Third District Supervisor Jeff Stone, facing a capacity audience at Anza Valley’s community hall, announced major revisions in county code enforcement policy for valley residents. Among those revisions is a time-limited amnesty for existing code violations. Anza, like Idyllwild, is very different from the rest of Supervisor Jeff Stone’s third district. It is a rural community with a character and way of life different from other parts of Stone’s district. Much of its residential and outbuilding construction is not up to building code written, for the most part, for more urban parts of the county.
Community residents had previously complained about allegedly aggressive actions by county code enforcement at a town meeting in May. Key complaints alleged unauthorized entry on property by CE officers, lack of direction to residents about compliance standards, the difficulty and expense of dealing with Riverside in trying to correct infractions, and anonymous phone calls to CE that launch sometimes spurious investigations, ticketing and fines. At that meeting, Stone’s Chief of Staff Verne Lauritzen promised to return with some answers to questions and complaints raised.
On Wednesday, August 8, Stone brought his key staff, CE Third District Supervisor Brian Black and Juan Perez, new director of county transportation and land management. He opened the meeting noting, “My philosophy on code enforcement is that it is there to help people comply with the complex regulations of the county,” he said. “I wish I could tell you that every code enforcement officer embraces my philosophy.” He then presented a list of significant revisions to existing policy that he said he believed the community would welcome.
Stone noted a spike over the last several months in anonymous complaints, resident against resident. “Most of our [CE] calls are complaint based,” he said. He then announced the only anonymous complaints that CE would respond to would be those that raise health and safety issues. “We’re launching a new community-based code enforcement; code enforcement will only come out on health and safety issues.”
Regarding building permit issues Stone said, “We’ll abate all existing violations to date and start over to correct health and safety issues. Property owners must contact code enforcement within the next 90 days to set up plans to correct violations. We’ll set up payment plans if needed. Code enforcement will have the discretion to dismiss cases that are not health and safety violations.”
Stone made it clear that he is charged with enforcing laws that are on the books and that he takes that mandate seriously. But he said the changes in policy he outlined were designed to take into consideration the unique rural character of the Anza Valley.
Stone also advised attendees not to take legal advice from a non-lawyer. Although a property owner or renter could refuse entry onto the property by a CE officer, Stone noted the officer could return with a warrant, the cost of which the property owner would be responsible.
Stone announced that community members could present and discuss individual issues and cases at an October workshop with representatives from the departments of building and safety, planning and code enforcement. Stone also announced that for many small building and planning issues, at least in his district, deposit-based fees would be eliminated. “It will be on our Board of Supervisors agenda in October to vacate use of deposit-based fees,” he said. He explained that In the future, when residents apply for a building permit, they would get a schedule of fees for the project they bring in.
For the most part the capacity audience received the proposed policy changes positively. The workshop providing residents opportunities to discuss and resolve outstanding CE issues is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 10, at the Anza Community Hall.