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.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

DeVaul provides a roof over the heads of homeless people… the county has them in the bushes along the highway…maybe the county is tired of looking so inept regarding the issue…or more likely someone wants that land to build on….

With government… perfection is always the enemy of good….

“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.”

Perhaps Mr. Duval could just let them put up their tents and cardboard shelters? Seems to work/be ok out on the big city streets. Oh, and supply free needles/drugs as well.

Non permitted dwelling units. Non permitted sewer. For several dozen people… And everyone in the comments thinks nothing is wrong?

Why would the city want this to continue? It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. Being proactive is their only option.

Prado homeless shelter is a proper facility available to anyone.

What does a permit have to do with anything, I saw the system that Dan put in, it works just a swell as the faulty sewer plant in San luis that once a year dumps raw sewage into the creek or the one at mens colony that does the same thing. prado homeless shelter won’t take these people so maybe you have an extra room for them.

This is a case of the locals versus yuppie nimby transplants. Sorry Mr. DeVaul for dealing with this stuff.

Sunny acres has proven time and time again that they will not meet the necessary requirements and regulations. No one’s fault but their own.

Seems to me SA is helping keep some of these problems off the street, the county has nowhere to home them so my guess would be if they are not there then they would be on the street, how would you like a few more derelicts and sexual problems on the street, something is dirty int he back room downtown.

This squabble has gone on almost as long as the Los Osos sewer debacle. I would rather have the bums in his slums than in my doorway.

Can’t wait for the next “receiver” I mean, developer from Pasadena or Half Moon Bay to swoop in and make repairs. Slo really needs a super Wal-Mart, or even a sister mega strip mall to Madonna Plaza.

Sunny Acres is the furthest thing from a nuisance, what an absolute joke. They take in the homeless and give purpose, shelter, food & water in trade for labor. It may not be “permitted” but it sure isn’t for profit.

The city/county applying pressure on a premiere piece of real estate on garbage trumped up “non permitted” charges is disgusting.

Unfortunately, we will see a ReMax sign that will lead to a steadfast bidding war followed by dozers & scrapers with half-assed branded signage for a mixed-use condo complex with zero lot lines.

I was thinking along the same line.I wonder if the the owners of trucking business will make another run at purchasing Sunny Acres like they did last year,they wanted to run a clean and sober facility too! What does trucking and clean/soberliving have in common?

County and City officials bend over backwards for developers dollars to line their pockets.

I’m hoping Mr Duvall can make it through this bullshit.The County should be helping him not kicking him when he is trying to fix the situation.

I hope that he does not loose his home,his ranch because it surely will be developed into more affordable housing for the equity aliens and nothing that the locals can afford.

SLO County: “Something must be done to help the homeless.”

Also SLO County: “No, not like that!”

When someone needing help goes to Sunny Acres, it cuts the bureaucrats out of the loop and they (said bureaurcrats) can’t enrich themselves from the experience, so it’s bad.