Forgive Dan De Vaul
July 16, 2011
By the standards of the world’s housing, what Dan De Vaul is offering his sober living and previously homeless clients is quite remarkable in its amenities– wood framed, sturdy, ventilated, lockable, electrified, finished and basically furnished off-the-ground structures impervious to rain, wind, cold and, I dare say, even earthquakes.
By the standards of San Luis County, still essentially rural (only 3 percent is developed)–yet rapidly gentrifying–these cabins partly constructed by the sober living clients as an effort to help develop their employment and life skills and build self-esteem are no worse than what many homeowners have in their backyards, unpermitted granny-type small houses for their elderly relatives, or playhouses for their children or grandchildren. The sheds a homeless outreach organization in Fresno offers their clients, under a conditional use permit, absolutely pale by comparison.
How do I know these things? I checked and I’ve done considerable research.
But also a difficult and life changing experience I had in Washington state revealed the short sighted thinking of building officials there, who refused to permit an architect-engineered and designed strawbale home on my five acres. I lost everything and nearly became homeless myself.
To its credit, strawbale buildings have been permitted throughout San Luis Obispo County. But I know the process of getting approvals has been and can be arduous. Yet these are among the strongest and simplest structures built out of essentially recycled materials–much of Dan’s handywork is recycled–in the world today–and we certainly need less depletion of our natural resources.
In Humboldt County in Northern California officials have recognized an Alternative Owner Builder (AOB) code which allows such structures to be built with far less restrictive oversight, as long as basic codes are met related to plumbing, septic etc.
Dan De Vaul is not an easy man to work with. He’s stubborn, sometimes inflexible, and can be ornery. But he has a good heart, and the common sense principles and practices of people who built this county with their bare hands. We need to encourage more of that, not less.
Please forgive him his transgressions, if for no other reason than to keep people who need him in their homes at a time when many in the middle class are even ending up on the street, partly because of the failures of government. It’s just the right thing to do, especially in these challenging times.
If the evictions are stayed indefinitely, and Dan De Vaul meets the requirements of the county in other ways following the serving of his sentence in some way, then there is huge support which I can demonstrate to seeing an even better residential structure go up.
Wlliam Searcy is a resident of Cambria who has started a fund to raise money for the building of a 8,000 square foot residence at Sunny Acres.