Poly House contractor battling with De Vaul

May 1, 2012

Dan De Vaul


Poly House’s plans to build an 8,000 square-foot residential sober living home on the Sunny Acres property this quarter have been abandoned because of arguments between Dan De Vaul and a contractor working with Poly House. The disputes centered around building code requirements and scrap metal.

After years of battling over code requirements, De Vaul, community members, public officials and a group of students began working together to makeover Sunny Acres, a sober living facility located north of San Luis Obispo on Los Osos Valley Road. Poly House planned to clean up the property, correct a list of code violations and finish the construction of a structure to house the homeless.

In March, a court-appointed receiver took over the reins at the ranch while De Vaul voiced concerns that the cost of a receiver would result in the loss of his property.

Since then, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, attorney Jeff Stulberg, Cal Poly instructor Roya Javadpour and 80 Cal Poly students began collaborating to bring the property into code compliance, remove the receivership and build the 8,000 square-foot facility for the homeless.

However, because of delays created by De Vaul’s plans to manage the cleanup, Steve Chauvet, Poly House’s supervising/consulting contractor for the past seven years, said there was no longer time to get permits to build the house. Discussions then began to determine if Poly House should completely back out or agree to a new plan. On its website, Poly House now says its current plans are limited to laying the foundation, without building the house.

Each spring, as part of a project management course, instructors, outside contractors and students do a remodeling project to help improve the life of a physically disabled and financially disadvantaged family or individual.

At first, the De Vaul project went as planned, with students and community volunteers hauling away more than 50 tons of trash, chopped wood, old vehicles and numerous other items. Students had additional plans to sell the rest of the property’s scrap metal for $100,000, to be used to help pay construction expenses.

On April 21, volunteers and students arrived at De Vaul’s property planning to clean up the metal scrap, only to be ordered not to move any items because De Vaul wanted to inspect all scrap before it was disposed of.

Chauvet said that De Vaul has failed to follow through on his agreement with Poly House and the county to allow the students to clean up the property and correct violations.

“He had his dream at his fingertips,” Chauvet said.  “His junk became more important than the people he says he is trying to help.”

De Vaul argues that Poly House workers already fixed the code violations previously discovered by the county and they should not report or remedy newly discovered violations.

In addition, De Vaul decided he was no longer going to allow the metal scraps to be sold to help cover the cost of the house. Instead, he now plans to sell the scrap himself and to use any monies received to cover his legal expenses, which he said currently run $27,000 for the receiver and $125,000 to county council.

“Why in the hell should I have to turn over my scrap to Poly kids,” De Vaul said. “It ain’t going to happen with my money. Why should Poly be stopped from building this house because of scrap metal on this property?”

De Vaul contends there is a conspiracy by the county to stop the project.

“The county since the inception of this program has tried to knock it in the head,” De Vaul said. “I will go ahead and make the conspiracy theory statement.

“The county is using the people from the Poly House. They are being led down the wrong path  because they are kids and they respect government. The county won’t blame Cal Poly and Cal Poly won’t blame the county, so who gets the black eye,” De Vaul said.

However, both Chauvet  and San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson said the county has made many concessions to assist De Vaul in providing a sober living facility for the homeless and that the county is not promoting the termination of plans to build the sober living house this quarter.

“The county is not trying to stop the Poly House Project and remains hopeful that Poly House can help correct many of the long standing code violations,” Gibson said in an email.

Water piping serving as a gas line

Chauvet said Sunday that Poly House was still planning to work on several code violations they uncovered while working on the project, including two non-permitted septic tanks, an illegal 700-foot gas line made out of water pipe and the rigging of a permitted one-breaker electrical panel into a six-breaker panel.

However, Chauvet, an  International Conference of Building Officials certified building and plumbing inspector, said when he arrived on the property on Monday to fill one of the septic tanks with cement, De Vaul became angry, cursed at him and tried to stop the work.

Chauvet reported the altercation and failure to abide by the court order (which he videotaped) to the court, the county planning department, the trustee and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies are investigating the issue as a violation of Penal Code 415, an offensive altercation punishable by 90 days in county jail.

“I was glad it was me and not the contractor or the students,” Chauvet said. “I am the one that worked to get everyone involved in this.”



  1. rogerfreberg says:

    Well, since you want to talk about Mssr. DuVaul …

    Didn’t Dan get his land the ‘old fashioned way’ ?… didn’t he just inherited it? BTW, was it good ol dad (or was it Dan) who used to burn huge piles of trees and clippings on his property often during windy days prompting the fire department to come out? I did see fire trucks on the property a lot. Oh, the neighbors didn’t like the discourtesy either. … especially with the smoke filling our houses.

    Now, let’s also try and get away from the idea that this ever was a place to serve the homeless population, unless you want to define a large number of serious felons who have lived there as the ‘homeless’. I know the state and the county officials appear to be very motivated to build a half way house, but this is the last thing any neighborhood needs. Isn’t there a law supposedly prohibiting this serious offenders near schools? Besides, isn’t there a facility on Prado road?

    As for being local, I think Dan should have gotten out a little more and improved his world view. Maybe it would make his less disgruntled and ornery. By the way, driving the truck to Nipomo isn’t seeing the world.

    I am glad that most people realize what Dan DuVaul is doing and not doing… and seeing some of what his neighbors have had to endure for years.

    (10) 20 Total Votes - 15 up - 5 down
  2. mkaney says:

    I see what’s going on here folks.. lots of thumbs down but not responses to perfectly legitimate questions. You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves, veiling your self interest as some kind of interest for the welfare of others. That is just typical.

    (-12) 20 Total Votes - 4 up - 16 down
    • south says:

      No interest beyond reading a lot, reading between the lines and driving by the property twice a day for the past 15 years.

      Now that we have that posted. What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? If I had a house directly adjacent to DeVaul’s does that mean that my opinions are less valuable than yours. If that were the case, there would be no reason to have a Planning Commission. State law requires that any project that has neighboring impacts be brought to the attention of those people most affected by it. While this is not such a project, the nexus is clear. Those people who are most affected by DeVaul should have more voice, not less.

      As far as typical, Mkaney, I would suggest that you are either one of the denizens of SA or live no where near it. No thinking person would otherwise comment with such blinders on.

      (9) 15 Total Votes - 12 up - 3 down
      • mkaney says:

        I am certainly not one of his denizens. I was born and raised in this county and like everyone else, and I have watched the role of the government grow and grow until government became over 50% of the business in SLO. I have seen thousands of people move here from LA an other over-run areas, only to build fences and complain about everything. I have seen property rights being slowly eroded and the list of codes skyrocket until you can barely wipe your ass without getting a permit.

        I have also seen the number of uppity bourgeois in this town skyrocket, and listen to their petty complaining about a few panhandlers in this town while they do all their shopping at chains and erode the local income base. These same people seem to do nothing but complain and call the police out of paranoia because some homeless person is living in their car down the street.

        Dan De Vaul has been here a lot longer than most of you, and he actually OWNS his land. Most people who are concerned about their land value are not those who really own their land. They are people who are panicked because rather than saving and buying their land, they BORROWED money in a financial environment in which land cannot sustain its value, because it has been bid up by the injection of fake money into the system ala the Federal Reserve. Now they are sad because they owe more than it is worth, so they are desperately looking to blame someone else.

        (-4) 20 Total Votes - 8 up - 12 down
    • Laurie says:

      I too have grown up here in SLO. I do not live near Sunny Acres but my father in law once owned the property that butted up to Mr. Madonna’s. My father in law was innudated by the rules that others thought he should follow and was not even allowed to develop his own property. After fighting with the city of SLO for many years, he finally sold the property to them.
      My comment here is after watching the video of Mr. Chauvet, I must say that I feel Mr. Chauvet was confrontational from the moment he started video taping, hoping to get a reaction. He acted like this was his property. Please introduce yourself when stepping foot on someone elses property Mr. Chauvet and put down your camera. I feel Mr. DuVaul acted very civil and I would have wanted this arrogant man off my property also. How dare Mr. Chauvet start ranting all the violation codes while video taping.
      Yes I do work at Cal Poly and was hoping that our students could go forth. I feel this is a learn by doing situation. Young people wanting to make a difference. With people like Mr. Chauvet in charge, who would want to.

      (3) 15 Total Votes - 9 up - 6 down
  3. mkaney says:

    I would like to put forth a challenge to the people commenting on this article. When you comment, tell us whether or not you have a vested interest in the value of any land anywhere around De Vaul’s, or in any of the activities surrounding this issue. That includes anyone who works for the County, anyone related to the Cal Poly activities, anyone who is associated with any contractors, etc. Let’s put it all out there, because the comments on this article are not on line with most of the views I hear expressed by the average person who has no vested interest in this,.

    (-11) 17 Total Votes - 3 up - 14 down
    • Typoqueen says:

      Well, I don’t believe that you know any average people then. I hear many people that share the same concerns that many of us do over DeVaul the slum lord. If we care about our county and we care about our fellow man then we all have a vested interest in how those people were living.

      (10) 20 Total Votes - 15 up - 5 down
      • mkaney says:

        any vested interest on your part?

        (-13) 15 Total Votes - 1 up - 14 down
        • Typoqueen says:

          I just explained my interest. I care about those people living in dangerous conditions.

          To answer your question below, how would I know? Maybe some of them are back on their feet and living a better life, maybe some of them are living by the creek, maybe some of them are getting their motor homes towed. That’s not the point. The point is that DeVaul was given chance after chance. If his true motivation was to help these people then he would have followed the laws that are there for a reason and that we must all follow. What he owns in legal fees could have went a long way in helping the people that lived there. He had the chance to have his place brought up to code free of charge but he blew it. There is no excuse. IMO and again this simply my opinion, DeVaul didn’t give a cr@p about those people, he is a self serving man and his motivations were to get free or cheap labor and to stick it to the county.

          (11) 15 Total Votes - 13 up - 2 down
          • mkaney says:

            Well, quite honestly, I don’t think that you give a crap about them either. All you care is that they are no longer living there, and it does not appear to matter to you if they now live in a creek.

            (-6) 12 Total Votes - 3 up - 9 down
            • Typoqueen says:

              “I don’t think…”

              Yes, we can see that. What are doing for the homeless population BTW?

              I don’t want them living by the creek, don’t even pretend that you know what I’m thinking, you are clueless.

              Two wrongs don’t make right. The creek is unsafe, DeVauls place is even more unsafe. Why don’t you let them move in with you Mr. Sanctimonious? I believe that you don’t care about them at all, you are just all talk.

              (7) 13 Total Votes - 10 up - 3 down
              • mkaney says:

                I have let a couple homeless people move in my place until they could get on their feet. I have also given a few work, ;)

                (-4) 10 Total Votes - 3 up - 7 down
                • Typoqueen says:

                  Well, you got me, I haven’t done that and unless I know them I probably won’t. I don’t know how well bringing in a homeless person that I don’t know would work with my kids. I’ve spent years teaching them about stranger danger, guess it wouldn’t set a good example if I did that. Besides that, I’m not crazy, I just don’t let strangers stay in my house.

                  (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
                • mkaney says:

                  You get to know them first, of course. :) It’s definitely different if you have kids, I definitely understand your reservations. I don’t have kids, so I feel like I have a bit more freedom to take such risks.

                  (0) 10 Total Votes - 5 up - 5 down
      • mkaney says:

        And one more question, where are those people now? Do you know/care?

        (-5) 11 Total Votes - 3 up - 8 down
    • hotgrandma says:

      None of the above. Unfortunately, professionally and personally I have encountered far too many “users” and “abusers” to not recognize this situation. I’m amazed at the logic that someone who has been breaking the law for so many years should be allowed to contnue. Would it be OK for “Mrs. Jones” who has lived here for 60 years to drive drunk because she’s always done it? This county has many (but not nearly enough) licensed, legitimate recovery facilities that meet the safety and health standards. I want to see care and safe housing for all of our population.

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
      • hotgrandma says:

        By none of the above I meant I have no vested interests — except perhaps my tax dollars paid to the county being wasted.

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  4. obispan says:

    The receiver needs to take full control. If DeVaul wants to waste County money, fine. In the end I want full cost recovery. Every penny of staff and legal fees paid back to the taxpayers.

    (9) 9 Total Votes - 9 up - 0 down
  5. mkaney says:

    I’d like to address this issue about the PVC pipe being used for natural gas. According to my limited research, this is used to be perfectly common, as long as it was run underground and used the special metal fittings for the above ground section. This appears to be what De Vaul did. Now, I understand that this is not up to modern code. However, many people survived, and thrived, in the past in environments which today would be considered “unsafe” and illegal. How is it that the human race managed to make it this far? Why is it that no one is entitled to take risks anymore in order to try and eke out some kind of existence. You all want every structure to be up to code and you don’t want anyone to live in substandard conditions, or you would rather that they have no shelter at all. How is that your grandparents managed to survive? How is it that pioneers were able to move west across the country?

    It is as if no one is able to imagine an existence anymore which is not completely controlled by codes and up to specific standards, despite the fact that the inability to achieve these standards prevent some from having any sort of decent existence whatsoever.

    (0) 12 Total Votes - 6 up - 6 down
    • hotgrandma says:

      How nice of you to inquire about my grandparents. They homesteaded twice and were cattle ranchers. My Granddad took great pride in being a steward of the land. I can’t imagine him stting on his butt waiting for someone to clean up his property. They raised a large family and took in and raised as their own several orphaned children. No one paid them for that. They paid their property taxes and income taxes and felt responsible for their community. My grandparents had seen life in other countries where there was no law to protect citizens and loved this county with all their hearts. You have a nice day now.

      (3) 13 Total Votes - 8 up - 5 down

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