SLO County alleges code violations at DeVaul’s Sunny Acres property

June 24, 2021

Sunny Acres sober living dining hall

During an inspection of San Luis Obispo Dan DeVaul’s property on Wednesday, county staff found obvious violations, a SLO County official said. [Tribune]

DeVaul’s 72-acre ranch lies on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo and contains his Sunny Acres sober-living facility. Sunny Acres houses and provides sober-living services to several dozen low-income residents, many of whom could otherwise face homelessness.

Amid a previous spat between the county and DeVaul, a 2011 order from a local judge forced the rancher to evict effectively homeless individuals who were deemed to have been staying in non-code compliant structures. Sunny Acres later went into receivership, and then in 2013, DeVaul and the county entered into a stipulated agreement requiring the rancher to comply with various regulations in order to continue his operation.

In recent months, neighbors made complaints to the county about Sunny Acres. Subsequently, last month, a county official penned a letter to DeVaul stating it suspected individuals are living in non-permitted structures on his property and that non-permitted dumping and grading activity were reportedly occurring near wetlands and Laguna Lake.

On Friday, the county obtained a civil inspection warrant. Then Wednesday morning, code enforcement officers and sheriff’s deputies went onto the property.

During the inspection, officials walked through about a dozen tiny homes. When asked if they found any violations or non-permitted structures, Jon Ansolabehere, SLO County’s chief deputy county counsel, said yes.

It is pretty obvious. None of this stuff is permitted, Ansolabehere said while pointing at the tiny homes.

Officials plan to take an inventory of all noted violations and get in contact with DeVaul and ranch management about what the county believes requires immediate action, Ansolabehere said.

During Tuesday’s SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting, Johnny Rodriguez, the program director for Sunny Acres, spoke during public comment, saying the sober-living facility helps people who have no other means of support. The residents would otherwise be in the streets, under bridges, in creeks, in parks or in jail, Rodriguez said.

A total of 48 people, many of whom are elderly, infirm, mentally ill and in various stages of recovery, could be out on the streets soon, Rodriguez said. The Sunny Acres program director added there is no history of violence or chaos at the ranch, so the prospect of residents being left homeless is mind-boggling.

Rodriguez, along with construction manager David Dieter, answered questions from inspectors on Wednesday. Both arrived at the ranch battling addiction or alcoholism and worked their way up into management positions.

On Wednesday, Dieter said many Sunny Acres residents did not understand why armed officers were walking around the property, nor were they aware of the lengthy history between the county and the ranch. Many of the residents fear they will be moved off the property with nowhere to go, putting in jeopardy the routines that support their sobriety.

Residents have made construction improvements over the past four years, including to the main residential building and a new bathroom and shower facility, the construction manager said. Dieter, however, admitted he lives illegally in a trailer on the property.

The main residential building, too, is not properly permitted because Sunny Acres has been unable to bring potable water into the structure, DeVaul has said. DeVaul has sought to connect the building to the city of San Luis Obispo’s water system and was reportedly refused service. Thus far, individuals living in the building have been using bottled water.

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From Los Angeles: “In an unusual move, Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva has sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors urging them to declare a local state of emergency to address the spiraling homelessness crisis in the county, citing an increase in crime, lack of sanitation, and struggling businesses.”” “With the homeless, you have two choices if you’re an elected official: You can get busy helping [or] you get busy hindering, it’s your choice,” he said. This is right around the corner here, if not here already. Yet, the local government bureaucrats are doing all that they can to punish the one operation that is actually making a difference

Mr DeVaul should do what Madonna threatened to do when the city was giving him a hard time about building the Irish Hills shopping center. If the city continues targeting Dan, instead of recognizing what he does for his community, inform them he will become a pig farmer, keeping the maximum allowable amount of animals for his size property.

For years now, that and the neighboring property have been approved by LAFCO as being in the City of SLO’s sphere of influence. This is typically the biggest hurdle (that and repaying the county for services) to annexation. Since it is unlikely that the County will make much of an argument that they have had to staff up significantly for services to two agricultural properties, it is likely that the City get’s this annexation “for free”. So, why has the City not acted?. Both properties would be able to be subdivided and add to the inventory of work force housing. In DeVaul’s case very low income housing or mixed uses could be proposed. All these options would benefit the community. Instead the City and County have not acted, putting the roadblock of water quality in the way of DeVaul completing the house.

They have also known for years that the house is being occupied since they have been placing individuals in the house. So why the warrant and inspection? Actually why the warrant at all when DeVaul said he would allow an inspection when he got back from out of state?

I’m guess that more is afoot than what is being let out. The Chief Deputy of County Counsel is on site during an inspection? The Chief Deputy Co Counsel who was the Assistant City Attorney for SLO?

Let’s go Karen. Dig some more. I think some unelected bureaucrats are running cover for some elected officials who may have a bigger plan in mind for their developer puppet masters/campaign financiers. I’m betting that there is a master planned development floating around somewhere.