Code Enforcement - Amnesty?
Friday, October 26th, 2012
Issue 43, Volume 16.
At the last AVMAC meeting on Oct. 10, there was no general meeting; it was a workshop with different County agency representations: Building and Safety, Code Enforcement, Health, and Planning. The workshop was designed to work on individual issues and cases.
While the idea of a workshop to help citizens locally is wonderful, it was not the follow-up public meeting Supervisor Stone promised citizens that hot evening Aug. 8 when the words "amnesty" fell on citizens’ ears like cool water. It was the biggest, most important announcement and promise of the night.
At the end of that night, Supervisor Stone promised that there would be a follow-up meeting on how they planned to implement their amnesty pilot program at the next AVMAC meeting on Oct. 10.
That night on Oct. 10, this meeting never happened, instead a brochure and application form was all that was available to explain the plan they had decided on, along with Verne Lauritzen, Chief of Staff to Supervisor Stone, and Corinne Daly, legislative assistant to Supervisor Stone, who answered questions on a individual basis, there was no group meeting of any kind.
This was a disappointing end to what seemed to be a sincere effort on the County’s part to make sweeping changes for the better. The spider web of code enforcement issues that plague the area needed amnesty to cut the cobwebs away, making a clean new start for all involved. Too many blunders on the County’s part over the years and bad calls by power hungry code enforcement officers and disgruntled neighbors warrants it so.
The program they decided on has been named "Code Enforcement Compliance Incentive Program" or CIP. As discussed on Aug. 8, these changes are to be implemented in the Anza/Aguanga areas only and not across the entire county.
Here are some main issues of change heard on Aug. 8 promised by Supervisor Stone who said he could make it happen:
1) Amnesty, a clean slate, a fresh start for those with an open case and who file with the County Supervisors’ Office within 90 days by calling (866) 383-2203 or visiting www.supjeffstone.org or by contacting Corrine Daly, Legislative Assistant for Code Enforcement at 951-955-1030.
2) They will be dealing with issues that are of concern with public health and safety only. Example-exposed wires, drop off from doors where there are no safe stairs. No barking dogs or such. As long as homeowners work with the county they will work with them on the issues.
3) No more anonymous phone calls. Name, number, and address mush be given when turning in a complaint. County would keep the informant information private but they would have to give it to complain.
4) Containers on improved property will no longer be citied.
5) Stone is throwing out the upfront deposit policy for undisclosed ahead of time fees for small builders and homeowners. He wants citizens to know what a project will cost right out of the box.
The new CIP brochure states that this program is available to residents of Anza and Aguanga. An application must be filed between the dates of Oct. 15, 2012, to Jan. 15, 2013, and owners must have an open case. (Other restrictions may apply).
Here are some differences from what was discussed Aug. 8 to what is in the plan. It seems the Aug. 8 meeting did not translate into the CIP brochure. Compare the numbered points below to the above promises.
1) The promise of Amnesty, this is how they interpreted it. Any abatement liens or tax assessments already recorded against a property or any administrative citations (fines) that have already been paid, will not be void or nullified. This program does not eliminate any costs or fees for any department other than Code Enforcement. No refunds will be given for costs or fines already collected.
Note this question about what amnesty and what they meant were asked at the Aug. 8th meeting and Stone respectively said "Clean slate!" and lead the crowd to believe that fees not only would be stopped but returned.
2 and 3) Promise no more anonymous calls and the promise that they were only going after public safety issues to cite or call out. There was no mention in the CIP plan brochure of these issues. The only reference to these issues stems from AVMAC minutes of Aug. 8 and the back of a brochure titled "A Guide for Better Riverside County Communities."
AVMAC Aug. 8t minutes states: "Anonymous Calls. The County will no longer respond to anonymous calls unless those complaints deal with health and safety issues." Note this was incorrect according to what was said Aug. 8, Stone said no more anonymous calls will be taken by the county yet as of this date online an anonymous complaint can still be made.
"A Guide for Better Riverside County Communities" brochure states: Complaints that represent an immediate health or safety hazard will be given priority.Note: no mention of the no more anonymous complaints not being allowed.
4) Promise not to go after containers anymore not mentioned anywhere. Verne Lauritzen, Stone’s chief of staff was asked about this Oct. 10 at the AVMAC workshop and he said that they would honor what was discussed at the Aug. 8 meeting concerning containers on a case by case basis. They did not want to publish any new guidelines concerning this because they did not want people going crazy with containers, thinking they could have, (his example) nine containers in a row on an acre. They want to be able to make the call if the containers were unsightly or not. The County still wanted to maintain the option to have them removed if unsightly.
5) No changes on building deposits mentioned anywhere except that when asked Vern Lauritzen said that Supervisor Stone still wants to see deposit based fees eliminated, but as of the date they are not.
The CIP brochure states that this is an incentive program; purpose is to give residents and property owners who have open code enforcement cases and want to cooperate with the County the ability to avoid further fines while working on compliance.
These fines will not be cancelled until the end of all compliance according to the plans reasonable time frame given to owners by the County.
To be eligible for the program, owners cited must have an open case. There is a long list of things that would cause a case not to be eligible; civil litigation, criminal prosecution, hazardous materials and other special problems. Another reason for ineligibility was found listed on the application and no where else was: Cases in which the property is for sale or are in any process of foreclosure are ineligible.
Note: Properties in foreclosure when sold pay Tax liens first. That means tax liens generating from code enforcement fines are some of the first to be paid.
To download the CIP brochure, go to www.supjeffstone.org/opencms/GeneralsPDFs/Anza_Broch_9_26_12.pdf.
Compliance Incentive Program (CIP) application can be found online at www.supjeffstone.org/opencms/GeneralsPDFs/Anza_Appl.pdf.
A separate application must be completed for each parcel.
Obtain program application from the Code office or from Supervisor Stone’s office or website listed in the program brochure. Complete application and submit to Code Enforcement during the 90 day timeframe.
Code Enforcement and owner(s) meet and develop a compliance plan to bring violations into; compliance within a reasonable and achievable time frame. No citations will be issued during the life of the compliance plan. Owner achieves compliance and Code Enforcement closes the case(s).
Upon successful completion of the compliance plan, Code Enforcement will waive the following costs: Any unpaid administrative citation fines, case labor costs, and legal costs.
Note signing said application means you agree to the following: The undersigned acknowledges they have read the program brochure and application, and agrees to cooperate with Riverside County Code Enforcement during the program as outlined.
Note the application ends with the following information:
The program does not void or nullify:
1. Any abatement liens or tax assessments already recorded against a property.
2. Any administrative citations (fines) that have already been paid.
3. The program does not eliminate any costs or fees for any department other than Code Enforcement.
4. No refunds will be given for costs or fines already collected.
Note: If this application is signed as is and not amended, or if it is not stated when signed that it was "under duress" and that you do not agree with the above conditions, you should then list the items that you do not agree with, you have agreed to all their conditions.
Those of you who were there Aug. 8, remember Supervisors Stone’s own words "Clean Slate" and "I can make it happen." Citizens it may be time to write Supervisor Stone some letters reminding him so and of any other promises they remember not kept.
Note: AVPORT "Citizens Assisting Citizens" wants you to know that they are here to help. They are aware of the concerns with the new CIP program. Mainly it is not following through with the proposed changes promised at the Aug. 8 AVMAC. The new CIP may not help the neediest. Its help is very narrow and does not provide amnesty as spoken of at the Aug. 8 meeting from past fines. This newly formed Citizens Assisting Citizens group can be reached by email at Anza.Avport@gmail.com, by phone at (951) 389-4884 or by writing to AVPORT PO Box 301122, Anza Ca 92539 if you have questions. Volunteers and donations are needed; ask how you can help. New website: http://sites.google.com/site/anzaavport/.
Other contact information:
3rd District Code Enforcement-37600 Sky Canyon Drive, Suite 507G,Murrieta, CA 92563 Phone: 951-696-1606 Fax: 951-677-9052 www.rctlma.org/ce
Supervisor Jeff Stone-French Valley Airport-37600 Sky Canyon, Suite 505, Murrieta, CA 92563 Phone: 951-698-7326 www.supjeffstone.org
Building & Safety-4080 Lemon Street, 2nd Floor, Riverside, CA 92501 Phone: 951-955-1800 www.rctlma.org/building
Planning Department-4080 Lemon Street, 12th Floor, Riverside, CA 92501 Phone: 951-955-3200 www.rctlma.org/planning
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