Forgive Dan De Vaul

July 16, 2011

OPINION By WILLIAM SEARCY

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.


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25 Comments

  1. Bob says:

    I’ve done two insurance inspection of the Devaul Ranch in the last 5 years. Mr Devaul has improved the property and I saw no apparent problems with the temporary one room shelters he built for the people staying there. On a regular basis I see other properties throughout this county that are in far worse condition than the Devaul Ranch.

    On my first visit Mr. Devaul was defensive and standoffish, considering the circumstances I would have done the same. On my second visit Mr. Devaul was friendly and invited me to have lunch with him and is crew. I admit, at first I didn’t want to accept but I did. We had a simple soup and sandwich lunch that was pretty good. I sat with Mr. Devaul and several of the people living there. It was apparent to me that they know they have problems and that they need someone like Dan Devaul to give them a helping hand and offer them a job and place to stay. It gave me a new meaning of second chances.

    Yes, Mr. Devaul needs to comply with all the laws just like all of us. After seeing the Devaul ranch myself, I wish the county & Mr. Devaul could find a way to work together to resolve this conflict. Mr Devaul is providing a service to these people in need that the county cannot or refuses to do.

    I don’t condone the past behaviors of any of those people that Mr. Devaul has extended a hand too, nor would I invite them into my own house That’s why Mr. Devaul is a better man than I and many others.

    As the old saying goes, “You should walk a mile in his boots before judging him”.

    (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
  2. SanSimeonSam says:

    Roger your like just like the guy who moves into a house next to an airport because its cheap and then begins a campaign to have the taxpayers relocate the airport because guess what …its noisy. You and Christine Mullholland should be ashamed of yourselves. We understand you own that prostitute Gibson but you are forcing people who had a place to live back to the creek and making the taxpayers pay out more and more money just to increase your property value. You should be better than that. Next thing you know you will be buying property next to a trailer park and moving on them just to enrich your pocketbook. Pretty slimey stuff Roger

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  3. SLORider says:

    mkaney, You are ALMOST ABSOLUTELY correct. Very adept of you.

    I certainly would and do argue for property rights. However, the appearance of incongruity which you keenly sense is not incongruous at all. In fact, I’d retort equally with your own “Pick a philosophy, apply it consistently” demand. In fact, “consistency” is the crux of my position: I demand that laws be enacted thoughtfully and sparingly, then applied consistently.

    Is this demand any different than most every civil-rights and civil liberty cause? Different than any average ACLU undertaking?

    The most defining and valued principal in our Constitution is equality (consistency). Good laws don’t require chalk lines to be drawn around the casualties they create, or scissors to carefully cut out “exemptions”.

    Government is horrible with “exemptions”. Exemptions means that a value judgment was made. Government is horrible in making value judgments. And once again, most civil rights fights have opposed government imposed value judgments. The ACLU has never cared if they are fighting for a convicted killer, cross-dresser, minority, white guy, black guy, or the KKK. All the ACLU cares about is equal enjoyment of civil liberties—and at least half the time they upset someone’s “value judgment” beliefs when they pursue what they do best.

    So is it Property Rights or jealousy at the bottom of this? No… not at all.

    EQUALITY.

    Yep. I’m a Liberal. Deal with that.

    Does that mean DeVaul is out in the cold? It shouldn’t. It means that PEOPLE should make exceptions–not laws and government. Charity, not subsidy. Charity involves people, forgiveness and all the things this opinion hopes for. Subsidy is for corporations and requires nothing more than qualifying on a form.

    But the bitch about charity is DeVaul better try to get along with his community. Unlike the law, charity should not be applied equally and one can receive much more or much less. Community and peers regulating much better than government…

    “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” –George W.

    If you don’t like unreasonable force against DeVaul: Join me and G.W. in having less force and more community.

    (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  4. mkaney says:

    It strikes me as odd that so many of the people who do not like Dan De Vaul and are upset by his violations are some of the people who would argue so adamantly for property rights and other “conservative” values. Seems to be like what they are most interested in.. is self interest. (Looking in Roger’s Freberg’s direction)

    Pick a philosophy, apply it consistently.

    (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
    • racket says:

      I am getting that same vibe. Not from Roger, per se, but from myself.

      I truly believe that my property rights would be best protected if we took all the *discretion* out of the planning process. Rather than having my project suffer unequal application of statue based on planners’ whim or ineptitude, we would have a level playing field if we removed “discretionary” permits from the mix. (I believe all Minor Use Permits, and many other land use permits are “discretionary.”)

      But when the discretion is taken away, all the sudden there is no room to deal with what is not in black and white. Like Dan De Vaul. Or a new business. Or many other types of land use application that don’t quite fit into neat categories.

      The seamy underbelly of the De Vaul issue, I assume, is that no one at Planning wants to put their head on the block by using their *discretion* to offer him a permit to continue. That’s tangential to your point, but a dog’s breakfast of cowardly hot-potato from The Gubmint nonetheless.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
      • mkaney says:

        Do you think your property rights are protected by having the planning process AT ALL? It seems like all these things are matters for civil litigation. If someone dams up the stream on the property next to you, thus effecting your use of your property, it gives you a cause of action. If the construction of this dam, however, is approved by government bodies, then it can include things that limit or eliminate your cause of action.

        I see the planning process as vehicle different parties have used to force others into doing what they want, rather than protecting anyone’s property rights. Protecting property VALUES is another thing altogether, and when you look at the planning process as a vehicle for others to protect the value of their property at the expense of yours, then it becomes a much more questionable legal construct.

        It is this same construct which dictates that being homeless is better than living in substandard housing.

        (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  5. SLORider says:

    DeVaul has done everything in his power to be obstinate, unworkable and costly to county residents. Even recently, DeVaul continues to violate laws that have little or nothing to do with housing—like open burning waste. The responsible agency (Air Pollution Control District) has done NOTHING despite a long history of the same violation. Why? Maybe because DeVaul has won to some extent.

    Agencies don’t need the hassle of fighting DeVaul, going to court, and being on national TV portrayed as the meanie attacking the poor ‘victim’. The air district knows a headache when they see it and they are interested in easier fruit–getting fines from people they can actually bully (and they do).

    So, DeVaul gets away with it, and the air district does nothing because there’s no easy money involved (you thought the air district was about protecting air quality?) It all comes down to money…. which speaks badly for both parties.

    DeVaul will earn forgiveness when he shows willingness, desire and motivation to be a part of a community. DeVaul will not earn forgiveness on his obstinate terms.

    (1) 29 Total Votes - 15 up - 14 down
    • Typoqueen says:

      He is being obstinate. He was told over and over to clean that place up but to me it looks the same, I see no difference. I think that the county has been more than patient with him, bet I couldn’t get away with what he has. I’ve seen them out there burning junk, I didn’t even think of that aspect of this.

      (-2) 22 Total Votes - 10 up - 12 down
      • rightantru says:

        Mr. DeVaul is a hoarder, pure and simple. Sure he provides a kind service to people in need, and I applaud him for that. But seriously, I drive by his property everyday, and it is a junkyard. If Mr. DeVaul would get rid of all the brickabrack on his property his problems would melt away.

        (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
        • rallyraid says:

          So are half the people in Oceano,Margarita,Paso, Atas and all the outskirts of your high dollar paradise. Its our/their right to collect whatever and until the self righteous of SLO county find a way to slap CCR, HOA, POA or other screw the public, more government involvement on everyone to create revenues it will never change. Somebody should slap a historic landmark title on Duval’s barn so when the holier than thou’s run him to jail for these heinous humanitarian crimes they cant build some more unaffordable homes on his land.

          (4) 12 Total Votes - 8 up - 4 down
  6. rogerfreberg says:

    Okay folks,

    I know that some people like to support Dan and they may be sincere … but those who live closest to him see an entirely different person. IMHO, he is arrogant and seems more bent on sticking it to his neighbors than being a good neighbor.

    I do have some questions to ask Dan and those who support him might like to look into these as well … here are a few:

    1) Dan, Is it true that a former county official interceded with the IRS on your behalf? Why?

    2) Rumor has it that you may be making or collecting over $100,000 a year off of the backs of these folks? I wonder, have you ever admitted, at anytime, making AT LEAST this much? Personally, I believe that when you collect more than a dime from someone for anything, it stops being charity and starts becoming a business. Real Sainthood is earned and not conferred my friend.

    3) Dan, tell us about the folks you are housing out there? I seem to remember — wasn’t it your ‘cook’ that killed a woman in town? You’ve had some folks that have been prohibited from traveling by schools… yet here is one right in their way. Who is living there right now? These really are more than just ‘homeless’ unfortunate men aren’t they?

    BTW, One of the posters tells of all the ‘good things’ he is doing. The obvious question is: for whom is he doing good? Have any of you read any of the courthouse documents posted on-line … Anyway, you really should check it out, it may change your good opinion.

    So to the very soft of heart, forgiveness and mercy only follow sincere contrition and repentance… and let’s just say, I don’t think Dan is anywhere near there…. yet.

    (-1) 25 Total Votes - 12 up - 13 down
    • justme says:

      There’s “pot stirring” and then there is “I need another issue to keep the spotlight on me cuz now I’m hooked on the attention and I don’t care how many people are ill-affected by my actions”.
      Let this issue evolve as it is now, Roger. The peeps want something built, the co. needs to clean up their image, the area in back is going under the knife with houses if they sell the lots.(That’ll bring enough pressure and dough to move the tenants out right there, there’s big money ranchettes goin’ in). It’s all going well so………… bah-bye, Rog.
      Of course DeVaul’s fighting the county, it’s corrupt and self serving (the decision makers).
      DeVaul’s always said to the county, “..if you don’t like my operation then YOU take’em.”
      What? they’ll be less tweakers in the crappy econ. future?
      Another “swing & a miss”,Roger.

      I

      (8) 16 Total Votes - 12 up - 4 down
    • Ugluk says:

      Would you prefer that the “murderous cook” and the sex offenders wander the streets of SLO? This is the thing that’s always bothered me about people wanting to close Sunny Acres: where in the cornbread are these people supposed to go if this facility closes?

      (7) 15 Total Votes - 11 up - 4 down
      • Typoqueen says:

        Are you saying that they stay on De Vauls property 24/7? Yes we do need facilities for these people but they need to be legal and run by people that know what they’re doing.

        (-5) 15 Total Votes - 5 up - 10 down
        • justme says:

          Temp. ’til Co. replaces it. get off the court case & on with the building

          (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
  7. The Gimlet Eye says:

    Excellent, racket. Right on target.

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  8. Typoqueen says:

    What De Vaul is attempting to do is a good thing. He and many others believes that what he’s doing is correct and that the county is wrong. Once there was a complaint then the county is obligated to act.

    1) If there is a fire or if someone is injured due to substandard building then the county (you and me) are libel. If heaven forbid a building burns down out there and people die or even just injured then their families can bankrupt this county by suing us for allowing those people to live in substandard conditions.

    2) If De Vaul doesn’t have to follow building codes then why does anyone? Why should I spend thousands of $ on permits for my home or business and pay to have it built to code if he doesn’t? In other words the county would be setting a precedence (spelling ?) if they allow him to do this.

    3) At one time De Vaul had up to 12 sex offenders out there all at the same time. How many of you want to live next to 12 sex offenders? When I read about the sex offenders I did a bit of research and found that it’s very unhealthy for multiple sex offenders to live together. It’s not good situation at all and only sets them up to recommit.

    Although I appreciate what De Vaul is trying to do it has to be done right. We need more facilities for homeless people and we need rehabs in this area but it needs to be done correctly. IMO the county has bent over backwards to accommodate De Vaul, I feel that he’s been obstinate and that he could have done more to work with the county.

    (-7) 17 Total Votes - 5 up - 12 down
    • Ugluk says:

      I think many would prefer that the 12 sex offenders all stay in one place, where the proper authorities know where they are and can monitor them to some degree. I would rather have them at Sunny Acres than living “off the grid” or “under the radar” beneath a bridge somewhere; in that sort of situation the authorities can easily lose track of their whereabouts, there is no monitoring, and the people around them have no idea what type of threat they represent.

      (6) 8 Total Votes - 7 up - 1 down
      • Typoqueen says:

        You would rather the sex offenders live together which makes them more prone to recommit and makes them even more dangerous. They aren’t kept on his ranch like prisoners. They’re not monitored, they can wander around and visit the neighbors or Laguna Middle School (right down the street) any time they want and in reading what the experts say, most likely they eventually will.

        (-8) 10 Total Votes - 1 up - 9 down
  9. Ugluk says:

    A homeless man burned to death under Madonna bridge the other day. Nothing similar has occurred at Sunny Acres. The people living at De Vaul’s facility can leave any time they want, yet they choose to stay. Is there any wonder why? Forgive a trite expression, but it seems that the county is willing to let “the perfect be the enemy of the good” in this situation, in that they’d rather see people living in the creek than staying at Sunny Acres.

    (19) 33 Total Votes - 26 up - 7 down
    • racket says:

      It’s a control issue. The County cannot let De Vaul “get away” with buildings the County hasn’t approved because that would be a mockery of their system. It is a pissing contest between an overreaching government and a stubborn old man. The soon-to-be-displaced homeless are “collateral damage.”

      The system is stupid and indicative of a much larger problem wherein The Government is at cross purposes with the good of the people.

      (28) 34 Total Votes - 31 up - 3 down
      • SLORider says:

        Perhaps it is a “control” issue. Whether Dan DeVaul is in control, or equal application of the law. I will certainly help you lobby against micro-managing planning and building ordinances, but I will only support equal application of the laws everyone else is expected to abide by. You exempt DeVaul and I expect the same exemption for myself and everyone else. You tell us which laws need repeal, then.

        (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
        • racket says:

          SLORider:

          It’s a sticky wicket and I don’t have an answer.

          There’s something wrong when the government (ostensibly here for our benefit) stands directly in the path of people helping people.

          I am sure De Vaul is an ass, and I am glad I am not his neighbor. OTOH, we’re talking about real people who don’t have a place to stay or food to eat. There ought to be an extenuating circumstance, or a little bit of reason applied to the situation.

          (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
        • danika says:

          This is precisely why SLO is using DeVaul as an example…they simply cannot allow any uprising against their building code laws; an exemption here would make for a precedent to exemptions for you, me, and anyone else. I think the big picture is often overlooked; Mr. DeVaul may be cranky, stubborn, willful, and not a good neighbor…but I don’t see anyone else here willing to either take these transients into their own homes or offering to support them financially in food, shelter, and back to work rehab. It’s time to look at the big picture. Government is getting bigger and bigger and soon will impart their will to your property, my property and that of others. They are ever encroaching. People should be able to help people. This action should be encouraged, not discouraged.

          I am against any form of government that is bought by favors and part of that ever present “good-old-boy-club” mentality.

          (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
          • Typoqueen says:

            “but I don’t see anyone else here willing to either take these transients into their own homes or offering to support them financially in food, shelter, and back to work rehab. It’s time to look at the big picture. Government is getting bigger and bigger and soon will impart their will to your property”

            So lets let sex offenders adopt children, I don’t see many people going in and taking them out of foster homes and adopting them. The point is, just because they have a roof over thier head doesn’t make it right or even safe. BTW, De Vauls not doing this for free, his price to these people starts at $300 a month, he’s not the saint that some of you portray him as. We have had building codes for as long as I can remember. I don’t want to live on an earthquake fault and have buildings that build as in Mexico or Haiti. People need to meet standards period. If a building collapses on a few of those people are you going to flip the bill when families sue? I don’t want to pay that, I want the govt. to make sure that people like De Vaul aren’t putting these people in even more danger than than they might be if they were living at the creek (not saying that they should live by the creek). We must have building codes and everyone must follow them. No one has answered why they feel it’s okay to leave the county open to expensive lawsuits if they give De Vaul a pass.

            (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down

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