations.
What penalties result from code violations?
In many cases, the individual responsible for the code violation is given the opportunity to voluntarily correct the situation and comply with current codes without a penalty. If the correction is not made, then the individual may be subject to fines and other penalties.
All Zoning Ordinance violations and Nuisance Ordinance violations are misdemeanors. For some serious code infractions, usually involving major and immediate health or safety concerns, criminal prosecution or civil injunctions may be used by the City to enforce code compliance.