How can code enforcement laws be changed in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

How can code enforcement laws be changed in San Bernardino County and Riverside County?   There are legal and political answers to this question.

Ordinances can be adopted, amended or repealed by City Councils or Town Councils.  The exact manner can depend on the composition of the Council and whether it is a general law or charter law municipality.  Similarly, an election might be held to amend or repeal a particular ordinance.  The processes also depend on whether the municipality is governed by general law or governed by a charter.  That is the simple legal answer.

The political answer is that either an elected official, or perhaps an appointed official like a city manager, has to propose a new or modify or repeal and existing ordinance by following the process in the Government Code or the City Charter, as applicable.  Similarly, if elected officials will not take action, individuals or groups can qualify an initiative or referendum to change code enforcement laws.  That is the simple political answer.

When I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, someone in the north end of town received a citation for not taking his trash cans in promptly.  This was before the implementation of administrative citations.  He complained that he just wanted to pay the fine and not appear in court on a $100 citation.  I told him that I understood, but that it was a political issue, and that I did not have the authority, as a city lawyer, to change the ordinance.

The first step I would take if I wanted to change an existing code enforcement law would be to contact my city council member.  If I lived in a city with wards, I would contact that city council member.  If I lived in a city with at-large council members, I would call the council member I was most familiar.  If that didn’t work, I would call the Mayor.  If that did not work, I would then consider an initiative or referendum.

Should you hire a lawyer to have the municipal code changed?  Sometimes that is a cost-effective solution, or if not cost-effective, a way to change something you want changed.  However, no attorney will guarantee that you will get your money’s worth. Discuss it with an attorney skilled in dealing with municipalities.

There are two, more complex, legal and political ways that code enforcement laws can change in California.  Get the California Legislature to change state law preempting local law, or challenge an ordinance in court.  Most municipal ordinances are constitutions, but occassionlly,a court rules an ordinance is preempted by state law, outside the local agencies’ powers, or violates the United States or California constitution.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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