Kevin Valine

City backs away from citing landlords over fireworks

Illegal fireworks explode off Roselle Avenue and Floyd avenues near homes in northeast Modesto in 2011.
Illegal fireworks explode off Roselle Avenue and Floyd avenues near homes in northeast Modesto in 2011. Modesto Bee file

Modesto is backing off from citing property management companies and owners when their tenants set off illegal fireworks.

The City Council in June passed an ordinance that allowed the city to issue $1,000 administrative citations to property managers and landlords who control but don’t live at a property where illegal fireworks have been found, discharged, sold or made.

That drew concern from real estate industry officials, who said it was not right to make managers and landlords responsible for the actions of their tenants. The council then directed its Great Safe Neighborhoods Committee to revisit the ordinance. As part of that, city and real estate industry officials met to discuss changing the ordinance.

The committee recommended Monday the council adopt the changes. They include no longer holding property managers, landlords and owners who do not live at the property responsible. But owners who live at the property and tenants still face being issued the $1,000 administrative citation.

The council is expected to consider approving the changes in the coming weeks.

Modesto already issues $1,000 administrative citations to those who use, keep, sell or make illegal fireworks, but authorities have to catch someone in the act to cite them. Fire Department officials saw citing those who control a property as another weapon in their battle against illegal fireworks.

Officials said the goal still was to cite the person using the illegal fireworks, but citing property owners and others who control a property could make sense in some circumstances – such as cases where a tenant is continuing to set off fireworks and the property owner isn’t doing anything to stop it. But even issuing a citation as a last resort was too much for property managers and landlords.

Illegal fireworks are a huge problem for the city during Fourth of July and days before and after the holiday. Those who use the fireworks keep the Fire Department busy as the number of vegetation and roof fires spike. Councilwoman Kristi Ah You, who serves on the Great Safe Neighborhoods Committee, reiterated her call at Monday’s meeting for a ban of all fireworks in the city.

The Fire Department had hoped to have the ordinance in place before the last Fourth of July holiday. But because of a clerical error, the ordinance did not take effect until July 14.

In other news:

WalletHub – the personal finance website – has released yet another study about cities. This one looks at the best and worst foodie locations among the 150 largest cities in the United States. Researchers chewed over such measures as the cost of groceries; the numbers of restaurants, food trucks and farmers markets; and the cost of beer and wine in coming up with their rankings.

Modesto was ranked No. 50. Among the other Central Valley cities, Sacramento was ranked No. 17, Bakersfield No. 56, Fresno No. 63 and Stockton No. 86. And in case you are interested, Orlando, Fla., was No. 1. The study is available at

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316