Poly House contractor battling with De Vaul
May 1, 2012
By KAREN VELIE
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.
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.”