April 11, 2013
Tim Dewar, email@example.com
Ojai resident Bob Daddi understands what Gustav Mahler was talking about when he said, “I am hitting my head against the walls, but the walls are giving way.” Except in Daddi’s case, the wall is a fence and it is going up.
The politically charged case has been brewing since 2009 and went deeper than the question of where the fence would go.
Thursday, Daddi received a mea culpa of sorts from the city when it determined that the building and zoning codes were in conflict when it came to his situation and he should have been able to construct the fence without a permit (except for a five-foot section that required a variance because it is in the street’s right-of-way).
For Daddi, who estimates he has spent dozens and dozens of hours and approximately $10,000 to prove something he has been arguing all along, it is too little, too late.
“It should have cost me nothing,” Daddi said. “If they can’t screw you in planning, they screw you in zoning.”
After Daddi lost his appeal in January seeking to build a four-foot masonry fence and pilasters at the curb line of his property on Quail Oaks Drive, he removed a portion that had been built in the right of way.
When he checked to see whether a permit was required to complete the remaining portion of the masonry fence six feet high instead of four, Community Development Director Rob Mullane told him “A
6-foot high wood fence is exempt from a Building Permit. We would, however, need to review and verify a site plan showing the location of the wall in relation to the property line, the roadway easement, the improved roadway, your driveway, and any other pertinent improvements. Given that the improved roadway does not follow the roadway easement, we would further require that you have a licensed surveyor ascertain the property line and indicate this on the site plan submitted to the City. Also — and this is something that we did not specifically discuss — should any trees need to be removed or substantially trimmed, you may need to obtain a tree permit. The site plan should note the species and diameter of any trees proposed for removal or trimming, and Planning Division staff can advise you if a tree permit is required.”
Daddi’s attorney, Ryan Blatz, said Thursday he had been trying to have a discussion with city staff for two weeks regarding the wording of the code.
“The city’s building code says that you have to make a wall or fence out of certain materials, including wood and masonry, then in another part of the code it says if you use masonry then it is a wall,” Blatz explained. “They can’t have it both ways.”
Meanwhile, because of the city’s fee recovery policies, the price tag kept growing as staff devoted more time to the project.
“Since the city believes cost recovery is their right, I believe it is my right,” Daddi noted. I can’t believe they wouldn’t check first to make sure they were correct and on solid ground. The community development director should not have to rely on a subordinate that is not a licensed engineer or who holds a special technical position. He has a responsibility to research and fully understand the conditions and codes and current, codified requirements before he decides there are conditions and stipulations which are extraordinarily expensive to a homeowner, only to find they are erroneous and unnecessary. They (city staff) haven’t even said they were sorry. He had a chance to come in here and be an expeditor. Instead, he became a firewall.”