Lawsuit alleges Sunny Acres in SLO County is a public nuisance

April 7, 2022

By Josh Friedman

San Luis Obispo County has filed a public nuisance lawsuit against SLO rancher Dan DeVaul and his Sunny Acres sober-living facility. [KSBY]

Located on DeVaul’s 72-acre ranch on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo, the Sunny Acres facility 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.

In the lawsuit, the county accuses DeVaul violating a permanent injunction against the property by allowing people to live in non-permitted structures, including sheds and RVs that are connected to non-permitted plumbing. Additionally, the county alleges DeVaul has increased the amount of outdoor storage at the site; made non-permitted improvements to the electricity, plumbing and sewage systems; and moved about 150,000 cubic yards of dirt within a flood hazard area without a permit.

Sunny Acres has a history of code enforcement violations dating back to 2001, according to the lawsuit.

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 June, 2021, the county obtained a civil 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, including non-permitted tiny homes.

DeVaul also acknowledged the main residential building on the ranch was not property permitted because of a dispute over water. DeVaul had sought to connect the building to the city of SLO’s water system and was reportedly refused service.

In July 2021, the county issued a notice of violation.

Also last year, the county reportedly pushed for the sale of Sunny Acres to a Santa Margarita couple, a deal DeVaul rejected.

Since then, some progress has been made, but residents are still living in non-permitted structures; water does not meet safe drinking standards; non-permitted utilities remain in use; there is a substantial amount of accumulated junk; and there is no permanent solution to address the grading of the floodplain, the county’s lawsuit states.

The county is seeking a judicial order appointing a receiver to take full control of the property and make necessary repairs. Likewise, the county is asking a judge to find DeVaul and Sunny Acres in contempt of court for violating the permanent injunction.

DeVaul said on Wednesday that he has worked to clean up the property, including by removing more than three dozen vehicles and 200 tons of scrap metal. He has also tried to evict many of the residents, but they refused to leave, DeVaul said.


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Itamar

DeVaul has been trying and failing to evict the residents. Both sides have lawyered up. DeVaul is no longer fighting for Sunny Acres. Sunny Acres is fighting for its survival and Devaul is trying to put them on the streets.


obispan

The man has a point. Whenever you allow someone to live on your property more than 30 days they have tenants rights, period. Same as the Sievers property on Prado Road. If you own it you are responsible for following the applicable regulations, theoretically. If you were to build a deck, addition, or detached structure without a permit and a complaint was filed, or if it was just obvious to the City/County, they would follow through by the book. The current attention, and previous lack thereof, by the County is political strategy, and, a no win situation. Stay tuned.


Last Individual

It is a much safer for Mr. DeVaul if the county attempts to confiscate his property through a lawsuit, than by the alternate method apparently available to them. It is not out of the realm of possibility, and it wouldn’t be the first time a county murdered a property owner to acquire valuable land they coveted. I’m certain some of you will believe this is something that could not possibly happen, and I find that alarming at well.


See the following links.


https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1993-03-31-me-17384-story.html


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Donald_Scott


In this case, Ventura County wanted Mr. Scott’s land for a park, and he would not sell it. He was killed during an illegal search of his property. His property is now a county park.


mazin

OK … “San Luis Obispo County has filed a public nuisance lawsuit”, yawwwhhh, SLOCO, id est, y’all got sum stonelessly defick-e-cat ordinances an’ over paid over pensioned keystone-style dimwit enforcers??? Ya’think? on occasional?

Plsssses, tell me something don’t already know.

Thus is painful.

barrel of hair twixt me sholdurs is hurtin’

major

hurt’n


Borderline

I’m talking about (1) a formal plan by the CRP Department to address all the planning/permitting issues, (2) a site design by the Department of Architecture, and (3) construction by the Engineering Department. Not sure if anyone has looked at it as a multiphase project with a defined endpoint as opposed to “let’s get this trash out of here” one time effort.


kayaknut

Christine Mulholland must be at it again.


unusualsuspect

Let’s simplify; the county is liable for the conditions on his property, they are not liable for those living on the street.


SLO has no choice but to be proactive and protect themselves from a possible lawsuit. Ysll want them to just turn their heads and pretend the violations don’t exist? Not an option.


pasoparent5

It’s not about “code enforcement” and it never has been. If Mr. DeVaul was in California Valley, the county wouldn’t care. He’s an elderly man w/70+ acres of prime real estate and the county wants him gone. It’s shameful.


Messkit

Born and raised in SLO, a long time ago. As far back as I can remember, the DeVaul ranch has looked liked that, many decades before the lake housing began to envelope it, and far too many from Los Angeles “came up for air” (how many recall that SLO slogan?)


Froom ranch, the derelict house and barn, surrounded by junk equipment, is surprisingly unnoticed by the county. There’s hardly a property in Foothill town that doesn’t have pile of junk or rotting vehicles. How soon will we see the city and county talons come out, when the lone ranch blocking the Prado Rd extension is seen to have just as much trash, junk, and old buildings as DeVaul’s place? Don’t get me started on the Dalidio debacle.


Wouldn’t surprise me at all, would we find the same corruption staining the city, is also rampant in the county.


Borderline

Why not get Calpoly involved in bringing things to code? I see a bunch of senior projects for our “learn by doing” school. Planning, architecture, engineering, etc.


unusualsuspect

Cal Poly is smart enough not to get involved or implicated in a substandard living facility that’s in blatant violation of numerous housing laws.


kettle

That ship has sailed a few times Cal Poly students cleaning up Sunny Acres


The people who own $$$ Homes on the west side above Sunny Acres want it gone.


unusualsuspect

There is a difference between volunteer work and being formally involved as it seemed was suggested.

This isn’t political. Sunny Acres has to follow the same rules as everyone else. They aren’t. There are consequences. End of story.


kettle

The university approved the multiple efforts there over the years, It was formally approved.


Their have also been many volunteer efforts over the years.


“This isn’t political.” bullshit, always has been as actual Slo residents and tax payers know.


“End of story.” Go be a gatekeeper someplace else.


roedel12

Oh stop the BS please. housing laws, did you check whats going on with the homeless living on the streets lately? Sunny acres is a prime example of how homelessness should be managed, the only reason they are in trouble are the absurd neighbors on the hill crying about their spoiled view. Shame on this decadent people.