Monday, May 21 , 2018, 4:46 am | Fair 52º


Ron Fink: Code Compliance; a Matter of Influence

I recently wrote of the fainting-goat syndrome (an animal whose muscles freeze up and it topples over at the sign of danger) that four members of the Lompoc City Council had toward code enforcement. Apparently, it isn’t a new phenomenon.

On Oct. 1, 1999, the city attorney sent a memo to the city administrator titled "Supplemental Report of Legal Issues re: Proposed Code Enforcement Program."

In it were revealing and currently applicable observations:

“City Council must be supportive of the code enforcement program not only by appropriating adequate funding for staff, but also by making code enforcement a priority even if it causes controversy within the community.

"Most people who care about their city voluntarily comply with the law. Many code violators are mentally ill, out-of-towners or affluent city residents used to getting their own way.

"Affluent owners can be expected to apply substantial political pressure on council members to evade code compliance.”

Let’s compare out-of-towners to local property owners first. Some projects owned by folks who live elsewhere are well-maintained and have been for decades. Others, operated by slumlords, have been allowed to fall into serious decay.

The same observation can be made of local owners; some have pride in their properties, others do not.

As the memo's author pointed out, the “City Council must be supportive of the code enforcement program” or it won’t work.

Many long-established property owners who live in Lompoc strongly oppose any effort to improve the appearance of the city.

I watch a TV program called American Pickers about two guys who travel around, buy old stuff and resell it.

The properties they visit appear to have serious housekeeping, public-safety and fire-hazard issues, and are typical of how the absence of personal responsibility and/or an effective code-enforcement program can lead to a downright messy property.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere near some of those places.

A careful look around Lompoc and other areas in the county will reveal that some folks are harboring the same conditions as those shown on the American Pickers show.

I am sure these people, much like those on the show, have plans for this stuff. In the meantime, it’s just a mess to the rest of us.

Neighboring communities in the unincorporated areas of the Lompoc Valley have yards full of collections rivaling those on American Pickers, and are nestled between homes that the owners are trying to improve.

These junk piles significantly detract from the effort of those who value their investments.
Then there is the issue of commercial properties that are poorly maintained. They not only present an eyesore, they impact the value of neighboring properties.

Of course, the people who own these properties are influential, some even elected to the City Council. Anytime code-enforcement is discussed, they use their leverage to stop the effort.

One Lompoc council member has a prominent building on a main thoroughfare that is largely empty.

One look at this property may explain his lack of tenants; the parking lot and landscaping are severely deteriorated, and when you enter the building, you are confronted by a strong odor reminiscent of a public restroom.

Long-neglected vegetation has overtaken the atrium and the floor looks like it is rarely cleaned.

To the south of Lompoc, cities like Santa Barbara have issues with well-healed, but stubborn property owners who think their only responsibility is to collect the rent each month from folks who won’t complain about the derelict properties.

One owner was reported to have several hundred violations in his properties, and then complained the city was picking on him.

I guess the Lompoc City Council majority thinks people will voluntarily follow the rules.

Well, after a misguided move allowing the use of safe-and-sane fireworks in Lompoc — over objections of many residents and public-safety professionals — we've seen year-round illegal use of these mini-explosives. So much for voluntary compliance.

Recent council votes in Lompoc have demonstrated that four council members have little interest in trying to improve the appearance of our city.

By not supporting the code-enforcement program, are they trying to fulfill the image Rep. Salud Carbajal recently opined: “Lompoc is the armpit of Santa Barbara County”?
It’s not the 1950s anymore, when people had more pride in their neighborhoods, but I guess they think people will voluntarily clean up their messes.

It’s time for Lompoc City Council members to wake up to reality; self-regulation only works with responsible adults. The role of government is to help them understand their responsibility through aggressive code-enforcement programs.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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