Cal­abasas weighs aid to vi­o­la­tors

Sev­eral coun­cil mem­bers sup­port mak­ing low-in­ter­est loans to help bring prop­er­ties up to code, but the mayor ob­jects.

Los Angeles Times - - California - Bob Pool bob.pool@latimes.com

Ru­ral Cal­abasas res­i­dents caught in a crack­down on al­leged city code vi­o­la­tions could get help from city lead­ers in re­pair­ing prop­erty.

City Coun­cil­woman Mary Sue Mau­rer has urged of­fi­cials to con­sider giv­ing low-in­ter­est loans to prop­erty own­ers, some of whom are “very el­derly” and “liv­ing in fear they’re go­ing to have to leave their homes.”

The pro­posal came as a lawyer for some of the tar­geted home­own­ers claimed that the en­force­ment raids were il­le­gal.

Mau­rer said she was re­act­ing to a $987,319 loan ap­proved by the coun­cil Wed­nes­day night for a de­vel­oper strug­gling to com­plete a shop­ping cen­ter on the west side of the 13-squaremile city.

The “prom­is­sory note” gives the builder an ex­tra three years to pay for im­prove­ments, man­dated by his city devel­op­ment agree­ment, to the Lost Hills Road bridge over the 101 Free­way and for streets next to his project.

Sev­eral other coun­cil mem­bers in­di­cated their sup­port for Mau­rer’s idea, al­though Mayor Barry Grove­man ob­jected.

“I’d op­pose that. I don’t want to help peo­ple who are vi­o­lat­ing the law,” he said of those ac­cused of sep­tic sys­tem and other vi­o­la­tions. Grove­man in­sisted that any such pro­posal be widely pub­li­cized so “the av­er­age tax­payer is aware” that “we’re giv­ing away city money.”

Mau­rer said the as­sis­tance would be in the form of a loan, not a give­away.

Of­fi­cials said they would take up the idea next month.

Her sug­ges­tion came af­ter a se­ries of Cal­abasas res­i­dents crit­i­cized the code crack­down and a lawyer called it il­le­gal.

Lee Renger, who has lived 42 years in Stokes Canyon, said the city’s July raid at the iso­lated Smith ranch just in­side city lim­its at the north end of the canyon has caused him to change his mind about want­ing Cal­abasas to an­nex the canyon.

“Es­sen­tially, you sent shock troops to the Smiths,” Renger said. “I do not want to be­come part of this evil em­pire.”

Nei­ther does 24-year Stokes Canyon res­i­dent Robin Martin.

He told of­fi­cials that en­force­ment raids such as those in his area and in nearby Old Topanga Canyon are “some­thing my neigh­bors and I don’t want to go through.”

Jim Moor­head, a friend of ranch owner Lloyd Smith, read a let­ter from the 70year-old, who is re­cu­per­at­ing from a stress-re­lated ill­ness re­port­edly brought on by the raid.

“How can you treat a found­ing fam­ily with such con­tempt and dis­re­spect?” Smith asked, not­ing that his fam­ily has lived there 65 years.

“I am still re­cov­er­ing in a rehabilitation cen­ter. How­ever, my Medi­care cov­er­age is ex­pir­ing and I am fac­ing im­mi­nent home­less­ness. The city said, when it cut off my wa­ter and power and made the prop­erty un­liv­able, that it was for my health and safety. Health and safety? When I may be evicted into the street?”

Old Topanga Canyon res­i­dents sent lawyer Nancy Schreiner to con­front the coun­cil.

She said the raids were im­proper be­cause Cal­abasas failed to fol­low state law when it tough­ened its sep­tic sys­tem rules and launched the en­force­ment ac­tion.

By not mak­ing “re­quired statu­tory find­ings,” the city is “now ex­posed to li­a­bil­ity as a re­sult of these en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties, for state and fed­eral civil rights vi­o­la­tions, in­verse con­dem­na­tion, im­pair­ment of con­tract rights and po­ten­tial defama­tion and slan­der,” she said.

Schreiner then handed a cease-and-de­sist de­mand let­ter to of­fi­cials.

Coun­cil mem­bers did not re­spond.

On Thurs­day, Michael Colan­tuono, who serves as Cal­abasas’ city at­tor­ney, dis­puted Schreiner’s view of the crack­down.

“The city dis­agrees with the de­scrip­tion of the law she de­scribes in the let­ter,” he said when reached as he was re­turn­ing to his North­ern Cal­i­for­nia of­fice.

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