Facts about Ventura code enforcement and property owners
By Philip Fields 11/08/2012
RE: Progress with Ventura’s code enforcement policies
How easy for complainants to secretly stone Rick Cole as “evil government official” favoring Councilwoman Christy Weir while persecuting granny flat owners mercilessly embodying Ebenezer Scrooge. And some even complain they are not getting good services from the city. How can we get better services when homeowners are cheats and don’t pay permit fees, just build without them. How can we get better services when people refuse to pay a quarter-cent more sales tax?
Fact: Rick Cole’s city management wasn’t the monster they painted. Ventura is not insulated from the effects of the economic recession and wanting to aid Venturans; he was the predominant force pushing for an amnesty along with the City Council, now extended until 2013. I know more than one secret complainant who threw cowardly stones at Cole after being busted renting an uninhabitable granny unit.
Fact: I applied to rent a granny flat unit in a time of need. The homeowner took $30 for a credit check, not only from me but from 40-some-odd applicants. To me, she repeatedly accused code enforcement as racists and persecuting her, because they demanded her unit be made safe to live in. On that excuse, she refused to rent to me, but when I asked for a copy of the credit report she said she hadn’t done it, but refused to refund the money I paid her for that very report. Eventually, she paid the fines and repaired the safety violations in her unit, but then vociferously complained against Mr. Cole.
Fact: A Ventura homeowner got his brother-in-law, a union carpenter, to build a major, two-floor addition to his home, beginning with no building permit. While they were working until well into the night, neighbors complained of the noise and the police notified code enforcement. They paid some fines and with a “remodel” permit built a two-story home and a rental cottage in the rear. When an inspector showed up, they were fined again, obtained the right permit, had to re-pipe the unit, cut several feet off the excessively high (8 feet) fence, install utility services and pay increased taxes for the increased square footage of living space. Angry that he got caught building without a permit, he complained to the secret grand jury for “selective enforcement” despite his own violating of city laws regarding new construction and permitting.
Fact: A third owner had a home she duplexed into two one-bedroom units. A code enforcement inspector discovered it by accident and ordered that the second unit’s out-of-code plumbing be removed. The owner removed the noncompliant plumbing for the next inspection by code enforcement, then replaced it, and continues to rent it as a duplex in violation of city codes and tax requirements. The same owner has another property with an unpermitted apartment built into an old garage building. Undiscovered to this day by code enforcement, she hasn’t been fined yet and pays no taxes on that rental.
Fact: A masseuse has a concealed second unit. Originally set up as a second bedroom, she was caught on the fly by code enforcement and alleged it to be a storage shed. After code enforcement inspected, she doubled its size, has added plumbing and lights and is setting it up as a living space. This unit doesn’t qualify for amnesty because it is more than 90 percent new construction. Since she doesn’t want to work legitimately within Ventura’s requirements, she doesn’t want to pay for a permit, she just sneaks around at night, on weekends and in the early morning before code enforcement opens. The person was digging to secretly connect to a neighbor’s sewage line. When she was busted, rather than apply for a permit to take the new unit’s sewer line to the street, she has moved her plumbing farther back and is trying again to attach an illegal sewer line without the neighbor’s permission.
Fact: One of my neighbors has built two storage sheds that he has attached to his home, and they are now remodeled rooms, but he tells code enforcement they are storage sheds. He also built a two-floor wood frame structure with a sturdy shingled roof and that he is secretly enclosing into a two-floor cottage.
Fact: Another West Ventura neighbor built himself a granny unit in his rental home’s garage. He rents it for $500 a month, pays no taxes for either rental unit, nor has he gotten permits for or complied with code enforcement requirements. Yet he complained to the grand jury, alleging Councilwoman Weir got favoritism from code enforcement when in fact she complied with the program in an exemplary manner. To this day, he hasn’t applied for the amnesty or corrected safety deficiencies in his rental unit/garage. Whether he will or not has yet to be seen.
The truth is, Rick Cole was everybody’s punching bag, particularly granny unit owners who complained to the grand jury that found no grounds for indictment. Doesn’t that tell you something about these bitter complainants, some of whom pride themselves, saying, “We got ride of Cole, so why identify myself for amnesty? My granny unit is doing just fine. It hasn’t burned down and I’m getting some tax-free income.”
You, VCReporter, have not met/found many granny flat owners or homeowners becoming homeless because of the witch hunts against Rick Cole. But you can mark my words: Most owners of dangerous uncoded granny flats won’t apply for amnesty, not now and not before 2014. And when the code enforcement inspectors identify and fine them, they will cry again, “Witch hunt, witch hunt,” aka “The wolf, the wolf, the wolf,” but it is a wolf that exists only as a figment of their paranoid imaginations and not because of Rick Cole, who protected Venturans from bankruptcy proceedings while many cities have gone under.
The fact is, I hope Mr. Cole runs for city office. His presence would bring a sense of fairness back to our divided City Council and change Ventura for the better once again.