The Solvang City Council on Dec. 9 adopted an amnesty program effective Jan. 1 through June 30. 2020. During this period, the program allows all penalties to be waived for residential and commercial structures to bring any unpermitted building projects into compliance.

The amnesty program will allow residents and businesses to go through the process to permit any building amendments to their property subject to the City Municipal Code that have not been formally permitted prior to construction without incurring city-imposed penalties.

“Having experienced first-hand the ramifications of buying a house that had been modified without permits, I could see how daunting it can be for residents and businesses who may be concerned about uncontrolled costs, penalties and paperwork,” said Mayor Ryan Toussaint. “The city wants to make this process approachable.

“It’s the city’s responsibility to make it easy for residents and businesses to become compliant with the law while achieving their goals. Our hope is the amnesty program will take away concerns related to bringing properties up to code and working with the city on their projects.”

“The goal is to provide this service to those in need who have purchased property and/or performed unpermitted work,” said Xenia Bradford, acting city manager. “It will reduce liability and increase property values. Ultimately, the goal is to improve health and safety for homes and businesses, reduce liability and increase property values through the permit process.”

After seeking to replace California Code Check for more than a year, Solvang recently entered into a contract with Willdan for building and code-check services. One of Willdan’s tasks is to implement and manage the amnesty program moving forward with a customer service-oriented approach.

The city welcomes Solvang residents and businesses to submit a permit application to bring their property into compliance by contacting the Planning Department, 805-688-4414 or visiting in person at 411 Second St., Solvang, to initiate the process.

Toussaint emphasizes the importance of community feedback to make the program successful.  “As we continue to undertake this process, we are looking for feedback from organizations or people of interest on how the amnesty program can best serve residents and businesses,” he said.

“We encourage contractors, Realtors, property owners and any other interested parties to spread the word about this new program. The City of Solvang is here to serve the community.”

— Kady Fleckenstein for city of Solvang.