San Luis Obispo County pushed Dan DeVaul to sell Sunny Acres

September 12, 2021


Amid its ongoing spat with SLO rancher Dan DeVaul, San Luis Obispo County reportedly pushed for the sale of DeVaul’s property to a Santa Margarita couple, a deal DeVaul has rejected.

DeVauls’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.

DeVaul and SLO County have repeatedly battled over code enforcement disputes pertaining to the property.

With the support of county officials, Cheryl and Mike Cole, of Cole Farms, were ready, willing and able to purchase Sunny Acres, Jeffrey Stein, the couple’s attorney, stated in a news release.

“Despite the anticipated buyers being ready, willing and able to complete the purchase, the cancellation of the offer to sell appears to have doomed the new team and their devotion to the recovery program and the people it has served,” Stein wrote.

The Coles’ team aimed to create a fresh start for the sober-living program at Sunny Acres and to enable it to become compliant with county and state codes, so it can remain viable in the long-term, Stein said.

District 3 County Supervisors Dawn Ortiz-Legg participated in the negotiations over the proposed sale of Sunny Acres. Ortiz-Legg sponsored a meeting with representatives of the sober-living community and worked with county staff and the prospective buyers to identify possible solutions to the existing code violations. [Tribune]

There was a plan of action involving new ownership and a team of professionals who could make the situation work. DeVaul’s rejection of the purchase offer is unfortunate, Ortiz-Legg said.

DeVaul has proven that he cannot provide safe permitted housing and safe drinking water to residents on his property, nor can he fix the non-permitted grading that impacts flood management and the environment, Ortiz-Legg said.

“While I applaud Mr. DeVaul for bringing much good to the Sunny Acres community and the people who are in their program, because of what he has done to the property over the many years and because of his continued obstinance to operate within the rules, he has created a situation which puts those individuals who rely on the property at risk and in harm’s way,” Ortiz-Legg added.

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.

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

In June, the county obtained a civl inspection warrant, and code enforcers went onto DeVaul’s property, accompanied by sheriff’s deputies. During the inspection, a county official said there were obvious violations on the property, particularly non-permitted tiny homes.

DeVaul said the main residential building on his ranch was not properly permitted because Sunny Acres had been unable to bring potable water into the structure. DeVaul had sought to connect the building to the city of SLO’s water system and was reportedly refused service.

Johnny Rodriguez, the program director for Sunny Acres, said during public comment at a SLO County Board of Supervisor’s meeting in June that at total of 48 people, many of whom were elderly, infirm, mentally ill and in various stages of recovery, could be out on the streets if evicted from the property.

Nonetheless, DeVaul was ordered to provide the county with a relocation and demolition plan a couple weeks ago. County staff had delayed enforcement action on the matter to meet with Sunny Acres management, Supervisor Ortiz-Legg said.


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Lets be clear. Bruce Gibson has been leading the charge to get rid of dan duval for over a decade. he owes or owed christine mulholland who owns one of the houses across from sunny acres. Years ago when asked what would become of the people dan is helping Gibson is quoted as saying it wasn’t a county problem, it was a state problem. Gibson has been in office for years and has done nothing to improve the homeless, drug or mentally challenged members of our community.

If they are successful in forcing dan (our very own Emperor Norton) to sell sunny acres it will become a new housing development within 15 minutes.


No good deed goes unpunished. This is private property! I would much rather have homeless people there than camping in our parks, on the side of the road, or downtown. The idea of his being forced into a sale through county coercion is horrifying. If there were a recorded deed restriction that the property could not be subdivided nor developed, but would permanently remain a clean and sober living facility, I doubt the Coles or anyone else would want to purchase it.

Jorge Estrada

If you stand back and look at the SLO growth around the mountain, it’s obvious that Sunny Acres in the way. SLO has a permitted application for 45,000 acre-feet of North County water and only utilizes a small fraction of that. Someday SLO’s 75 years of dragging their heels will put them in the same place as Sunny Acres, big plans un-perfected, the only difference SLO is in the taking from others and Sunny Acres is in the giving to others. Perfecting water rights are humongous business and building more homes around the mountain will become a race before SLO goes into some kind of water receivership for not meeting the tenants of their… application. As for the wetlands claim, the SLO Ranch is in the same wetlands per say and as you can see, they just add more dirt, just like Sunny Acres. SLO would be in good conscience to orchestrate an exchange to relocate Sunny Acres with legally conforming everything between SLO and Morro Bay, with a bus stop.


HASLO and CAPSLO are feeling threatened on their funding as they receive 70% of poverty stricken aid that their clients receive .How dare a private citizen run a non-profit in their area that helps low income folks .Let alone how dare a private citizen that is not rich own a property that someone else that has plenty of funding and backing from local government officials to develop and make millions of dollars by running the non-profit owner off his land as they confiscate it for their own agenda


The county has had a hαrd-оn to kick out DeVaul for decades, starting when former SLO councilwoman and eternal NIMBY Christine Mulholland took offense at Sunny Acres for making the view near her million dollar home a little less “sunny.” If the Coles bought it, I’d give it a year or two tops before they shut everything down, kick out all the sober living residents, and make a mint for themselves developing some housing project on the property.


Rather than pitching in and helping DeVaul make the repairs and improvements, the snooty do-gooder’s like Ortiz would rather force him to sell to their chosen minion. That’s definitely not smart to sell the rehab facility to lone individuals that have their own health risks and can flake-out at any time versus a non-profit organization like Transitions that have board members. The county has and will spend more taxpayer money to oust DeVaul than bringing the nitpicky list up to code. Clearly this is elder and disabled abuse by the county staff against DeVaul. Since DeVaul is old and has greater resolve than anyone capable of taking him on, just let him do his mission in life and wait him out!


So if they move a couple of hundred yards to the bank of Laguna Lake they’re legal?

Dan has that old west scofflaw mentality, doing the right thing, but raising the hackles of the rule makers and enforcers!!!

I’m surprised by Dawn Ortiz-Legg’s take on this, you would think she would be a champion of the cause of helping the little people:(