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Code Compliance

A Brief History of Building and Planning Codes In Mendocino County

Presented to Coastal Mendocino Association of Realtors on May 26, 2017

1962 — The Cuban Missile Crisis brought the first wave of back-to-the-landers to Mendocino County. Numerous bridges and buildings were being de-constructed providing ample materials for owner-builders. At the AboriginE Mill in Caspar you could get a pick up truck of “shorts” for $5.

1963 — Mendocino County codified the first building codes. Inspectors noted violations and the first Red Tags were issued. Permits were easy to get, costs were low, and most violations went un-noticed. Land Use violations did not exist.

1972 — Proposition 20 passes and creates the California Coastal Act and Commission. The legislature had until 1976 to implement the new law.

1973 — President Nixon states that the urban centers had reached their maximum density and urged those who could to move to the country. Hippies now followed the Beatniks but with fewer tools, skills or books but the building boom was on.

1974 — The Couny was coming under increasing pressure from citizens groups to end or at least control the proliferation of back woods building. The Mendocino County Properties Owners Assoc. (MCPOA) was formed out of Manchester and later Frank Creasy’s MCA, Mendocino County Associates

1974? — The commune Morning Star was bulldozed in Sonoma County.

1974? — The Board of Supervisors was now confronted with hundreds of Owner-Builders and seated the Building and Land Use Reform Committee (BLUR). Owner-Builders argued for rationalization of design, codes, use of compost privies, non-grade stamped lumber, outbuildings and approval of communes.

1974 — Bruce Levine became a candidate for 5th District Supervisor stating that Owner-Builders should all turn themselves in forcing the County to negotiate. This met with little or no support. Ted Gallitti was re-elected.

1975 — The Board of Supervisors realizing that non-code structures continued to proliferate seated BLUR II. Supervisor John Cimolino, 4th District, was again committee chair. And again hundreds of Owner-Builders attended the meetings and again the codes were not compromised.

1976 — Proposition 20 is codified which now requires Mendocino County to develop a Local Coastal Program.

1976 — The Board of Supervisors recognizes they must develop a General Plan. Sup. Gillette appoints citizens to MAGPLAC the Mendocino Area General Plan Advisory Committee. But does’t provided any maps to the Committee.

1976-77 — Non-Compliance Testing was initiated. Owner-Builders who had been Red Tagged were requested to cover the roofes of their structures with sand bags to test their strength. None failed.

1977 — The 1929 Subdivision Map Act allowed subdivisions until 1972 to be created by Deeds of Trust. Mendocino County was now required to have compliant General Plan. Mendocino County thus created the term: “legal non-conforming parcel” and now recognizes those parcels created before 1973.

1978 — The Supervisors direct staff to resolve the General Plan challenge by creating one acre parcels throughout the county.

1978 — The County is sued by Warner Chabot, itinerant carpenter, for lack of compliance with CEQA. Warner is not represented by an attorney. All Mendocino County judges recuse themselves and Lake County Judge John Golden is appointed to hear the case by the Judiciary Council. The County presents the incomplete General Plan in a number of cardboard boxes before the Court. Judge Golden orders the County to cease any subdivisions, lot split, use permits, variances, or boundary line adjustments.

1978 — The Board of Supervisors establishes the Land Use Law Enforcement Unit in the County Counsels Office (LuLu in CoCo) and hires Roland Fellman as Chief Building Inspector. Feldman installs one was mirror glass overlooking the Permit Counter in Ukiah and wants to arm building code inspectors. MCPOA and MCA attempt to get a list and address of everyone on AFDC (Aid for Families with Dependent Children). Dennis Denny, Director of the Social Services Dept. denies the request.

1979 — The Board initiates the Building Code Violation infraction ordinance with a $100 a day penalty. Reaction is immediate. A referendum quickly is approved. The Board breaks the law by neither withdrawing the ordinance or putting it on the balance. Supervisor de Vall sues the Board. The Court overturns the ordinance.

1979-80 — Annon Forrest becomes the prime advocate for Class K and meets with then governor Jerry Brown. With his support Class K becomes state law to be implemented by counties and cities as they wish. Mendocino County implements Class K with the rationale that it will help meet the requirements of the Housing Element of the General Plan.

1980 — The Board of Supervisors implements Clean Slate which allows: Density violations, Owner-Builder architecture, and non-grade stamped lumber, but requires meeting the current codes for electrical, plumbing, enviro health, and mechanical. Numerous Owner-Builders comply. Others who did not are now confronted with violations.

1980 — Roland Fellman leaves his position without notice. The permit records in the Fort Bragg office, up to 1973, go “missing”.

1980-81 — Mary Adamson is sued by the City of Santa Barbara for having more than five surnames at the dinner table. She appeals to the State Supreme Court which rules in a narrow 4-3 decision that the Rule of Five, ordained in 23 counties and cities is unconstitutional. Chief Justice Rose Bird wrote the majority opinion thus making communes legal.

1982-84 — The County makes progress to complete the General Plan and Local Coastal Program. The Citizens Advisory Committee seated to develop the plan for the Town of Mendocino receives little support from Staff, the Planning Commission or BoS. Many towns people feel the same today as the next version of the Mendocino Town Plan goes to the Coastal Commission next month.

1982 — Clean Slate terminates after 18 months. The County does not initiate any serious code compliance program for the next twenty years.

1983 — The Court accepts the rewritten General Plan. The LCP nears completion. Vacation Home Rentals are permitted throughout the coastal zone.

1984-2008 — Code compliance is complaint driven. Code enforcement remains a responsibility of the Chief Building Inspector.

2008-2017 — Code enforcement becomes its own division of the Planning and Building Department.

2016 — Proposition 64 passes. The County sees the revenue raising opportunity to require compliance of all violations on parcels applying for a marijuana permit. Mj inspectors will be required to report any/all prospective violations seen by them. The balance of the county will remain complaint driven.

2017 — The County objective is to resolve violations rather than raise revenue - except for Mj grow parcels. Permits costs are to increase to cover the costs of additional personnel and hearing officers.

It remains unclear if the nearly contracted “Hearing Officers” (attorneys or retired judges) will hear cases as infractions or misdemeanors.

It is rumored that a husband and wife attorney team in Ft. Bragg has applied for the hearing officer position.

Summary: We can be assured that Code Compliance will remain high on the Boards agenda. Fees and fines will increase to cover the costs of compliance. Enviro Health concerns and requirements are reaching new levels requiring ever more expensive equipment, installation and maintenance.

People should have the same rights as land and houses should be allowed to be legal non-conforming.

(Note: This history is drawn from memory and probably contains some errors re dates and details. Please contact Norman with your suggested corrections, additions or errors: ndevall@mcn.org, 357.5555)

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