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Santa Clarita declares ‘garish’ or unkempt houses unlawful

Posted: May 29, 2013 6:16 p.m.
Updated: May 29, 2013 6:16 p.m.

Painting a house chartreuse with purple stripes will be more than a demonstration of bad taste — it’ll be against the law, Santa Clarita City Council members decided this week.

The City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to approve changes to the city’s municipal code, which allows the city to enact and enforce ordinances to promote economic, aesthetic or social considerations.

The municipal code ordinance also outlines a series of “nuisances” under which the city is allowed to step in and, potentially, pursue legal action against someone who is in violation of the code.

Councilman TimBen Boydston, who voted against changing the ordinance, took exception to the idea that the city could regulate matters of aesthetics.

“Eventually what are we going to do, tell them (citizens) how to think as well?” Boydston said. “It’s absurd.”

But aesthetics do become an issue when they have a negative effect on the surrounding area, said Mayor Bob Kellar.

“We have no interest of putting somebody in jail because they painted their house chartreuse with purple stripes,” Kellar said. “But I’ll tell you, I’d hate to live next to that house and try to sell (my) house.”

Kellar also said some of the changes in the code, such as allowing the city to pursue action against a property owner who has allowed his sidewalk or driveway to deteriorate, is a matter of safety rather than looks.

But Boydston also asked whether the city could pursue action against people with cracks in their sidewalks or pavement, as the city itself has some areas where walkways are in disrepair.

“The city is not required to have perfect sidewalks in order to bring an action against someone who has cracked pavement,” said City Attorney Joe Montes.

The same goes for broken windows, damaged or broken fences or gates, or the over-accumulation of dirt or litter — all of which are violations under the municipal code.

According to the ordinance, municipal code violations would have to be observed and noted by a city enforcement officer. That officer would then send a notice of violation to the property owner.

The property owner then has to correct the violation and file a written request to that effect.

Property owners are allowed to appeal violations by sending a written notice to the city manager’s office. Doing so triggers a hearing to determine if the property owner is in compliance.

Should a person lose his appeal, or not correct the assessed violation, the city can require a property owner to correct the violation at his or her own expense.

The property owner could also be liable for any costs incurred by the city in resolving the violation. The city also maintains the right to file a civil action or pursue another legal resolution of the issue.

Property owners do not have the right to appeal such matters to the Santa Clarita City Council.

Kellar said he thinks the notion that the city is out to get its citizens is misguided.

“There is common sense utilized here, and I think there’s been a lot of suggestion and taking it over the top,” Kellar said.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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