Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Grandfather of All Reports

Here we go... Settle in for a nice story.

Allen & Brassey: TLC on Fishback Street

Documented Narrative

In 1969, Dale & Georgia Mae Grubb purchased 8.78 acres at 18590 S. Fishback Road, two blocks south of Manteca city limits, from the Marshall’s and the Montgomery’s.[A] As is sometimes the case, seven years later one set of older parents (dad, 81; mom, 76) came to live with them, so they put a mobile home on the property.[B] The County's Planning Department issued Dale Grubb a mobile home permit in April 1976,[C] and the dwelling was numbered as 18594 S. Fishback[D]. This temporary permit required two annual signoffs: a declaration of continued necessity and current California DMV registration. The last entries on the permit were in 1981. The Grubbs sold their 8.41 acres in 1983 (they earlier deeded .37 acre to Sandra Daniel in August 1976.) It is obvious the permitted use of the mobile home was discontinued, but it was never removed from the property as the permit required.

Elsewhere in San Joaquin County, somewhere between Manteca and Tracy, Lynda Allen and Theresa Brassey ran some kind of catering truck or vending machine business. One man remembers these two women selling foodstuffs from a small vending truck at his employer’s place in Tracy (West Star, a sheet metal shop) and also servicing stationary vending machines. A second man guesses that one of their customers was the Tracy Defense Depot, based on a later Fictitious Business Name filing. A third man remembers these women parking their trucks, with the TLC Catering “brand,” on a property on Airport Way in unincorporated Manteca and he did mechanical work on the trucks at his shop on Wetmore Street. His memory of them is clear because they always paid his bills late.

Lewis & Anne Mego were employed at the Livermore National Laboratory, he as a nuclear physicist, she as an administrative assistant. Moving from the Bay Area, they purchased the Fishback property from Dale & Georgia Grubb, recording the deed in November 1983.[E] What they did with Grubb’s abandoned mobile home is certain in two respects: 1) they did not remove it from the property, and 2) they did not operate a catering truck business from it. The couple lived quietly on Fishback Road while governmental agencies went about the task of helping Brocchini annex his land - and many other people's property - into Manteca city limits. Property holders were assessed a per-acre fee to pay the costs for the privilege of annexation.[F]

The Manteca City Council adopted a resolution during their October 27, 1986 meeting in order to apply for the annexation of the Pacific Road-Brocchini area, including the east side of Fishback Road.[G] San Joaquin County's Local Agency Formation Commission gave final approval to the project on December 17, 1986,[H] which date grants “grandfather” protection to previously lawfully established land uses.

An elementary school was scheduled to be built right behind the Mego's property (later the plan changed to Sierra High School) and in March 1987 the Mego's deeded all but one-half acre to Manteca Unified School District.[I] Grubb’s abandoned mobile home had to be moved about 100 feet west to remain within the Mego's new rear property line. Since one of the couple had reached that magic age where they could move into a gated retirement community, in April 1987 Lewis & Anne Mego purchased a new home from Homes by Pann,[J] moved onto Tiffany Walk in Manteca, and put the Fishback property on the market. The Mego’s had no business use of the property that could grandfather.[K] The noncompliant mobile home could not be grandfathered - only ignored by unaware owners and dismissed by irresponsible County Planning and County Building employees.[L]

This abandoned mobile home became a textbook case of an “attractive nuisance,” utterly irresistible to the pair of Allen & Brassey. They were drawn to the Mego’s Fishback property because of the affordable size and private location of the parcel and, undoubtedly, because Dale Grubb’s mobile home was still illegally on the property. (Hmmm, a quiet, backwater lot with an existing trailer to store our catering supplies and inventory - what a great place to set up shop! But the price the sellers want… hmmm... how can we swing that?)

On November 10, 1987 - eleven months after the annexation to Manteca was finalized - the property was purchased by Allen & Brassey. The deed was recorded along with a deed of trust for the promissory note payable to the Mego’s.[M], [N] With the recording of the deed, unsuspecting Manteca and unfortunate neighbors became hosts to a couple of parasitic entrepreneurs. Allen & Brassey immediately moved their business assets and operations onto the property from wherever they were previously based, surely ecstatic they no longer had to pay a business expense (rent) to house the trucks. These women played fast and loose with the rules, evaded regulations of any kind (they still do), and proceeded to operate their existing, unregistered business at their new location for the next sixteen months without obtaining a Home Occupation permit or its earlier counterpart. (See the TLC Catering Chart.)

Manteca renumbered the old county addresses to new city addresses. The main house that was 18590 became 810 Fishback,[O] and the unlawful mobile home at 18954 became 812 Fishback.[P]

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Please PAUSE reading here.

The case of unlawful use of residential property has been made. Let Allen & Brassey choose - relocate their business to a commercial zone, or, go out of business. Either way, they must remove all current and abandoned business assets and cease all business operations.

If you proceed, please understand that what follows does not alter the facts outlined above. The remainder of this narrative is a tragically comic documentary of the confused nonsense displayed by city and county personnel in dealing with the situation. Despite its entertainment value, the purpose of the following is to ensure the complete rehabilitation of 810 Fishback Street to its residential-only status by detailing all the "arms and legs" of this cancerous catering company that is to be removed from the property.

RESUME reading . . .
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Theresa Brassey, Lynda Allen (and a woman called Corky) finally recorded TLC Catering as a fictitious business name on March 15, 1989, the only such filing by them in the County Recorder’s Grantor/Grantee Index.[Q] The first publication of the notice appeared in the Manteca Bulletin on March 18, 1989[R], and has two other fictitious items besides the name: the business start date was listed as March 1, 1989, and the business address was listed as 27500 Chrisman Rd in Tracy. This would place their business in unincorporated County of San Joaquin, but that address does not exist in the County's current Graphical Information System, District Viewer.[S] All other similar addresses along the east side of that stretch of county road belong to the Tracy Defense Depot - likely a customer, maybe their best customer - but not TLC Catering’s business address. The most important reason the two scofflaws listed a county address was to evade Manteca’s requirements for a business license and a land use permit (precursor to a Home Occupation permit.)

Then the mobile gourmets really got busy. San Joaquin County, Environmental Health Department (EHD) records show TLC Catering swapping trucks and trading license plate numbers on existing Health Permits re-issued in 1989. With money obtained from who-knows-where, they purchased three large Mobile Food Preparation Units (MFPU’s), including at least one new 1989 Chevy.[T] These monstrosities are kitchens on wheels, each as large as a sizable motor home. Unfortunately, the perishable foods are ice-cooled rather than refrigerated.

Allen & Brassey did not have a Commissary Permit from EHD. This is shown in a March 7, 1991 letter from TLC Catering to EHD, which listed the four external commissaries utilized by the business at that time.[U] All of the commissaries listed were away from the property, the main one being a Save Mart supermarket in Tracy. Brassey failed to mention any utilization of their residential property as a commissary. Current correspondence from EHD indicates these “law-abiding citizens” did not move their trucks onto the property prior to acquiring the private commissary.[V] (That, however, only strengthens the case of illegal enlargement after warning.)

Both the County of San Joaquin and the City of Manteca adopted ordinances in 1992 establishing a special class of land use permits, known as Home Occupation Permits. It is for people who operate all, or part, of their approved business from their homes in residential zones. The wording of Manteca’s Code, Section 17.61.030, defines the concept of “grandfathering” for preexisting nonresidential uses:

“Nonconforming use” means any use of land or property that was lawfully established and in compliance with all applicable ordinances and laws at the time the ordinance… became effective, but which… is a use not listed as permitted,… or [is] subject to permit in the zone in which it is located. (emphasis added.)

An element common to all grandfathering provisions is a restriction on enlarging or expanding the protected use. Allen & Brassey added a fourth truck to the TLC Catering fleet on August 5, 1992.[W] It was a smaller Limited Food Prep truck, also a 1989 Chevy. The application listed Bonnie Jean Carson of Lathrop as the driver and California Commissary at 2440 Airport Way in Stockton as the commissary.

Why bring up grandfathering in relation to the 1992 Home Occupation ordinance when it has already been proved that operating and expanding TLC Catering on the property was an unlawful land use from the moment Allen & Brassey moved in five years earlier? The top four reasons are: #4) The recently added fourth truck was crowding the half-acre lot; #3) The new ordinance prohibited the business from having non-resident, non-family employees; #2) These employees were parking their cars on the street in front of neighbors’ houses, and the neighbors complained; and, the most important reason, #1) Without properly verifying the property purchase date and any County Planning permits, code enforcement investigators believed Allen & Brassey’s fraudulent claim that the property’s use was lawfully established. After evading City regulation for five years by falsely listing a county address in their public filing of fictitious business name, these two shysters dodged another bullet by constant repetition of their lie about the business being grandfathered. Their constant chant, “We have operated our business on the property ever since we moved in,” is entirely true – except they moved in after annexation. The public documents show that Allen & Brassey were never on the property before December 1986 and never had a Manteca permit to use this property for business purposes before the 1992 ordinance - but that never stopped them from promoting this falsehood.

These women were not asked the question, When did you move onto the property? Any observant code enforcement officer who bothered to verify their story could have ended this travesty many years ago. (Lest any current pots start calling the former kettles black, the identical “softball Q&A” took place just last April with the present code enforcement officers.[X] ) In the absence of any proactive code enforcement, Manteca badly bungled its first citizen-complaint-driven opportunity to enforce zoning law compliance by these two charlatans. Even worse, in an error of mind-boggling proportions, Manteca handed these women the KEYS TO THE CITY in a June 1993 letter saying they had “legal, nonconforming” status.[Y] They must have been euphoric! Untouchable goddesses! They had successfully snuffed their nosy neighbors and hornswoggled those pestilent Manteca regulators! "Life is good!" Allen was heard cackling.

(Note: The letter is not a permit and only legally established uses can be grandfathered.)

Yet the TLC Life just kept getting better! Emboldened by Manteca's emasculation, three months later Allen & Brassey assumed home occupation (land use) permission from Health Department (food sanitation) permits and made an application payment to EHD to establish and operate a private commissary, naming their property at 810 Fishback Street as the location for inspections.[Z] (The current Manteca code enforcement officer opined that Allen & Brassey were merely attempting to “legalize” what they had been doing “since they moved in.” When did they move in? Sorry, but they still need a land use permit.) The nine months following September 1993, was likely the period when a walk-in freezer and a refrigerated shipping container were hauled onto the property, refrigerators and freezers were plugged in everywhere, lights and floodlights strung up, and an ancient, noisy icemaker was improperly installed. The illegal mobile home, that longstanding error, was swallowed up in the larger commissary operation, pieces of which were scattered all around the property. The following June, the Health Department plan checks were done and in July 1994, EHD issued a Commissary Permit to the owners of TLC Catering. Again assuming nonexistent permissions, Allen & Brassey began taking commercial deliveries to their property, something expressly prohibited for home occupations. They were now set with four catering trucks, a fully equipped private commissary, and commercial vendors whose big trucks delivered supplies and services to their doorstep... they were unstoppable.

===== Current note regarding commercial deliveries =====

Despite poor, little Lynda Allen telling code enforcement on 11/17/08 that she "now buys supplies on a nearly daily basis from Costco,"[AA] she failed to mention that TLC Catering is still on the weekly delivery routes of three large food vendors. For twelve years these delivery trucks made stops at 812 Fishback to sell products to the commissary for the four catering trucks in use; then three more years for just two catering trucks; now only one. To service the trucks and commissary:

· The Crystal Dairy[BB] (now owned by Foster Farms) refrigerated truck arrives - brakes squealing - every Monday morning at 3:00 a.m.

· The Hostess Cakes[CC] (Interstate Bakeries Corp.) truck delivers weekly, usually on a Friday, arriving between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.

· Oroweat[DD] (Bimbo Bakeries USA) makes an unattended delivery around 12:00 noon each Monday, where the Oroweat driver opens the security gate and drives onto the property.

· A very special vendor, Darling International Inc.,[EE] the nation's largest recycler of inedible animal by‑products, makes time in its Manteca route schedule for an as-needed pickup of TLC Catering’s waste cooking grease, which is stored in barrels on-site until pickup. (Dairy operators also use this vendor for the hauling away of "downer" cows.) A very large pumper truck has been observed twice, months ago at 10:45 p.m. and more recently at 3:00 a.m., for a very noisy forty-five minute vacuum collection process.

===== End current note =====

So impervious were they to lawful regulation that Allen & Brassey failed to re-file Fictitious Business Name (FBN) statements as required every five years. By law they should have re-filed in 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2009. Whether TLC Catering is a legal business or not; whether they hold a valid Home Occupation Permit or not; the State of California requires every person doing business for profit, under a name other than his or her own, to file a Fictitious Business Name statement and re-file every five years thereafter.[FF] If any of the information changes (such as the business' principal address), then re-publishing the notice in a newspaper must also occur. One legal consequence of failure to file current FBN statements is that any legal action, as plaintiff or defendant, cannot be maintained under that business name in court.

The City of Manteca took Allen & Brassey (or was it TLC Catering?) to Small Claims court in June 1996 over unpaid garbage bills for both 810 & 812 Fishback.[GG] No FBN was entered on the initial court filing. Four years later, in August 2000, the judge ordered the debt erased and ordered the City to exempt (the owners? the business? the address?) from the city’s garbage collection program. What defense was offered? What was the basis for the exemption? The answers are most likely buried in papers somewhere in Manteca's City Attorney's office. One guess is that Allen & Brassey put up their well-worn “legally grandfathered business” defense against the City for past and future fees. (Oh, the irony! Manteca must have forgotten the KEYS TO THE CITY letter they gave to these fighting hens. On the other hand, Allen & Brassey should have been barred from a TLC Catering defense in the absence of a current Fictitious Business Name statement.)

One costly bottleneck still existed for TLC Catering / Allen & Brassey. Their PG&E bill must have been astronomical because, on top of their household and water well pump usage, they were also running all the business appliances: standard refrigerators and freezers, industrial walk-in refrigerators and freezers, an inefficient outdoor icemaker, floodlights and strings of yard lights, besides the hot water heater for the mobile home/commissary and plugging in the parked MFPU's. In April 2004, they had their next door neighbors, Roger & Flora Stewart of 786 Fishback, obtain a Manteca building permit for Power Independence of Stockton to put up seven massive solar panel arrays and install the wiring and 10,000-watt control system to handle all these electrical needs.[HH] Of course, the installation was on 810 Fishback - not as permitted for 786 Fishback - so just how the City and the Stewarts were conned by these con artists is a mystery. Final inspection took place in September 2004.

TLC Catering gave up two EHD catering truck permits after 2003 and another permit after 2006. One truck and some commissary equipment (the illegal mobile home, standard refrigerators and freezers, and, most regrettably, the noisy icemaker) continue in operation. Unused business vehicles, large walk-ins, and other equipment encumber the property[II], like so much flotsam and jetsam, mixed in with other vehicles and a restaurant business-specific enclosure or “corral” for waste grease barrels. Unpermitted and otherwise shoddily built covered patios are attached to the illegal mobile home and the legal outbuilding. (Falling into that last category is the “sound-enhancing” plywood box around the icemaker, designed by an unemployed truck driver and constructed by him as a paid but undeclared employee.) Because Allen & Brassey evaded city refuse pickup for yet unknown reasons, commingled household and business trash piles high in an open pickup until hauled off to the county transfer station.[JJ]

[A] Grantor/Grantee Index, Deed to Grubb, Recorder’s Document # BK3321PG143, dated July 22, 1969.

[B] Mobile home, DMV license plate # FQ1259.

[C] San Joaquin County, Mobile Home Permit, April 1, 1976. Two pages.

[D] City of Manteca, Engineering Department, Engineering Grid # 24 D.

[E] Deed to Mego, Recorder’s Document # 83084852, dated November 25, 1983. Three pages.

[F] Revised Annexation Proposal, Memorandum of January 16, 1985. Four pages.

[G] City Council Minutes, 10/27/1986, Resolution R7838 adopted. Three pages.

[H] LAFCO Certificate of Completion, Recorder’s Document # 86105713, dated December 17, 1986. Seven pages, including other material.

[I] Grantor/Grantee Index, Deed to Manteca Unified School District, Recorder’s Document # 87025020, dated March 23, 1987. Two pages.

[J] Deed to Mego, Recorder’s Document # 87028587, dated April 2, 1987. Two pages.

[K] Email from Crosby, County Planning Department, dated August 14, 2008.

[L] Code enforcement case notes, CE-08-753, 11/20/2008, 9:01 a.m., with Rick Matuska.

[M] Deed to Allen & Brassey, Recorder’s Document # 87103627, dated November 10, 1987. Three pages.

[N] Deed of Trust to Mego, Recorder’s Document # 87103628, dated November 10, 1987. Three pages.

[O] Letter from Hulsey, City Engineering, dated December 30, 1986
[P] Letter from Hulsey, City Engineering, dated January 7, 1987. Two pages, incl. picture.

[Q] Grantor/Grantee Index, Fictitious Business Name, Recorder’s Document # 98000597, dated March 15, 1989.

[R] Manteca Bulletin, March 18, 1989, Page B-4, Public Notice.

[S] Screen prints from San Joaquin County District Viewer for Chrisman Road in Tracy, California. Two pages.

[T] Code enforcement case notes, CE-08-752, Vehicle Information, License # 4A09350.

[U] Letter from TLC Catering (Theresa Brassey), dated March 7, 1991, to EHD.

[V] Email from Jeff Carruesco, EHD Program Director, dated 1/27/09.

[W] EHD Application for a new food vending truck, dated 8/5/92.

[X] Code enforcement case notes # CE-08-182, 4/17/08.

[Y] Letter from Cantu, Manteca Planning Department, dated June 29, 1993.

[Z] EHD Account Statement, dated 08/15/94. Commissary application payment posted 09/17/93; Commissary permit posted 07/13/94.

[AA] Case notes, CE-08-753, 11/17/08, 2:01 p.m.

[BB] Picture of Crystal truck, and information from Foster Farms Dairy website. Three pages.

[CC] Information from Interstate Bakeries Corporation website. Two pages.

[DD] Picture of Oroweat truck, and information from Bimbo Bakeries USA website. Two pages.

[EE] Information from Darling International Inc. website. Two pages.

[FF] Fictitious Business Name Statement form and instructions. Two pages.

[GG] Small Claims Court register page for Case # MS-34246, filed June 21, 1996. Two pages.

[HH] Manteca building permit, dated April 2004. Two pages.

[II] Annotated pictures of TLC Catering’s operations yard. Two pages.

[JJ] Picture of Manteca’s refuse pickup “opt-out” program for unlawful businesses.

1 comment:

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