Friday, October 17, 2008

Stupid neighbor stories

The second consultation with my attorney on August 21st consisted mainly of him telling me stories of cases he prosecuted in the past, where people inflicted all sorts of bizarre nuisances on their neighbors. His favorite one seemed to be about a guy in the country who deliberately built a small pen and raised a family of pigs in it - upwind of his neighbors. Several times he admonished me to thoroughly check out everything around a property before buying it to avoid getting into situations like this. I only nodded. Letting him tell stories of pig-headed a$$h@les seemed to get his lawyering juices going.

I really doubt I'm going to sell and buy houses on a regular basis. My first post introduced you to The Perfect Property.

After showing him THE letter and a few other key pieces of evidence of my neighbors' illegal business expansion, his advice was for me to take one more step. He said the first question a judge would ask is, "Did you exhaust all adminisrative remedies." So, he wanted me to see if I could get this item placed on a city council agenda.

Here's my request letter to the city manager:

September 2, 2008

Mr. Steve Pinkerton, Manteca City Manager
1001 West Center Street
Manteca, CA 95337

Dear Mr. Pinkerton,

I desire to have an item placed on a City Council meeting agenda within a month’s time. The item to be considered is: Abatement of Unlawful Business Use of Residential Property at 810 Fishback Street. Arthur Barnes, a Manteca attorney and my legal counsel, has advised me to make this one last administrative plea directly and publicly to the City.

What started out as a simple noise ordinance enforcement request last March 4th instantly turned into a massive game of “cat and mouse” between me and the City, and netted me nothing - except the necessity of personally doing the research that should have been done by City staff. I bring to your attention some old documentation, which you will find enclosed with this letter, and a refreshed view of a long-running and unmitigated nuisance. As the agenda item states, this is no longer a noise case, but a much broader land use violation of zoning laws.

The essential element of this case is that TLC Catering needs TWO sets of permission to operate their business on residential property: (1) the sanitation regulation provided by San Joaquin County, Environmental Health Department; and (2) the land use regulation provided by the County before 12/17/86, and by the City after that annexation date. Both sets of regulations must be satisfied; if either set is not satisfied, the project fails and proceeding with it is illegal. My document titled Timeline Regarding 810 Fishback Street is supported by source documents and my Review of EHD Public Records comments on those documents.

On 6/29/93, the City told TLC Catering that no land use permits would be forthcoming for expansion or enlargement of the business beyond what existed on the annexation date of 12/17/86. TLC Catering ignored that and beginning in September 1993, on the basis of an EHD permit application alone, developed a fully operational commissary on the property. They went beyond - way beyond - merely parking their vending vehicles on their property. It will be a difficult task to dismantle this entrenched commissary, from which TLC Catering has unlawfully profited for so long. My document, Commissary Operations Observed, is enclosed to aid in setting out the various elements of this task.

Was it a mistake for me (or anyone) to buy the property next door to this illegally enlarged home occupation? No. My mistakes were expecting law-abiding behavior from my scofflaw neighbors, and relying on City personnel to back up the City’s words with necessary action. Much blame is assigned to my neighbors for the nuisance, but the fact that this illegal operation has continued unabated for over fifteen years is a direct result of pure negligence on the part of the City. Lifeless surrender by current and former neighbors to this seemingly hopeless situation does not grant legal standing to the violation.

Mr. Pinkerton, I request that you have City staff bring forward all of their files relating to this property. I am making available to you all of the documentation supporting my report. Have your staff put their best research and analytical thinking into the abatement recommendations they must forward in a report to you for the City Council meeting. I have also enclosed my Abatement Options and Special Conditions for them to consider and use. I will be happy to meet with a small task force appointed for this purpose. Only thoroughly grounded research, publicly aired, will debunk the myths that have grown up around this property - and only real enforcement action will bring an end to a long­standing and flagrant violation of law and decency in my neighborhood and your City.

Respectfully submitted by,

Richard W. Behling

Enclosures: Timeline Regarding 810 Fishback Street, with footnotes and attachments.
Review of EHD Public Records.
Commissary Operations Observed.
Abatement Options and Special Conditions.

The Timeline (research report), cover letter and other attachments totaled thirty-two pages. The request went Certified Mail with Return Receipts. Not content to let it go so easily, the following statement was made at the city council meeting that evening.

Public Statement - September 2, 2008

Mr. Mayor, City Council, and City Administration,

I agree with Mayor Weatherford; I vote for code enforcement [rather than a fire inspection position.]

Today I mailed to the City Manager a request to have an item placed on the City Council agenda within a month’s time. I mailed the request in order to obtain a signed Return Receipt from the post office - only one step away from a Proof of Service. I very much desire to hear how the Council will direct the City Manager to proceed with the item entitled, Abatement of Unlawful Business Use of Residential Property at 810 Fishback Street, a land use violation of zoning laws.

Why do I tell you this in advance? Because I do not want this matter to be disposed of quietly; I want the City Council to know of my request to the City administrator; I want my request and the City's response to be a matter of public record. What started out as a simple noise ordinance enforcement request last March 4th instantly turned into a massive game of “cat and mouse” between me and the City, and netted me nothing – that is, nothing except the necessity to personally do the primary research that should have been done by City staff. I discovered that, in 1993, City Hall's view of the situation and their instruction to TLC Catering was crystal clear. However, since 1993, TLC Catering has been building and operating an illegally located commissary for their catering business.

With the agenda item request, I enclosed copies of the source documents backing up my findings. My report will soon be in your hands. It will dispel the myths concerning TLC Catering as staff confirms my findings. (Hint: TLC does not stand for Tender Loving Care.) I expect to be consulted during the one-month window in which the staff report will be prepared; I also will be available at the City Council meeting during which I expect this matter to be finally settled.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Can you guess what kind of response I got?

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