Aerial photos aid county planners enforcement

July 2, 2008

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

“They” are, indeed, watching.

Cameras are peeking through the clouds above San Luis Obispo County, and some residents are finding them not only invasive, but expensive.

Right now, the eyes in the sky are aimed down at the Jardine area east of downtown Paso Robles. The stated objective: a cleaner, safer, happier neighborhood. But there is a more benign objective, and that’s seeking out, isolating, and identifying structures that have been built without permits issued by the county. That means added revenues for county government in a time of economic constriction. Or at least, that’s the opinion of some.

Ruby Price, 79, a longtime Jardine resident, found a letter in her mailbox in mid-June which caused her great stress, according to her son, Bert Winston Shaw. It was from the SLO County Department of Planning and Building’s Senior Investigator Greg Camack.

Shaw elaborated on his mother’s reaction: “Damned near caused her to have a heart attack.”

The letter wasted no time getting to its point. At its top, in big, black letters, was the stern observation, “NOTICE OF VIOLATION.” Then, “We have recently determined that the following violations of the [county] code exist on your property.”

Accompanying the letter was a black-and-white copy of an aerial photograph of Price’s property, with a structure highlighted. It was her 16-year old barn, located on the back end of her five-acre parcel. It’s a neatly-painted, well-maintained structure that is structurally sound but has no a permit, according to Shaw, a Vietnam veteran. And it’s been standing there since 1992.

If Price did not immediately comply with the order, Camack informed the elderly widow, “You may be prosecuted in court. You may be subject to administrative fines.”

Along the way to compliance, Price could incur up-front costs in penalties and assessments of as much as $3,000, and substantially more than that in engineering fees required to bring the building up to code, by the county’s standards. If she chooses not to incur those expenses, she would be required to “abate the nuisance,” which is planning jargon for tearing down the barn.

“Neither option is pretty,” said Shaw. “She can’t afford either.”

Price’s is one of at least two dozen properties targeted by county enforcement efforts in the North County during recent months. It’s all part of a three-pronged clean-up campaign aimed at, according to county officials, “protecting property values, maintaining community standards, and protecting the environment.”

Properties identified by the county – by aerial photos, neighbor reports, and visual confirmation by inspectors – have alleged infractions ranging from unpermitted garage conversions; unlawful vehicle storage; occupied recreational vehicle; structured constructed without permits; outdoor storage; and stored mobile homes. Each residence received a letter similar to Price’s.

The program’s initial phase concentrated on piles of junk and wrecked automobiles that littered some yards in the area. Helping to defray the cost to homeowners were county dollars, such as waiving dump fees. Camack hoped that motivation would spur widespread cooperation along Jardine’s rugged roads.

“We really don’t use the aerial photos much,” he said, while acknowledging that some alleged violations on Jardine properties were documented using such photos. He said the photos are provided by government agencies other than the county, such as the U.S. Geological Service.

The Jardine area, with its rustic residences, dusty roads, and homeowners with a penchant for privacy, does not provide a welcoming atmosphere for county enforcement officers. Nevertheless, first phase efforts were quite successful, said Art Trinidade, the county’s chief code enforcement officer.

“We can’t just let that go,” said Trinidade of what he called “the condition” of the Jardine area before the current clean-up campaign. “We won’t allow it to. If something were to happen to someone in a structure that we had prior knowledge was not built to code, the county would be liable.”

The official said the program’s second phase consists of addressing structures that have been built without proper permits, and will continue through August. And the third and final phase is the legal clean-up: “Some property owners will not comply and will find themselves in court,” said Camack. He figures those kinds of cases will be limited.

Whatever the public motivation, said Shaw, the county’s efforts are putting his mother in a very tight spot.

“The letter they sent her said she could be prosecuted for misdemeanors,” he said. “That scared the hell out of her. Can you imagine that? She’s never even had a traffic ticket. And now she has to put up with this?”

In a follow-up letter to Price, Camack gave the woman until August 25 “to bring the property into compliance.” Camack will “try to help in any way I can or am allowed,” he wrote.

“They can help by leaving her alone,” said Shaw. He said he’s conducting his own informal survey of his 24 neighbors who have been contacted by the county.

And where will the county code enforcement dragnet next appear? For the time being, officials aren’t saying.


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8 Comments

  1. ccn_debate says:

    Member Opinions:
    By: Anonymous on 7/31/08
    Zillion-dollar spies in the skies-cowboys-hunting for renegade and maverick fences and structures while shooting (photos) at whim, SHOULD tell us at least what time it is. In an ultra-rural area, the CHP (blue/wite) choppers would repeatedly thunder our guts and panic my children that they peed and pooped in fear, insides shaking, legs quivering. But renegade fences are a seriously important matter…more important than inciting fear and trembling where we know, the law only applies to some.

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  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 7/29/08
    Either this is just a fecal discourse or government just picks their enforcement as in easy pickens. Como say di say mitigation—mordida!!!!!se, correcto….
    By: Anonymous on 7/22/08
    Ms Ruby Price had a structure built on her property without first obtaining the proper permits. Why does that make a government agency the bad guy?
    By: Anonymous on 7/14/08
    Who got wire tapped? Fill us in please.
    By: Anonymous on 7/8/08
    Allowing Google to post pictures of your property without your consent is bad enough — the government using aeriel photographs to identify crimes is a violation of the 4th amendment, which protects against illegal search and seizures. When a police agency uses a blanket (broad) approach to find illegal activity — that's illegal. Yeah, I know that's exactly what the "Patriot" Act allows for. I'd argue that piece of sh*t act is illegal, too.

    This is a good start on this story — I'd love to see it go much further.
    By: Anonymous on 7/5/08
    The planners didn't need to go to Google they already spent a fortune getting aerial maps that are available thru the county web page under GIS mapping. The google maps are nothing new it's just that they have nothing to do and they need to have the fees keep coming in.
    By: Anonymous on 7/5/08
    Where were all you defenders of rights when the wiretapping was going on?
    By: Anonymous on 7/5/08
    It has always been policy at city and county planning departments to only field code compliance complaints based on reported incidents that required the reporter to file a complaint and that anonymous complaints were not allowed. Now all of a sudden with the use of google earth they have decided to look for violators. Yes now that they can sit on thier fat asses at thier tax payers paid desk and not have to confront anyone face to face or go to the field and risk getting thier ass kicked if thier lucky, now they will go after non reported cases. Just look it up on google earth, write a letter, and hide behind the counter. I guess they have learned a thing or two from the water control board. I think we should recall any supervisor that approves of this Nazi tactic. This is only a testing ground for District 5 and the rest. Get ready here they come.
    By: Anonymous on 7/5/08
    Obviously none of the Planning Departments have anything to do since projects and building have come to a stop. So instead of laying some of these people off like everyone else is doing why not create a new job for themselves. This is just beuracacy at its best. Don't save money but make sure you keep spending it so that you may not lose it. It's time that these government agency realize where we are at and tighten theirs belts like the rest of us.
    By: Anonymous on 7/5/08
    Let there be no doubt that the Paso Building Department Fascist have implemented a wide ranging plan to sap, impurify, and introduce malignant foreign substances into our precious bodily fluids.

    http://tinyurl.com/6qvsrq

    They are after nothing less than your very Essensce, which you must deny them at all cost!

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  3. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 7/4/08
    insider

    Please stand up against this blatant invasion by the county. They have no right to invade these peoples privacy from the dtreet, backyard and from the sky!!!!
    One thing for sure can be argued in court; BUC is designed for the safety of the public. This building been there for 15 years!!!
    What is the safety issue? If there is no safety issue, let the county admit they want to extort money from the owner. The most they can get is double the building permit fee. Ohh I wish to fight the basterds, but I must remain incognito.
    Peopele!!! Stand up and fight!! Its not for nothing.
    If we let the bastards get away with it, they will go further and further until they peek into our bedrooms and report us for whatever
    By: Anonymous on 7/4/08
    insider

    I think, statue of limitation stops any action by the county. This issue should be a classic and its worth the fight.
    By: Anonymous on 7/4/08
    Not to many 20 acre sites in the Jardine area.
    By: Anonymous on 7/4/08
    Been thru the process. You have to have 20+ acres in an Ag zone property to qualify for the 3000 sq. ft. building. You are also suppose to "register" it with the County so that they can tax you.
    The Jardine Rd. area may be in the Airport review area also.
    By: Anonymous on 7/4/08
    Never and S.C. resident. Wait till you fascists cross the line when someone who thinks different than you decides what is allowable. Fascists of the world unite
    By: Anonymous on 7/4/08
    Also, there is a statue of limitation that is applicable.
    By: Anonymous on 7/4/08
    c) Amend Appendix Section 105.2, Building Permits not required, by modification of items 2 and 4, and addition of items 14 and 15 to read as follows:

    2. Open wire fences of any height in the Agriculture or Rural Lands land use categories, and solid fences not exceeding 6’-6” in height in all land use categories.
    4. Retaining walls that are not over 4 feet (1219 mm) in height measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, unless supporting a surcharge, impounding hazardous liquids, or located within 3 feet of a property line and retaining soil more than 2 feet in height.
    14. Agricultural accessory buildings that meet all of the following criteria:
    a. Within an Agriculture or Rural Lands land use category, the building is located outside of urban or village reserve lines as delineated by Titles 22 or 23 of the San Luis Obispo County Code;
    b. The property size is 20 acres or more;
    c. The building is located in excess of 100 feet from any adjacent property or public road;
    d. The floor area does not exceed 3,000 square feet and building height does not exceed one story plus storage mezzanine;
    e. There is an apparent existing agricultural use of the property; and
    f. The building is not located within an Airport Review, Flood Hazard or Sensitive Resource Area combining designation as defined in the Land Use Element of the San Luis Obispo County General Plan.
    15. Temporary buildings or structures used in connection with fairs, carnivals, celebrations and similar affairs not to exceed 30 days duration; except grandstands, platforms, or scaffolds over 30 inches in greatest height designed or intended for occupancy by more than two persons.

    See if any of these apply

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  4. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 7/4/08
    I am pleased that technology is being used for the righting of wrongs. I welcome the cameras watching me do nothing wrong.
    By: Anonymous on 7/4/08
    A thought for the weekend;

    Why is the county so eager to go after the average people who never bothered or caused any damage to the county or its population? Why doesn't the county ie. District Attorney goes after real violators, people/company who cause actual damage to the county and the public?
    I am talking about Estate Financial, Hurst etc. and its principals. One must raise the question; What does the DA trying to cover up? Does the DA has anything in the closet that these people could disclose? How come the county goes through such an expense against the public, when they could score huge with the BIGS.
    UncoveredSLO should explore further, maybe even help to prune some of the real problems in the county!!!
    By: Anonymous on 7/4/08
    Humbug

    Why ban him? Every one needs to be heard even if some makes no sense
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    I Always Dreamed Of Living There says:

    Can we cut this contributor off?? I am not for censure in any way but HUH??
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    TO: Anonymous says:

    The building is "GRANDFATHERED" under existing California laws.
    Fight back. Nothing the county can do. Its just intimidation and fear mongering.

    Please elaborate and cite the law you are referring to with grandfathering.
    Thanks.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    That explains the Craigslist posting I saw recently:

    $2500 / Luxury guest house – (Paso Robles east)

    Nearly new designer guest house on acreage available for rent. Open floor plan, professionally landscaped, French doors, imported window coverings. Excellent credit and references required. Smoking and pets required. Two-year lease. $5000 security deposit.

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  5. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    First of all, it's silly that anyone should be required to get a permit to build a barn on their own property in the first place. Second, the government has to get a warrant to physically search my property without my permission. I find it detestable and rather frightening that petty bureaucrats can use "eyes in the sky" to accomplish the same thing, without legal restriction. Big Brother, GET OFF OUR BACKS!
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Yup, there's your problem: that barn is 1.6 degrees off level and clearly unsuitable for wine tasting since patrons with even a modest blood alcohol level wouldn't be able to maintain their balance on its pitching main deck. The use of a Wal*Mart-calibre camera is also troubling, to say nothing of the barn's color scheme and East Iowa architectural motif. William Randolph Hearst must be spinning in his cryogenic chamber. The building should be razed for reasons of poor taste alone.

    Kudos to the county mounties for spotting this blight, and to UncoveredSLO for broadcasting it to the world.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    When Dan and Karen drive down to SLO to pick up a used dictionary, they might also want to buy a copy of Creating Web Pages for Dummies. That's one heckuva photo of the barn.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    to Insider

    I hadve no doubt that the dog and the wife are one and the same
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    to I always dreamed

    You need to go back to spanking your wife and beating your dog.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    When it comes to the inbred, sister shagging dwarfs oop north, Like Owner Like Dog:

    http://tinyurl.com/6fet9p
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Shootout at RR sure is a smart cookie. To entertain the thought that geography determains intelligence….Wow. I really shouldn't question him/her. After all, "dumb-dumb" is a big word. LOL
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    CRASH says:

    Mr.Trinidade says "If something were to happen to someone in a structure that we had prior knowledge was not built to code, the county would be liable.”

    You never obtained a permit. When a permitee sign his/her permit, also a waiver is signed against the governmental agency. If they sign off on anything and its approved, the building is built accordingly, mistakes made, they are still immune. read the fine lines. They are there to collect additional fees because when a permit is pulled, they can reasses the property for higher taxes. Sinceprop 13,thecounty can only increase prop taxes 2%., unless an improvement is made or at the new sale price. It has everything to do with additional income for the Government. No one gives a hoot about your safety. Who are you? A dog or a cat? They have more protection than people.

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  6. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Bordanero's office does appraisals…they don't care whether your permitted or not and not in the business of reporting bootleg projects…on the otherhand, they will access the bootkeg projects and hand it off to the tax collector

    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    To Unknown
    If you have 20 acres or more of AG land you do not need a permit to build a "barn". On less than 20 you do, I believe.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    to shootout

    Why don't we have the county do a thorough review of the south county properties before they move in over the grade. This would be a much more cost effective measure since you guys are more dense and accepting of these liberal socialistic tactics. If it works out OK with south county and once all the garages housing students are brought up to code or abated then we could talk about North of the grade. I'm sure you would be the first in line to have an inspection of your property. The boots are coming to your niegborhood too.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Here's a fun idea for UncoveredSLO: use geolocation to show the town from which commenters are posting, based on their IP address. Another commenter on a previous story was right: there sure are some ill-tempered dumb-dumbs 'round these parts, presumably from hotter climes north of the Grade. Good to be reminded of just how backward large parts of the county still are here in 2008.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Someone recently told me that Bordonaro won't go after the large Republican land owners and old ag families in the North County when photos show that un-permitted activity has occurred. Anybody know anything about that?
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Hey Shooter:

    The only thing more idiotic that the scenrio you described would be an individual who paid the rent…free will mean anything to you?
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Dear shootout…oh God..thanks for being sooo concerned about everyones welfare…You also sound like the tenant from Hell..ha..YOU move into a barn and then wonder why it doesnt have all the modern conveniences and you complain about it..Please dont tell us where you live now…
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    to Mr. Trinidad

    If you weren't peeking over our back fence you wouldn't know anything hence you wouldn't be liable. Right?
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Whether this is overreach by County government is hard to say, but there's a reason for building codes and permits, and it's ironic that countless families in China are at this moment up in arms over lax government oversight of construction in the earthquake zone. It's not hard to imagine someone renting out a non-code barn or garage and some disaster happening, after which cries of "how did the county allow this?" would be heard.

    I lived in a barn house years ago in Edna Valley, and only after moving in did I realize how poor the construction was, and how sloppy the owners were in every respect. They listened to Rush Limbaugh and believed in black helicopters, but they were thoroughly irresponsible people of exactly the sort who inspire government regulation because they can't regulate themselves.

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  7. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Mr.Trinidade says "If something were to happen to someone in a structure that we had prior knowledge was not built to code, the county would be liable.”

    I seriously doubt the legal truth behind this statement.

    Can Mr. Trinidade give us an idea of the number of times the County has been sued for such accidents in the past?

    Sounds like a bureaucrat using the threat of a lawsuit to be able to say "We are just protecting you."

    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    PETA Freak says:

    You say it's a barn? Then that means animals are involved and I for one find it appalling that this person would allow one of our animal kin to live in an un-permitted dwelling! I think a life sentence is in order here.

    Probably a few dog and cats reside there. Ohh maybe some items old folks just like to keep and out of public eyes?
    What a concept?
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Jeez, you kids need to buy a friggin dictionary:

    we are not in a race for the Pulitzer Price. So get over it. This article is more in line about government intrusion.
    Do you beleive for oneminute the new law forbidding the use of cell-phone mainly for safety?
    Its all for more money. Clear and simple. Speeding tickets are from $160.00 t0 $370.00. Its a tax on the middle class. Illigals and rich means nothing.
    Anything else?
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Jeez, you kids need to buy a friggin dictionary:

    "The stated objective: a cleaner, safer, happier neighborhood. But there is a more benign objective, and that's seeking out, isolating, and identifying structures that have been built without permits…"

    Dan, look up "benign." It's somewhere between "beneficent" and "bestial." So, relax: when the doctor told you that the tumor in the language center of your brain was benign, it was mostly good news (though the surgeons will have to go in through the PayPal oblongata, so fixing this may be costly).

    But using aerial photos to spot unauthorized development or damage is a good thing for the most part. People grade their land, cut down trees, dump trash, drain or fill in ponds, and do all kinds of things on large properties that would otherwise go unnoticed.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    You say it's a barn? Then that means animals are involved and I for one find it appalling that this person would allow one of our animal kin to live in an un-permitted dwelling! I think a life sentence is in order here.

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  8. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    PR resident says:

    I guess if we are picking and chosing the laws we want to obey, i'll just go ahead and build on my property, pay no fees, omit engineering, boot leg everything, save $20,000 on permits, 13,000 on water meter fees, 10,000 on school/misc fees, sounds very good to me. I feel bad for this lady but we can't pick and choose the laws we want to obey, if they give one person a break they have to do it for everyone. I'm really surprised that ucslo is sympathizing with this lady, if she was a young developer building with out permits they would have torn her to shreds in this article. Selective reporting.

    Read the article again!!!
    Its a barn, no sewer water fee, no scholl fees etc. UBC code was designed for the safety of the public. Not for collection of fees.
    Most could cost is a few hundred dollars with penalty.
    Why is our government so powerful whenit comes to collect and nowhere when we need them
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    I found the Jardine satellite images on the net. It was all over the news…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2008/may/
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Since when is good reporting "sympathizing" with someone? This is a well-balanced article.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    It's hard to believe that north county's finest have built meth labs without the proper permits.

    Has anyone notified the authorities?
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    I guess if we are picking and chosing the laws we want to obey, i'll just go ahead and build on my property, pay no fees, omit engineering, boot leg everything, save $20,000 on permits, 13,000 on water meter fees, 10,000 on school/misc fees, sounds very good to me. I feel bad for this lady but we can't pick and choose the laws we want to obey, if they give one person a break they have to do it for everyone. I'm really surprised that ucslo is sympathizing with this lady, if she was a young developer building with out permits they would have torn her to shreds in this article. Selective reporting.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    The county ought to have better things to do than this.

    I also find unsavory the Big Brother aspects.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    The structure is not necessarily grandfathered in unless it legally met the codes at the time it was built. Check the legal definition of grandfathered.

    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    The building is "GRANDFATHERED" under existing California laws.
    Fight back. Nothing the county can do. Its just intimidation and fear mongering.
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    With the money troubles in the county, why not first focus on county goverment waste. Is it easier to search for 15 year old buildings and fine their 80 year old owners than to look in their own arena? What part of the county is next or are they just picking on Paso?
    By: Anonymous on 7/3/08
    Maybe we can get the County to find the houses that were supposed to be constructed by Gearhart via Hurst???

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