How To Use A Court Interpreter in San Bernardino Superior Court

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

As long-time readers know, I am a member of the Hon. Joseph B. Campbell American Inn of Court.  Last night was a monthly meeting, and the program was one of the best since I became a member in the earlier part of the last decade.  The program included a skit that showed how interpreters were used in a criminal trial, both with American Sign Language interpreters and Spanish interpreters.  When I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, the court interpreters were invaluable in communicating with primarily monolingual Spanish speakers in code enforcement cases.  While the performers in the skit provided a great deal of information, here is some information derived from the hand outs:

How To Use a Court Interpreter

The interpreter is your voice in court.

So, it is important to . . .

Listen carefully to the interpreter.

Wait for the interpreter to finish talking before your answer.

Do not speak in English, even if you speak a little.  It is confusing for the judge.

Do not interrupt, even if someone in court says something bad about you.  You will get a chance to speak.

Take notes. If someone says something untrue, write it down.  Then when it is your turn to speak, you can tell the judge your side.

Source: How to Use a Court Interpreter, Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino, pamphlet in English and Spanish, undated.

Additionally, a handout with the title of the presentation, “Lost in Translation” dated January 2013 says:

Our guest Spanish Language Interpreters ask that we, as attorneys and judicial officers, always keep the following things in mind . . .

– Don’t speak fast.

– Don’t use humor or figures of speech. [Note: The examples given were, “you’re really in a pickle” or “bird of a different feather”]

– Don’t give the jury instruction on interpreters or modify it.

[Note: The interpreter referred to CALJIC Instruction 121 which reads:

“Some testimony may be given in <insert name or description of language other than English>. An interpreter will provide a translation for you at the time that the testimony is given. You must rely on the translation provided by the interpreter, even if you understand the language spoken by the witness. Do not retranslate any testimony for other jurors. If you believe the court interpreter translated testimony incorrectly, let me know immediately by writing a note and giving it to the (clerk/bailiff).”  The notes state: “The committee recommends that this instruction be given whenever testimony will be received with the assistance of an interpreter, though no case has held that the court has a sua sponte duty to give the instruction. The instruction may be given at the beginning of the case, when the person requiring translation testifies, or both, at the court’s discretion. If a transcript of a tape in a foreign language will be used, the court may modify this instruction. (See Ninth Circuit Manual of Model Jury Instructions, Criminal Cases, Instruction No. 2.8 (2003).) If the court chooses, the instruction may also be modified and given again at the end of the case, with all other instructions.”

The interpreter presenting strongly objected to the part of the instruction which states: “If you believe the court interpreter translated testimony incorrectly, let me know immediately by writing a note” undermined the certified interpreter’s training and experience and emphasized that the instruction was not mandatory, and that the judicial officer could leave that objectionable line out of the instruction.]

– Always speak directly. [Note: attorneys should speak to the witness, and the witness should answer the attorney.  Do not speak to the interpreter directly].

– Beware of false cognates.

– Spanish is 30% longer than English.

– The Only person who never stops speaking during proceedings is the interpreter.

The American Sign Language interpreters said that they are required to provide a translation that included emotions such as shouting or sarcasm.  The Spanish language interpreters said that it was a matter of style for them to provide the translation in the same tone or volume.

Thank you to the leaders of the Inn for providing such an educational program, particularly Judge John Pacheco and Donna Connally, and to the court interpreters that helped us understand the process.

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.

Address: 300 E. State St. #517
                  Redlands CA 92373-5235

Garage Sales and Yard Sales (and permits) in the Cities of Highland, Colton, Rialto, San Bernardino, Grand Terrace, Loma Linda, Redlands, Yucaipa and unincorporated San Bernardino County

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

People want to know how to get yard sale and garage sale permits in the East Valley, and they find this site because of this article about the City of San Bernardino’s yard sale ordinance.  Therefore, here is a chart to give a basic (but not complete) understanding of the rules and regulations regarding yard sales in the East Valley, here defined as the Cities of Colton, Rialto, San Bernardino, Grand Terrace, Loma Linda, Highland, Redlands, Yucaipa and unincorporated San Bernardino County such as Muscoy, Mentone, Oak Glen, Devore, Arrowhead Suburban Farms, Devore Heights, and Del Rosa.  Per the City Clerk of Loma Linda, there is no yard sale ordinance in the City of Loma Linda as of 10/17/2012.  Note also that homeowners associations (HOAs) probably have additional restrictions (particularly East Highlands Ranch) which you should look into.

City/Unincorporated Permit Required Permit Cost Where? Duration
Colton Yes $2, except charity, nonprofit, religious Finance Department 3 d, 8am-8pm
Grand Terrace Yes (Except Exemptions) $5 Finance Department 3 d, 8am-8pm
Highland Yes $7 Finance Department 3 d, 8am-8pm
Loma Linda N/A N/A N/A N/A
Redlands Yes $2.50 Treasurer 3 d or 2d each over consecutive weekends; 8 am-8pm
Rialto Yes (Except Exemptions) $5.40 Finance Department 3d, daylight
San Bernardino No (anomoly regarding Estate Sales) N/A N/A 3d, daylight
Yucaipa After 1st sale $2.50 (sales 2-4) Front Desk, City Hall 3d, 8am-8 pm
Unincorporated San Bernardino County No (See SBCC section 84.25.030(e) unless exceed standards of 84.10. N/A N/A 3d, 8am-5 pm
City/Unincorporated Frequency Display Signage Exemptions Ordinance Codified At Violation
Colton 1/quarter Not in PROW During, onsite Court sales Ord 1483 (1975); 0-3-1989 (1989) Colton Municipal Code Chapter 5.45 Misdemeanor
Grand Terrace 2/yr Not in PROW 2 onsite, unlit, 4ft area, 5 day limit, not on PROW, trees, fences, utility poles, removed at end Court sales, charitable, nonprofit, religious Ord 35 (1980) Grand Terrace Municipal Code Chapter 5.40 Infraction
Highland 3/12 mo Safety 1 onsite doublesided, 6 ft area, 5′ tall, 24 hours before until end. Court sales Ord 239 (1998) Highland Municipal Code section 5.04.370 Infraction
Loma Linda N/A N/A N/A N/A None N/A N/A
Redlands 3/12 mo Not in PROW, safety, only during sale Court sales Prior Code secs 24001-10; Ord 2684 (2007), 2779 (2012), Redlands Municipal Code Chapter 5.68 Infraction
Rialto 4/calendar yr only first weekend in March, June, September and December Not in PROW, front or side yards 2 onsite, 4ft area, 4directional signs, prohibited in PROW, >864 sq in., with permission of property owner. Nonprofits, Ord 1416 (2008) Rialto Municipal Code Chapter 5.69 Infraction; misdemeanor for <3/yr
San Bernardino 12/yr only on 3rd weekend of mo Not in PROW, safety, only during sale 3 onsite unlit 24 hr prior until end; 4 Directional 2 sq ft  on private property w/consent Estate sales as to frequency nonprofits as to frequency Ord MC-1344 (2011) San Bernardino Municipal Code Chapter 8.14 Infraction/misdemanor (woblette)
Yucaipa 4/12 mo Not in PROW 1 onsite, not in PROW Court sales Ord 102 (1992) Yucaipa Municipal Code Chapter 5.22 Infraction
Unincorporated San Bernardino County 4/yr Not in PROW 2 onsite, 4ft area, 4 directional signs, prohibited in PROW, 864 sq in., w/permission of property owner. None Ord. 411 (2007) San Bernardino County Code  Chapter 84.10 Infraction; misdemeanor for >3/yr

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. BE SURE TO CHECK WITH THE INVOLVED CITIES FOR CURRENT LAW AND FEES.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

City of San Bernardino returning California Mobilehome Parks Act responsibility back to the State of California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Yesterday, at the October 1, 2012 meeting of the Mayor and Common Council, the council voted 6-0 (with Council member Wendy McCammack absent) to lay over for final adoption an ordinance repealing San Bernardino Municipal Code Chapter 15.55 and returning responsibility for enforcing the California Mobilehome Parks Act to the State of California through the Department of Housing and Community Development.  A substitute motion proposed by staff to transfer responsibility to the code enforcement division was withdrawn.

When I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, I had to review every mobilehome notice of violation before they were issued. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that I was hired about a month after the City’s closure of the Cypress Inn Mobilehome Park and the Valente Duran letter.

Because of cut backs related to the City’s bankruptcy, the staff responsible for the inspections was cut.   The move to return responsibility to the state will save about $100,000 according to the staff report, a rather small amount of the City’s budget.

During the roughly sixteen minute discussion, City Attorney James F. Penman said that the need for local inspections was great, that the condition of the City’s mobilehome parks had deteriorated in the last ten to fifteen years, that he didn’t know the solution, because he was confident that code enforcement did not have sufficient training to do the job.

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.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

City of San Bernardino Code Enforcement Salaries and Benefits as of July 24, 2012

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

As a follow-up to Tuesday’s post on San Bernardino’s Fiscal Emergency Operation Plan Memorandum, and yesterday’s snapshot of the City of San Bernardino’s Community Development Department Code Enforcement Division contained in the memorandum, here are more details from the Operation Plan Memorandum regarding Code Enforcement Salaries.

This was found on page 48 of the Fiscal Emergency Operation Plan Memorandum.

As you can see, it shows the Code Enforcement Division Manager budged at $132,565 in salary and benefits, including salary, the employee portion of PERS, the employer portion of PERS, unemployment, fringe benefits, and the employer portion of Medicare.  The City of San Bernardino does not pay into Social Security.  You can also see that a portion of the Community Development Director’s salary is shown in Code Enforcement, $53,347 in total.  The three supervising code compliance officers each are budgeted $113,545.  Of course, that doesn’t mean they are taking home $113,545, but that is the current budgeted cost of the position.  The two Senior Code Compliance Officer positions are set at $102,915 in salary and benefits.  The lowest-cost employees appear to be the Code Compliance Processing Assistants without special pay.  They are budgeted at $53,007 each.

In total, $3,024,254 are allocated towards Code Enforcement salaries in the City of San Bernardino.  As the Mayor and Common Council make cuts in anticipation for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy, this amount going forward could be cut through agreed-upon give-backs or lay-offs.

The thing that seems strange about the numbers is that all similarly situated code enforcement officers and other positions are receiving the exact same amount of pay, which if they were all stepped-out would make sense, and like I said before, a lot of the officers were there when I started as a Deputy City Attorney in 2001.  Also, it shows salaries for more officers than positions that are currently filled.

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.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

 

City of San Bernardino Code Enforcement Organizational Chart as of July 17, 2012

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on San Bernardino’s Fiscal Emergency Operation Plan Memorandum, here is a snapshot of the City of San Bernardino’s Community Development Department Code Enforcement Division contained in the memorandum.

On Page 50 of the Memorandum is an organizational chart for Code Enforcement dated July 17, 2012.  It details the names and titles of the code enforcement officials responsible for code enforcement in the City of San Bernardino as of July 17, 2012.  In all, it shows 34 filled positions, and two vacant positions.  There is a Code Enforcement Manager, Steve Wilkomm, and three Supervisor Code Enforcement Officers.  The three Supervisor Code Enforcement Officers were all with the City when I was last a Deputy City Attorney, and two of them were with Code Enforcement before I became a Deputy City Attorney in 2001.  In all, there are still 19 code enforcement employees that were employed at the time I left the City of San Bernardino to become the Assistant City Attorney of Redlands.

While this organization chart is likely to change in the coming months because of the Chapter 9 bankruptcy and the planned (but heretofore proposed) reorganization, likely retirements and possible further attrition, this chart gives the public insight into how Code Enforcement in San Bernardino is organized at the moment.

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.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

Why the Impending City of San Bernardino Bankruptcy Matters

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The news that the Mayor and Common Council voted 4-2-1 to authorize the City Attorney to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the United States Bankruptcy Code is important from a legal perspective.  We appear to be moving into a new era where bankruptcy is not something to be feared, but is embraced as a solution for municipalities.  San Bernardino is the third municipality in California to move towards bankruptcy this year, and no doubt is not the last.

According to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts,

The purpose of chapter 9 is to provide a financially-distressed municipality protection from its creditors while it develops and negotiates a plan for adjusting its debts. Reorganization of the debts of a municipality is typically accomplished either by extending debt maturities, reducing the amount of principal or interest, or refinancing the debt by obtaining a new loan.

Although similar to other chapters in some respects, chapter 9 is significantly different in that there is no provision in the law for liquidation of the assets of the municipality and distribution of the proceeds to creditors. Such a liquidation or dissolution would undoubtedly violate the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution and the reservation to the states of sovereignty over their internal affairs. Indeed, due to the severe limitations placed upon the power of the bankruptcy court in chapter 9 cases (required by the Tenth Amendment and the Supreme Court’s decisions in cases upholding municipal bankruptcy legislation), the bankruptcy court generally is not as active in managing a municipal bankruptcy case as it is in corporate reorganizations under chapter 11. The functions of the bankruptcy court in chapter 9 cases are generally limited to approving the petition (if the debtor is eligible), confirming a plan of debt adjustment, and ensuring implementation of the plan. As a practical matter, however, the municipality may consent to have the court exercise jurisdiction in many of the traditional areas of court oversight in bankruptcy, in order to obtain the protection of court orders and eliminate the need for multiple forums to decide issues.

What this means is that the City will be able to renegotiate its debt, change certain contractual terms, including agreements with its employees, and possibly reduce or eliminate debts.  The City will not give up control to a trustee in the same way seen in corporate bankruptcy.  There will be no effect on code enforcement prosecutions, and the City will not have any special way to raise money through taxes outside of California law.

What about AB 506, the law codified at Government Code section 53760 et seq.?

That section reads:

A local public entity in this state may file a petition and exercise powers pursuant to applicable federal bankruptcy law if either of the following apply: (a) The local public entity has participated in a neutral evaluation process pursuant to Section 53760.3. (b) The local public entity declares a fiscal emergency and adopts a resolution by a majority vote of the governing board pursuant to Section 53760.5.

There has been no mention of AB 506 in the coverage so far, and the agenda for yesterday’s meeting does not have any mention of such a resolution, but presumably, the City of San Bernardino will take the (b) path.

Posted on our sister site is an analysis of the political implications of such a move.

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.
Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Fireworks in the City of San Bernardino, California (2012 Update)

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Happy Independence Day!

“Safe and Sane” fireworks are legally sold in the City of San Bernardino.  All fireworks are generally prohibited above the 210 Freeway in San Bernardino and near Perris Hill.  The City of San Bernardino Fire Department has a map and information about fireworks in this brochure.   Of course, all fireworks not approved by the State Fire Marshal are illegal in California.  Misusing legal fireworks (for example, making bottle rockets) is illegal in San Bernardino.

The San Bernardino Fire Department, particularly the Fire Prevention,  is out in force during the Fourth of July.  They have a variety of San Bernardino Municipal Code and California laws to enforce.  Even if you are not afraid of prosecution, fireworks are a leading cause of injury and property damage.

The San Bernardino City Fire Blog has some tips about fireworks.

A version of this post was published in 2011.

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.
A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

San Bernardino’s Code Enforcement Problems

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The San Bernardino Sun had this Voice of the People letter, which appeared, I believe, in the print edition on May 11, 2012.

I wish San Bernardino would give me just 5 percent of the fines I could collect if I cited all the ordinances and laws not being enforced.Example: On Dec. 15, 2010, San Bernardino City Council passed an ordinance and code enforcement law on yard sales to help clean up the city and not have it look like a Third World city and help local businesses.

The ordinance states clearly: Only on the third weekend of the month will yard sales be permitted, and no new items may be sold at any of these sales. In addition there are to be no signs on street corners, phone poles, trees, cars, etc., except in the yard of the sale. There is to be a $300 fine for a first offense and $100 for each sign found – this is law.

Legitimate businesses that pay for permits, state and federal sales tax, business tax, code tax, OSHA inspections, liability insurance, licenses, and more in this town are struggling and being driven out of business by those selling new items in their yards or street corners. You can find this any day, but even more on holidays like Mother’s Day, Valentines Day, Christmas, and so on – people selling flowers, candy, baskets, toys, fruit, jerky, even clothes in these makeshift stands or sitting on an off-ramp with milk crates full of their goods.

These crates, by the way, are stamped clearly on the sides – if stolen the person in possession will be fined $250-$500 for each one. These losses are added to our food bills. Why does our city not enforce these laws and ordinances considering the huge income it will provide for the city as well as help keep our legitimate businesses here?

These ordinances have been in the newspapers, mailed to all homes, and talked about everywhere and they are still ignored and these people have zero respect for the law.

STEVE PORTIAS
San Bernardino

I wrote before (and I have excised it from the original post because the law changed):

When I was a Deputy City Attorney in San Bernardino, mobile food vendors (except for people selling paletas, which were permitted) were a common complaint.  These ranged from people selling flowers at freeway off-ramps (for some reason, they often had the same address on Union Street in Los Angeles . .. more on that some other time), to people selling roasted corn out of coolers, almost uniformly with mayo as the condiment.  I, along with other Deputy City Attorneys, prosecuted them under San Bernardino Municipal Code section 5.04.495.  The section was amended in 2004 by the Common Council to prohibit a transient merchant with a “valid City of San Bernardino Business Registration Certificate or Permit” from staying “at any location not listed on their Business Registration Certificate or Permit for more than five (5) minutes in a twenty-four (24) hour period.”  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 5.04.495(B).  The origin of that section was quite colorful.

. . .

Update 5/14/2012  The Mayor and Common Council passed MC-1363 in August 2011, changing the transient vendor ordinance, San Bernardino 5.04.495, to have an exception to allow food carts as allowed by the Development Code, 19.70.060(1) which says “food carts and produce stands may be permitted for one year initially, and renewed annually, subject to verification of compliance with conditions of approval and County permit requirements, as applicable.”  19.70.020(11) states that temporary uses, subject to a Temporary Use Permit, including  “Food carts, operated at fixed, pre-approved locations, in the Main Street Overlay District, at least 500 feet away from any restaurant and under current permits from the County Environmental Health Services Division.”  SBDC section 19.70.020(12) also allows produce stands in community gardens.

Mr. Portias is correct, even with the changes to the Transient Vendor ordinance, 5.04.495, the things complained of are illegal in San Bernardino.  Even though it is not codified, MC-1363, amending section 5.04.495(a) of the San Bernardino Code states:

5.04.495 Transient merchants/vendors and temporary businesses prohibited. A. It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to offer for sale, trade, or barter,
to create, to possess items to be sold, traded, or bartered, or to sell, trade, or barter any items including but not limited to manufactured items, homemade
items, packaged and unpackaged goods, commodities, food, agricultural products, vehicles, furniture, or any other item or to offer any service, from a
temporary stand, or other temporary location, upon any public street, alley, sidewalk, right-of-way, easement, or other public place, doorway of any room
or building, unenclosed building, building for which no certificate of occupancy has been issued, vacant lot, front or side yard, back yard (except as permitted
in chapter 5.68 of this title), driveway, parking lot, or parcel of land, either paved or unpaved, at any time, except as permitted pursuant to Chapter 19.70. San Bernardino Mayor and Common Council Ordinance MC-1363, passed August 1, 2011.

I also wrote about garage sales, in one of my more popular posts.  As of this writing, the Municipal Code is still not updated to show these changes (at least online), a fact I decried in this post.  I prosecuted many people for violating both ordinances, as well as other examples of visual blight.  I helped amend the previous version of 5.04.495 when I was a Deputy City Attorney to cover more categories.

The City of San Bernardino has the tools to deal with these issues.  In addition to Code Enforcement, at least when I was there, the Police Department would also enforce the transient vendor ordinance, as would the City Attorney Investigators.  Why are these ordinances not being enforced?

I would guess that to some degree, they are still being enforced, but anecdotal evidence suggests that they are not being enforced.  For example, as I drove down West Highland Avenue during two nights before Mother’s Day, and there were tons of people selling flowers for Mother’s Day, in addition to actual florist shops.
Mr. Portias is also correct in that there is money to be made in enforcement, with administrative citations and misdemeanor and infraction citations.  Whether it actually pays for code enforcement is debatable.

The political will to enforce the laws is there, the staffing may not be.  Though there were Code Enforcement officers, and sometimes City Attorney Investigators assigned to work weekends and nights, enforcement has not made a measurable dent.  Citing your way into compliance may not be feasible, because the city of San Bernardino (and I’m not talking about the entity, the City of San Bernardino) has changed from the vision of what long-time residents see for their City.  These kinds of vendors and constant yard sales are now the norm because people have decided that’s the kind of city they want to live in.

The vast majority of residents of the City of San Bernardino do not vote in municipal elections (12,466 voted for City Attorney in the 2011 primary). The 2010 Census counted 209,924 residents.  32 percent of the population are under 18, and thus ineligible to vote (67,176 people) leaving 142,748 voting age residents.  It is difficult to find statistics for non-citizens, but assuming that half of the 23.8 percent of foreign-born residents are not eligible to vote (11.9 percent) (23,092), that leaves 119,656 eligible voting age residents.  Assuming, 2000 people are felony parolees, that leaves 117,656 eligible voting age residents.  As of May 6, 2012, there are 71,833 registered voters in San Bernardino.  Of the people eligible to vote, thirty nine percent have chosen not to even register.  Of the people registered to vote, only 17 percent bothered to vote at the last major municipal election.

Code enforcement is a very important municipal function, particularly in an analysis of the broken window theory and what is important to a community.  However, the people actually making and enforcing the rules in San Bernardino reflect only six percent of the population, city-wide.  The vast majority of  people of San Bernardino, not the few who vote in City elections, have apparently decided this is the kind of city that they want to live in.

Does that mean that these rules shouldn’t be on the books, or not enforced?  It does not.  However, residents who want more code enforcement have to realize that the government will have difficulty imposing standards when the vast majority of people in a city, by voting with their feet (by having illegal garage sales, by illegally vending, and by patronizing these garage sales and vendors) in favor of these practices.

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.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

Do I Need A Building Permit?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The answer usually is yes, you do need a building permit.  California, and in turn, local public entities, have adopted the California Building Code, which is a version of the International Building Code, formerly, and sometimes still called, the Uniform Building Code.  By now, most cities and towns in California should be using the 2010 Code, though the 2012 Code is being developed.  However, be cautioned that some municipalities are relying on older versions of the California Building Code, and the procedures were incorporated in the Uniform Administrative Code.  Check with your jurisdiction!
The California Building Code is difficult to find online, but it is codified in Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations.  The situation is much better than it used to be, when the copyright to the underlying model code prevented it from being offered inexpensively or free online.

Title 24, Part 2, Section 105 et seq. has the general requirement regarding permits.  It reads:

SECTION 105 PERMITS

105.1 Required. Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by this code, or to cause any such work to be done, shall first make application to the building official and obtain the required permit.

There are certain exemptions to this requirement:

105.2 Work exempt from permit. Exemptions from permit requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization for any work to be done in any manner in violation of the provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances of this jurisdiction. Permits shall not be required for the following:

Building:

1. One-story detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed 120 square feet (11 m2).

2. Fences not over 6 feet (1829 mm) high.

3. Oil derricks.

4. Retaining walls that are not over 4 feet (1219 mm) in height measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, unless supporting a surcharge or impounding Class I, II or IIIA liquids.

5. Water tanks supported directly on grade if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons (18 925 L) and the ratio of height to diameter or width does not exceed 2:1.

6. Sidewalks and driveways not more than 30 inches (762 mm) above adjacent grade, and not over any basement or story below and are not part of an accessible route.

7. Painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops and similar finish work.

8. Temporary motion picture, television and theater stage sets and scenery.

9. Prefabricated swimming pools accessory to a Group R-3 occupancy that are less than 24 inches (610 mm) deep, do not exceed 5,000 gallons (18 925 L) and are installed entirely above ground.

10. Shade cloth structures constructed for nursery or agricultural purposes, not including service systems.

11. Swings and other playground equipment accessory to detached one- and two-family dwellings.

12. Window awnings supported by an exterior wall that do not project more than 54 inches (1372 mm) from the exterior wall and do not require additional support of Groups R-3 and U occupancies.

13. Nonfixed and movable fixtures, cases, racks, counters and partitions not over 5 feet 9 inches (1753 mm) in height.

Electrical:

Repairs and maintenance: Minor repair work, including the replacement of lamps or the connection of approved portable electrical equipment to approved permanently installed receptacles.

Radio and television transmitting stations: The provisions of this code shall not apply to electrical equipment used for radio and television transmissions, but do apply to equipment and wiring for a power supply and the installations of towers and antennas.

Temporary testing systems: A permit shall not be required for the installation of any temporary system required for the testing or servicing of electrical equipment or apparatus.

Gas:

1. Portable heating appliance.

2. Replacement of any minor part that does not alter approval of equipment or make such equipment unsafe.

Mechanical:

1. Portable heating appliance.

2. Portable ventilation equipment.

3. Portable cooling unit.

4. Steam, hot or chilled water piping within any heating or cooling equipment regulated by this code.

5. Replacement of any part that does not alter its approval or make it unsafe.

6. Portable evaporative cooler.

7. Self-contained refrigeration system containing 10 pounds (5 kg) or less of refrigerant and actuated by motors of 1 horsepower (746 W) or less.

Plumbing:

1. The stopping of leaks in drains, water, soil, waste or vent pipe, provided, however, that if any concealed trap, drain pipe, water, soil, waste or vent pipe becomes defective and it becomes necessary to remove and replace the same with the new material, such work shall be considered as new work and a permit shall be obtained and inspection made as provided in this code.

2. The clearing of stoppages or the repairing of leaks in pipes, valves or fixtures and the removal and reinstallation of water closets, provided such repairs do not involve or require the replacement or rearrangement of valves, pipes or fixtures.

However, the inquiry does not end here.  California Health and Safety Code section 17958.7  permits local changes to the California Building Code:

(a) Except as provided in Section 17922.6, the governing body of a city or county, before making any modifications or changes pursuant to Section 17958.5, shall make an express finding that such modifications or changes are reasonably necessary because of local climatic, geological or topographical conditions. Such a finding shall be available as a public record. A copy of those findings, together with the modification or change expressly marked and identified to which each finding refers, shall be filed with the California Building Standards Commission. No modification or change shall become effective or operative for any purpose until the finding and the modification or change have been filed with the California Building Standards Commission.

So, the answer to “Do I Need a Building Permit” requires you to look at the changes to the California Building Code in your local municipal code.  For example, one local City used to have a requirement that you needed a permit to pour a concrete patio slab, where it was otherwise exempt from the Uniform Building Code.  The City of Moreno Valley has modified the Code adding an exemption:

Moreno Valley Municipal Code section 8.20.010 reads in pertinent part:

    The California Building Code, 2010 Edition, based on the 2009 International Building Code as published by the International Code Council, excluding Chapter 29 and Chapter 34 and including Appendix H and the standards referred to therein, is adopted and made part of this title by reference with the following modifications:

. . .

E.   Chapter 1, Division II, Section 105.2, Building 2 is hereby amended to read as follows:

Fences not over six (6) feet high, masonry concrete block walls under four (4) feet, or combination masonry concrete block walls with wrought iron under four (4) feet high.

Note that the City Council or other approving body must make findings that the ” changes are reasonably necessary because of local climatic, geological or topographical conditions.”   However, the findings just have to be made and filed, they don’t actually need any basis in reality, apparently.  The City of San Jose, for example, removed the administrative appeal process in the California Building Code for revocation of permits.

So, the short answer is that many things that people do not obtain permits for, such as installing a new dishwasher, require permits, though there are some things such as tile work or painting that don’t require permits, unless they are prohibited by local agencies.

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.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Locally Grown Strawberries in Redlands

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

I have written about local agriculture before (Growing and Selling Crops and Agricultural Products in the Inland Empire , Front Yard Fruit Stands in Redlands).  I have fond memories of strawberries from a farm in Highland, which no longer exists, Hamamura Farms.  Hamamura’s was at 28214 E. Third Street in Highland in the mid-1960s, and I remember visiting last in 1990, though its exact location escapes me.  The Highland Area Historical Society says that in 1952:

Ruth and Ronald Hamamura, and children Dennis, Roger, and Roy, arrived
from Honolulu, Hawaii, and purchased their East Third Street property.
They built a large glass green house for an exotic plant nursery. A
disastrous freeze that winter killed most of their unprotected stock.
Ronald went to work for Sears for fifteen years. The Hamamura’s had 10
acres, but no water, so they leased 15 acres from the Rozemas, their
neighbors to the west. In 1960, the Hamamuras sank a well on their own
ten acres and have since become outstanding strawberry producers in the
area. Also grown are Maui style onions and vegetables.

Roy Hamamura returned to Hawaii and grew strawberries in Maui. Hamamura’s ceased to exist in the 1990s, but local strawberries are still available in Mentone and Redlands.

You can still get locally grown strawberries in Redlands.  One such place is Jacinto Farms, which grows strawberries in Mentone and sells them at their two stores: the original at 2108 Mentone Boulevard, Mentone, CA and the (somewhat (January 27, 2012)) new location in Redlands, 1269 Brookside Avenue, in Redlands.

The Redlands location is a good example of adaptive reuse: it is a former gas station on Brookside, not too far from a Mobil station, and just down the road from the Stater Bros. on Alabama Street.  When I was Assistant City Attorney, residents on Magnolia were rightly complaining about the former gas station being vandalized, so it is good that it went from neighborhood eyesore to a place to buy local produce.

Jacinto Farms produces the citrus that Redlands and Mentone is famous for, but also has other seasonal fruits and vegetables.  Expect to pay Market Night prices, and they are conventionally grown, but the fruit is fresh and produced less than four miles away, according to the Jacinto Farms website.

I’ve eaten the strawberries from the Redlands “stand” three times, most recently about fifteen minutes ago.  They are much better than the imported (either from Oxnard or Mexico) strawberries that Stater Bros. had as a loss-leader recently. If you pass by on Brookside, take a look.  Right now, in addition to oranges, strawberries and avocados, they have lettuce, small artichokes, and onions, among other produce.  Though they are open until 6:30 p.m., the selection of non-oranges and avocados is much better at around noon.