IB Alley Repairs May Leave Man Facing Fine, Jail Time

John Roche, Neighbors Paid To Fix Alley Because City Did Not Have Money For Repairs

One Imperial Beach resident could face a fine and jail time after a group of residents paid to fix an alley behind their homes that the city did not have money to fix.

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Two years ago, several residents whose garages open up to the alley between Florence and 12th Streets became upset at the quality of the dirt that covered the alley.

"There were like four big, huge potholes," said John Roche, who said he could not even drive or walk in the alley after it rained.

Cars would also kick up dust when they drove down the alley.

"We have our windows open and everything started getting coated with dust," said Roche.

The city of Imperial Beach said it did not have the funds to pave the alley and it rejected a permit request to put gravel down because gravel did not meet the city's standards.

So, Roche did what no ordinary citizen does: he asked his neighbors to help chip in to rent a Bobcat bulldozer, level the alley and put down gravel.

"We gathered about $900 at the time," Roche said.

The residents have been very happy with the results. There are no more puddles, no more mud and no more dust.

"I would say 80 to 90 percent of the dust was gone," said Roche.

When the city learned of the alley improvements, it sent Roche a notice that he could be cited with a misdemeanor of working in the public right of way.

"And it could be a year in a jail and a $1,000 fine," he said.

However, Imperial Beach City Manager Gary Brown told 10News no one is going to jail because of the alley. Brown did say the city cannot allow citizens to do improvements on city property without considering environmental and engineering standards.

Brown said the residents did not consider "not undo runoff, or the pebbles and rotting… and nobody gets hurt in the alley because of the alley conditions."

Brown added it is hard to improve the alleys because of the city's higher standards – which require asphalt or paving – even though those standards are more expensive than gravel.

"A lot more, several thousand dollars at least," said Brown.

There are currently 51 alleys in Imperial Beach that need repairs.

Roche said, "City, if you can't afford to do it, why can't us citizens do it?"

Brown said the city council is looking at ways to change those standards and see if gravel could be a suitable solution for Imperial Beach's dusty alleys.

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