A Change.org petition has been circulating, and has 309 signatures so far. It reads, “Residents across our city have received citations stating that their basketball hoops are in violation of specific city ordinances. While playing basketball in their neighborhoods, children learn important life skills such as negotiating, appropriate communication, rule development and compromising all while getting healthy exercise.”
The story, already the subject of a CBS 13 report brought a few supporters to the Davis City Council and attracted additional media attention.
Assistant Chief Darren Pytel told council prior to public comment said that the ordinance deals with articles in the street, “which could include basketball hoops.” He urged caution, “Sometimes it’s easy to throw out ordinances saying that we don’t need them, but in this particular case, we’re not really concerned about basketball hoops on residential streets but if someone were to put a basketball hoop on B Street blocking a bike lane, that could be a real problem.”
“So we can’t just say, basketball hoops should be okay because we are concerned about some real safety issues,” he said.
Darren Pytel would add, “That said, basketball hoops on a street where there’s not a lot of traffic, that there’s not a real aesthetic issue, that it’s in good repair, not blocking the gutters, has reflectors that can be seen at nighttime, doesn’t present a safety or traffic hazard, that the kids are yielding to traffic – those are reasonable uses of the hoops in the street and really don’t present the type of concern that would really yield intervention from the police department.”
Assistant Chief Pytel did say they get a lot of complaints from across town about hoops in the street and several citizens got notices about them. “We do need to respond out on some of them to make sure we’re not dealing with a traffic problem,” he stated.
He acknowledged, “Taking a look at the current notice we’re using, it could definitely use some additional language to help people understand what the concern is.” He said that they should be able to work with residents. “This doesn’t seem like a case where we have to go out and be very heavy-handed,” he said.
Jennifer Chapman, who started the petition, expressed concerns about citations families across the city have received to require the removal of basketball hoops.
“A neighbor and I are members of two families on Imperial Avenue in West Davis that have received and questioned our citations over the past few weeks,” she said. “Fortunately yesterday the police clarified that hoops will be allowed with the specifications that (Chief Pytel) has outlined for you.”
She said that the neighbors appreciate this. They are thankful that the police did respond quickly and appropriately about this. She presented the city clerk with a copy of the petition with nearly 300 signatures, as well as over 200 comments from around the community and beyond.
“Given the turn of events, it seems that what matters is what the removal of the hoops means to my children, to the children in my neighborhood and the children all throughout Davis,” she continued. “We live in Davis for our great parks, neighborhood schools that kids can bike to, the safety that we feel when we’re outside and a strong sense of community within our neighborhoods.”
She emphasized the important skills learned by kids, “all while getting healthy exercise right in their front yards. We are such a healthy community.”
She called “the new interpretation by the police” a “great step.” She thinks it does not go far enough and wants the municipal code to be “much more specific with regards to basketball hoops. There’s too much gray area on this topic that has led to the disappointment of many” and has led the code enforcement by the police to “interpret to the best of their ability and caused friction amongst neighbors.”
She said she wants the municipal code changed to lay out the conditions under which basketball hoops in the street are acceptable.
Lisa Carlock said she received a citation in the fall and ended up removing her hoop because she didn’t have the energy that Jennifer Chapman had to fight it. She cited the vagueness of the city municipal code as problematic.
She said, “Both my husband and I, graduates of UC Davis law school, looked at it and said, well, guess the hoop’s got to go.” Now seeing the vague language and the clarification, “we see how we can have it back out in front of our house.”
Ms. Carlock asked for the city council to add specificity to the municipal code so it would be more clear what was and was not permissible.
Former Mayor Joe Krovoza made his first appearance back before council since his term expired. He joked that “this is one issue where I’m truly stuck in the middle on,” noting that the two hoops on Imperial are on each side of his house.
“What jumped out at me on this, is that we had two hoops, that were in good repair, that were being used regularly, every day, maybe even six (or) seven days a week for hours at a time by (12) kids,” he said. “Just a beehive of activity out there.”
“The first response from the city was to issue citations with $100 penalty and come back to make sure they were taken off the street,” he said. He emphasized the vagueness of the ordinance. “We know what it’s for – it’s for sofas, it’s for chairs, it’s for cars that aren’t running… it’s for stuff that’s left on the street… In this case, it’s exactly what we want to have in Davis.”
Michael Faust, a resident of Imperial Avenue, said he was here because he was compelled by his children to speak out and wanted the code to be clarified.
Bill Liebhardt, also of Imperial Avenue, said he moved in there in 1988 and has played basketball out there with kids for 28 years. “As a senior citizen who is going to be 80 next year, it helps me to go out and play with the kids,” he said. “I get knocks on my door from eight-year-olds to come out and play with them. If you want senior citizens to have a good hook shot, you have to have a place for them to play.”
The council undoubtedly will be looking at language on the municipal code to see if they can tighten it up.
—David M. Greenwald reporting