Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The New Title 20 - a Sledgehammer

Yesterday evening the Costa Mesa Planning Commission considered the first cut at a brand new Public Nuisance Abatement Ordinance.  I mentioned this before in an earlier post and you can read the staff report on it HERE.

This is a really big deal for our city.  By throwing out the old ordinance and implementing the new one it gives city officials another tool - some will describe it as a sledgehammer - to use trying to deal with "problem properties".  After all is said and done, citing an offender as a public nuisance is a way to "solve" the problem.

When you visit the staff report you will find this information on the first couple pages.  It will help you understand the tone of what is intended. (Click on the images to enlarge)

As you read down that list you may get a feel for where this commission, and council, is going.  For example, the commission added "code enforcement" to (h).  Item (j) mentions "second hand smoke", which seems targeted directly at the large number of rehab homes in our city.  That "quiet enjoyment" phrase in (j) says a lot.

The commission voted unanimously to have staff fine-tune their plan based on the discussion last night and return at a future meeting with a finished product that they can send on to the City Council for its consideration.  So, if you're noisy, use a garage as a living space, have dead or overgrown vegetation, cars covered with tarps, generate an inordinate amount of noise, smoke, traffic, etc., you know what's going to be headed your way.

Earlier in the meeting the commission directed the staff to proceed with the establishment of Neighborhood Enhancement Area #4, and to also proceed with plans for what they called "mini-sweeps" - code enforcement actions that will target a small number of properties in an otherwise nice area.

One thing that sticks in my craw on this issue.  Willa Bowens-Killeen is the de facto Chief of Code Enforcement and has a team who does that work throughout the city.  However, in recent months CEO Tom Hatch has hired a couple "code enforcement officers" that work for him on the 5th floor.  I've never heard a good explanation why we need two separate code enforcement activities in our city.  If there are special tasks that senior management feels is important, then that direction should be sent downstream to the folks in Code Enforcement and they can work out the manpower allocations to get it done.  To me, this seems like just another bit of empire-building on the 5th floor of City Hall.  And I'm not so sure this is generated by Hatch.  I suspect he's getting "direction" from the Mayor and his pals, who spend way, way too much time prowling the corridors of City Hall, causing turmoil among the staff.  This looks to me as though some people in power wanted their own little militia that they can unleash on whatever they feel is the problem of the day - motels, homeless, etc.  Some of you may knee-jerk react that this reeks of the Gestapo, but I'm not sure it's that bad - yet.

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Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

Just a note on "quiet enjoyment", as you can see from the following link, it is a recognized legal term:


I suspect you actually knew that and were referring to its legal meaning, but I thought other readers may not be aware.

I always think of Sid Soffer whenever someone in the city talks about nuisance properties.

5/14/2013 06:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Can't wait to eradicate said...

CEO Hatch mentioned, at the Westside Town Hall Meeting, that he hired CE Officers Mike Tucker to monitor the 430ish CM Rehabs & the "problematic motels" with high emergency calls & frequent disturbances. And that he hired CE Officer Mike Brumbaugh to work closely with local parole officers and their "registered sex offenders" because he unfortunately had a lot of personal experience in dealing with a sex offender living in his family-oriented CM neighborhood.

Also, at that Westside TH Meeting, he mentioned The Neighborhood Improvement Task Force was working on this new "nuisance" ordinance along with a professional organization group that focuses their work on standardizing regulations for rehabs. And as soon as they "fix the ordinance" they would "bring it to the CC in the coming month".

So thanks for this status update, and maybe you could ask CEO Hatch to clarify and expand on the above mentioned CE Officers specific duties again, so as to further understand this thorough approach to FINALLY solving these prolific problems facing our "Costamazing Mayberry".

5/14/2013 07:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Things that make you say...hmmm said...

...it is amazing to see that they would hire Code Enf Officers...and I know that one has not prior law enf or code enf experience...for such "important" projects monitored by the 5th Floor...

5/14/2013 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous challenge them in real court said...

Geoff as always, you seem to sniff out what appear to be piggys special projects. The clown code enforcers on the 5th floor are just more spineless creatures like hatch. In my opinion, the city is playing with fire using code enf "officers" who have no law enforcement background. Since piggy took office, the fines have increased substantially. It doesnt take a brain surgeon to see that the enforcers on the 5th floor are just puppets.

I highly recommend anyone who receives a code enf citation fight it not only with the admin hearing put on by the city, but if they lose, pay the $25 to have a REAL superior court judge hear the case. You should ask if anyone has ever done that geoff.

Its time to start challenging code enf. I have a feeling that when a real judge in superior court starts seeing these cases, the word UNCONSTITUTIONAL will be used over and over again. Using vague language and having civilians interpret made up codes that turn into city law is an awesome recipe for disaster. Looks like our outsourced law firm will be busy! Its gonna be another great Christmas for Jones and Mayer!

Again friends, you can challenge your so-called civil citation in a REAL court. Just turn the ticket over and READ. Go through the BS admin hearing at the city, then contest the ruling at the real court.

In the case of the motel owners, it is beyond me as to why they allow any city staff on their private property. If you were a business owner geoff, woukd you like harassed by city staff conducting harassing inspections? I would. These business owners need to wise up about search and seizure rights and start demanding to see search warrants.

My advice to the business owners and residents of costa mesa who are contacted by any city official is to question everything and keep your mouth shut. Make them prove their case and challenge how they obtained their information and take the case to court. A real judge is not paid by the city to be a hearing officer. A real judge will rule on a spirit of the law and not he letter of the law.

Good luck to all until piggy and the likes of him are all gone. Dont let the city push you around. one of them used to be a secretary who is now an "officer" who has absolutely no experience as a professional code enf officer.

5/15/2013 11:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Faye D said...

I have been happy Hatch hired these people to work for him. Willa's lack of action is frustrating and she does not empower her staff to take action when it is clearly called for. Hatch's staff is responsive and gets the issues resolved that I have brought to their attention.

I personally tried to work with Willa for over a year on a safety issue with an apartment near me and she would only return emails. She refused to speak with me over the phone or arrange to meet with me in person.

Just wanted to present another side.

5/16/2013 09:02:00 PM  
Anonymous surprise P test said...

Willa has been an outstanding city employee for decades. Its not her fault that the city doesnt take having a professional code enforcement program seriously. Riggy and his crew use these so-called officers like their own private police force. Talk about another train wreck coming when both business owners and residents start wising up.

Like a wise man once said, "give these idiots enough rope and eventually they'll hang themselves".

These guys are never going to learn and whats sweet for them is that its not them whos left holding the bag, the taxpayers will have to pay the cost of the legal bills.

5/16/2013 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Faye D said...

YOU may have had a good experience with her, but I did not. That is all I was trying to say.

I tried for over a year to get some type of cogent response from her and all she would do was shove me off to someone else who neither had the authority or the knowledge to respond. I then asked to have a phone conversation with her and she did not have the courtesy to even respond. I asked to have a face to face meeting with her and again not even a courtesy response.

When I finally went to her boss she said I had hurt her feelings because I didn't recognize that she was responding via email. It was maddening because even in her emails she would not address the issue.

If you think this is the conduct of an outstanding employee (over the course of a year no less), then I don't know what to tell you.

I don't have any knowledge what Righeimer does with Code Enforcement, but I do know that Hatch's hires have been VERY helpful in getting some issues around my neighborhood resolved (like picking up discarded furniture on the side of the road in one day versus two - four weeks).

I understand your suspicion, but I'm telling you Willa was horrible and Hatch has been helpful.

5/17/2013 06:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Take Your Meds said...

There are mentally ill people who call and harass city employees with their "complaints". One woman called so many times that the city prosecutor had to write her a cease and desist letter. That being said, its hard to believe a dedicated city employee like Willa would just ignore someone.

5/19/2013 08:55:00 PM  

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