Code Enforcement Gone Wild

I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino and the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands. Along with another Deputy, I advised what was then the Code Enforcement Department in San Bernardino.  The City of Redlands had different code enforcement issues than the City of San Bernardino, but code enforcement was an important part of my job in Redlands.

We were not on the leading edge in San Bernardino (everything we did was pioneered at larger cities), but we tried to employ as many code enforcement tools as possible. We were never successfully sued in a code enforcement case while I was there.

However, now that I represent citizens, I see all kind of ticky-tack things that other entities do.  Here is an article from the Salt Lake Tribune

“Ogden tells dad to take down his kids’ cardboard castle because it’s ‘junk'”

Now, this is in Utah, but most cities and counties in California have a similar ordinance that prohibits junk, trash, and debris in your front yard.  However, just because it’s technically illegal doesn’t mean that the City should cite for it.

Looking at the link from the story, this is the City of Ogden ordinance:

 

12-4-2: WASTE MATERIALS OR JUNK; PROHIBITED ON PREMISES:

A. Prohibition: It is unlawful for any owner, occupant, agent or lessee of real property within the city, to allow, cause or permit the following material or objects to be in or upon any yard, garden, lawn, or outdoor premises of such property:

1. Junk or salvage material;

2. Litter;

3. Any abandoned vehicle or inoperable vehicle.

In California, our ordinances tend not to be as vague as this code section.

Does a cardboard castle even qualify as “junk” or “litter?” If it were in California and I were reviewing a notice (which I believe I did sometimes in Redlands) or a citation (in San Bernardino), I would probably turn it down.

As I teach code enforcement officers in training, just because something can be cited doesn’t mean it should be.

I think the reaction by the resident was the right course of action.

“Had he not received the letter, he was planning on taking the castle down soon anyway. But after receiving it, he now plans to keep it up until just before the penalty.”

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

Byron Waters, Pioneering San Bernardino County Attorney and the First President of the San Bernardino County Bar Association

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

As a Director-At-Large of the San Bernardino County Bar Association, President Jack Osborn asked me to serve on the San Bernardino County Bar Association Bulletin Committee.  As such, I will be writing a monthly column which will mostly be focusing on bench and bar history of San Bernardino County.  Below is a heavily edited version of my first article, which I have submitted for publication in the March or April bulletin.

Byron Waters 1849-1923 Pioneering San Bernardino County Attorney

Byron Waters 1849-1923 Pioneering San Bernardino County Attorney

[Illustration of Byron Waters, San Francisco Call, Volume 77, Number 108, March 28, 1895, Pg. 5]

Byron Waters was an organizer and the first President of the San Bernardino County Bar Association, organized in 1875.

In The Bench and Bar of the County of San Bernardino, State of California (1955), Page 15, former California Associate Supreme Court Justice and native of San Bernardino, Jesse William Curtis gave this synopsis of Mr. Waters’ life.

Hon. Byron Waters also came to San Bernardino before reaching his majority. He came from his native state of Georgia. He first worked for his uncle James Waters, who ran dairy in Yucaipa. But a dairy was no place for young man with Mr. Waters’ ambition and talents. He read law in the offices of Judge Rolfe and Judge Willis and was admitted to practice in 1871. He almost immediately gained place in the front ranks among the members of the bar of the county. His practice in an incredibly short time became both large and lucrative. In 1877[,] he was elected to the assembly and although one of the youngest members he was acknowledged as one of the leaders of the legislative body. By reason of the reputation gained at that one session of the legislature in the following year he was elected a delegate at large to the State Constitutional Convention which framed our present Constitution. In 1881[,] Mr. Waters temporarily retired from the practice of law and helped organize the Farmers Exchange Bank of San Bernardino and became its first president. But his love for the law drew him back to its practice and he soon retired from the banking business to enter again the ranks of the attorneys of this county. He at once took his place as one of the leaders of the Bar. He attracted the attention of Judge S.H. Mesick of San Francisco, a leading mining lawyer of the state, who offered him partnership if he would move to San Francisco. Mr. Waters accepted the offer and the firm of Mesick and Waters was formed and during the few years of its existence was retained in many of the most important mining cases before the courts of the state. Due to the failing health of Judge Mesick the partnership was dissolved and Mr. Waters practiced alone in San Francisco. After successful though rather brief practice in the then metropolis of the state, he returned to San Bernardino and again opened his office and continued his practice for a few years when he was offered membership in the legal staff of the Southern Pacific Company, which he accepted and again became resident of the bay district in the north. Evidently the character of the work for the railroad did not suit the taste of Mr. Waters for after few years with the company he resigned his position and again resumed his practice in his old home town. On each occasion of his return to this county his old, and many new, clients sought him out and his law practice soon assumed its old time proportion as one of the most profitable in the county. In his declining years he was so unfortunate as to lose his eyesight completely. Notwithstanding this affliction he continued with the assistance of two younger members of the bar to carry on an extensive and profitable law practice until the infirmities of age compelled him to retire from all activities. He passed away on November 29 1934 in the city in which he had made his home, with brief exceptions above referred to for so many years.

(Mr. Waters is sometimes referred to as “Honorable,” which refers to his one term in the California Assembly.)

Associate Justice Curtis’ summary of Waters’ life is a good synopsis of Byron Waters life, but additional details expose the true breadth of his career.

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

An Update: The Notices of Intention to Circulate Recall Petitions in the Proposed San Bernardino Recall 2013

I’m not sure why this was not posted at the time, but for historical interest, here is a post that supposed to appear in 2013.

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

San Bernardino Residents For Responsible Government, the political action committee behind the proposed recall,  contacted me today regarding the last post on the Notices of Intention to Circulate Recall Petitions in the Proposed San Bernardino Recall for November 5, 2013.

The Petitions were drafted by Michael L. Allan, a Pasadena attorney.  The decision to use process servers was also his decision.  The rest of the petitions will be released to the public on Monday, as listed on their website.  They say they have not filed the petitions against Wendy McCammack and Rikke Van Johnson yet. San Bernardino Residents For Responsible Government says they are giving the office holders 14 days to respond to the petitions.

Per the Charter of the City of San Bernardino, Section 122:

Within seven (7) days after the filing of the notice of

intention, the officer sought to be recalled may file with the City Clerk an answer in

not more than 500 words to the statement of the proponents and if an answer is

filed, shall serve a copy thereof, personally or by certified mail, on one of the

proponents named in the notice of intention. At the time the proponents publish

the notice and statement referred to above, the officer sought to be recalled may

have the answer published at his/her expense. If the answer is to be published the

officer shall file with the City Clerk at the time the answer is filed a statement

declaring his/her intent that the answer be published. The statement and answer

are intended solely for the information of the voters and no insufficiency in the form

or substance thereof shall affect the validity of the election or proceedings. The

notice and statement as referred to above, and the answer, if it is to be published

shall be published at least once in a newspaper of general circulation, as described

in Sections 6000 to 6066 of the Government Code, adjudicated as such.

Seven (7) days after the publication of the notice, statement and answer, if it

is to be published, the recall petition may be circulated and signed.

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) 708-6055

Leaving Your Keys In the Ignition In Your Car In San Bernardino: It’s Against the Law Part Two

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

When I wrote the original Leaving Your Keys In the Ignition In Your Car In San Bernardino: It’s Against the Law article, I did not have the benefit of an article from the San Bernardino Sun.  Here’s the ordinance, which is still in force:

10.16.140 Removal of ignition key.
A. It is unlawful for any person having charge or control of a motor vehicle to allow
such vehicle to stand upon any street, alley or parking lot upon which there is
no attendant, when such motor vehicle is unattended, without first locking the
ignition of the vehicle and removing the ignition key from such vehicle.
B. Any person convicted under this section shall be punished by a fine of not less
nor more than two dollars; and such person shall not be granted probation by
the court, nor shall the court suspend the execution of the sentence imposed
upon such person.
(Ord. MC-460, 5-13-85; Ord.3880 §2 (part), 1980; Ord.2613,1964; Ord. 1652 Art. 4 §14, 1941.)

A story in the San Bernardino Daily Sun on April 20, 1955, Page 13, gives some background to the crime problem in San Bernardino about 15 years after it was already adopted.  The article had a photograph and was headlined “S.B. 20-30 Club Seeks To Reduce Car Thefts.”

Members of 20-30 Club No. 3 have taken on the project of helping to reduce car thefts in San Bernardino.

Hundreds of motorists Saturday will find yellow cardboard key replicas under their windshield wipers with a warning that “keys in the car” is a direct invitation to auto thieves.

“The project is one of the many efforts of the 20-30 Club to help in building a better community,” said Lloyd E. Harmon, second vice president and project chairman.

Club officers pointed to recent statistics indicating that 55 per cent of juvenile crimes in the theft of cars are aided and abetted by persons leaving their keys in cars.

A:  300 E. State Street, Suite 517

                   Redlands, CA 92373
T: (909) 708-6055

W: http://michaelreiterlaw.com

The Roots of San Bernardino Charter Section 186: A Political Perspective In Two Posts

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

As San Bernardino looks to review and possibly reform its existing charter, last adopted in 2006, this is one in a series looking back at how the City of San Bernardino arrived at this point.

In the last item, the voters of the City of San Bernardino approved (by three votes)  a charter amendment in 1939 that guaranteed minimum raises to certain members of the police department.

A more in-depth look at the political background is found elsewhere, including the political roots of Charter Section 181-A, and the fiscal effect of San Bernardino Charter Section 181-A on the 1939-40 fiscal year budget of the City of San Bernardino.

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 Street, Suite 517

                   Redlands, CA 92373
T: (909) 708-6055

The Roots of San Bernardino Charter Section 186: Chapter One

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

This is the first in a series of articles to help people understand the historic context in which section 186, which currently sets the rate of pay of sworn police and fire employees within the City of San Bernardino.

Before the 1955 adoption of section 186, the people of San Bernardino amended the Charter to include minimum police salaries.

A special municipal election (consolidated with a primary municipal election) was held on March 20, 1939 to vote on Proposed Charter Amendment Number One.

Proposed Charter Amendment Number One read:

It is hereby proposed that Article Ten of the City Charter of the City of San Bernardino, entitled “Police and Fire Departments,” be amended by adding thereto a new section, entitled “Section 181A,” said section to read as follows:

“Section 181A:

(a) That the minimum rate to be paid to the following classifications in the Police Department shall be as follows:

Regular Patrolmen, Relief Patrolmen, Traffic Patrolmen, Special Officers and Plain Clothes Officers–A minimum salary of $135.00 per month, said salary to be increased in the sum of $5.00 per month at the end of each six months’ continuous service until a salary of $175.00 is reached, which salary of $175.00 shall thereafter be the minimum salary to be paid said officer.

Desk Sergeants–A minimum salary of $190.00 per month.

Patrol Sergeants–A minimum salary of $190.00 per month.

Motorcycle Officers–A minimum salary of $155.00 per month, based on one year’s service as a Police Officer, said salary to be increased in the sum of $5.00 per month at the end of each six months’ continuous service, until a salary of $185.00 is reached, which salary shall thereafter be the minimum salary to be paid said officer.

Traffic Sergeants–A minimum salary of $200.00 per month.

(b) That the officer’s length of continuous service elapsing prior to the adoption of this provision shall be included in determining said minimum salaries.

(c) That said section shall not be construed to set out or limit the classifications of members of the Police Department, but is intended solely to establish a minimum rate of pay for those classifications herein referred to.”  Statutes of California, 1939, Chapter 38, Pages 3162-3163.

The results of the election were decided by absentee votes.  The Council canvassed the vote on March 27, 1939 and found: 5,264 votes in favor, 5,261 votes against.  The absentee votes ran 75 percent in favor and 25 percent against.

 

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) 708-6055

William Guthrie, San Bernardino City Attorney

William R. Guthrie was the San Bernardino City Attorney from 1913 to 1927, and 1931 until 1935.  He was also the founder of what today is Gresham Savage (from their website http://www.greshamsavage.com/firm-100years.html):

The Gresham Savage story begins in 1910, when founder William Guthrie opened his solo practice in San Bernardino, Calif. Like the rest of the country, the city was in transition, shedding its image as a rough-and-ready saloon town where shootouts and public hangings were commonplace. During the first 20 years of the new century, as Santa Fe locomotives brought thousands of new settlers down the Cajon Pass, the city tripled in size and grew in respectability and importance.

Guthrie served as city attorney for 12 years, gaining valuable experience in industry, mining, tax valuation and assessments. He became an influential figure in business, political and social circles and was an imposing local presence, strolling the streets of San Bernardino in his distinctive white hat.

His reputation for getting results grew rapidly, catching the attention of large corporations, including the Southern Pacific Railroad, California Portland Cement Company, still a Gresham Savage client, and American Potash & Chemical Co., now Searles Valley Minerals, also still with the firm. Later in Guthrie’s career, Henry Kaiser hired him to handle the legal affairs of Kaiser’s new Fontana Steel Mill.

. . .

By the economic crash of 1929, Guthrie had moved into San Bernardino’s new Andreson Building, which still stands today. Throughout the Depression, he continued serving major corporations, including the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, now the BNSF Railway Company and the longest-standing current Gresham Savage client, Southern California Edison and the predecessor to General Telephone, which is now Verizon.

As the country struggled through those difficult years, Guthrie expanded his practice, bringing on Carl B. Hilliard, Donald W. Jordan, John B. Lonergan and Jesse W. Curtis Jr. In 1937, he formed a partnership with Curtis, whose father had been a pioneer San Bernardino County lawyer, Superior Court judge and Supreme Court justice.

. . .

Now as Guthrie & Curtis, the firm prospered during World War II, serving heavy industry companies such as Kaiser Steel and California Portland Cement Company, whose successors remain clients of the firm. These were precedent-setting times, requiring attorneys of strong character and high intellect to properly interpret complex laws dealing with local and regional government regulations. Guthrie would often convene the area’s captains of industry at a local restaurant or meeting place to discuss the important legal and political issues of the day.

. . .

After Curtis left the firm in 1947, Guthrie, Lonergan and Jordan established a legendary partnership that was to be unmatched at handling legal matters involving labor, public land and mining. “New Law Firm Formed in City,” trumpeted the headline in the local newspaper, describing Guthrie as “long one of the outstanding figures” of the county’s bar.

Sadly, failing health forced Guthrie to retire soon after, but not a single client left the firm as Lonergan and Jordan took up the challenge of moving on without the legendary founding attorney. Though practicing in a small-town geographically, they were widely regarded as big-city professionals, expanding the practice even further and attracting multinational corporations as clients.

William Guthrie was born in San Bernardino on November 1, 1886 to William James Guthrie and Anna B. Lawson (Guthrie).  In 1900, he lived with his parents at 472 West Fourth Street in the Second Ward.  His father was listed as a Dry Goods Merchant on the 1900 Census.

By the next Census, he was the head of household as his mother was listed as widowed.  They were living at 626 North E Street in the Second Ward.  William Guthrie was listed as a Deputy County Clerk and as a lawyer. The State Bar of California gives his State Bar number of 3059, and says he was admitted in January 1910. The Census was taken on April 16-18, 2010, so he had just passed the Bar.  His brother, James Guthrie, was already listed as a newspaper reporter (he was later the publisher of the Sun).

In 1910, William Guthrie lived not far from Charles L. Allison (491 West Fourth Street).  Charles Allison was elected City Attorney in 1911, and was defeated by William Guthrie in 1913.  In the 1910-1911 San Bernardino City Directory, Gutherie’s address is listed as 527 E Street, and he is listed as Chief Deputy County Clerk. By the 1911-1912 listing, he is living at 626 North E Street with his brothers, and is listed as a lawyer with Willis & Guthrie.

According to the Minutes of the Mayor and Common Council dated March 20, 1913, he received the following votes in the Primary Municipal Election: In the Republican Primary, 389 votes; in the Democratic Primary, 97 votes; in the Socialist Primary, 10 votes; and the Prohibition Primary, 6 votes.

In the minutes of the Mayor and Common Council Meeting of April 16, 1913, William Guthrie received the following votes in the April 14, 1913 General Municipal Election, 1432 votes over the Socialist candidate J.W. Stephenson’s 823 votes and H.H. Chase received 918 votes.

By the time of the 1913-1914 City Directory, William Guthrie is listed as Attorney and City Attorney, Room 413 of the Katz Building, telephone HOme [sic] 1141, and still living at 646 D Street.  By the 1916 City Directory, he had moved his residence to 939 D Street.

He ran for re-election on April 12, 1915, and gained 2704 votes to his opponent, Cecil H. Phillips’ 1987 votes.

On June 5, 1917, on his draft card, William Guthrie listed his residence as 939 (North) D street, and his occupation as City Attorney, and employed by the City of San Bernardino. He claimed exemptions for supporting his wife and as a City officer.

William Guthrie again ran in the 1919 primary and general elections.  In the primary municipal election, he ran against Fred A. Wilson for the first time.  Guthrie received 2144 votes, Fred A. Wilson received 1170 votes, and Frank T. Bates received  631 votes.

In 1920, he lived at 1151 North D Street with his wife Mary, and he is listed as a general practice attorney.  The City Attorney position at that time was part-time.  It did not become full time until a Charter section 55 was amended in a special election on January 6, 1955.

William Guthrie ran unopposed in the 1923 election.

By 1924, the San Bernardino Directory lists him as City Attorney, with his office at 205-210 Katz Building, and his residence as 1151 North D Street.

In the March 1927 primary election, Guthrie defeated Fred A. Wilson.  Fred A. Wilson was a San Bernardino attorney, State Bar Number 7329 admitted in September 1911.  However, in the 1927 general primary election, Fred A. Wilson won.

By 1928, his office was at 506 Andreson Building, 320 North E, and his home was still at 1151 North D Street.

In 1930, he still lived at 1151 N. D Street with his wife Mary and daughter Elizabeth.  Their home was listed as valued at $12,000.  His occupation is lawyer (owns office).

William Guthrie ran for City attorney again in 1931, beating City Attorney Fred A. Wilson in the General Election by a vote of 4,180 to 3,543.

In the April 8, 1935 General Municipal Election, H.R. Griffin defeated William Guthrie in a close race. H.R. Griffin, received 4,508 votes, and Guthrie received 4,040 votes.  Theo G. Krumm received 889 votes.

By 1940, he was living at 356 West 18th Street.  He was listed as a lawyer in his own private practice.  He lived with his wife Mary, his daughter Elizabeth, and a young man named Felix Flint, who was their “hired yard man.”

William Guthrie died on November 2, 1947 at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Los Angeles, California.

His obituary in the Los Angeles Times of November 4, 1947 read:

William Guthrie, San Bernardino Attorney, Dies

William Guthrie, 61, San Bernardino attorney, died at St. Vincent’s Hospital Sunday night of a lung infection.  In failing health since September, he was brought here from his home last Tuesday to undergo treatment by specialists.

A native of San Bernardino, Mr. Guthrie was admitted to the California Bar 35 years ago. He prepared himself for his bar examination by studying law in his after-office hours while he was employed as a deputy county clerk.  He served as City Attorney of San Bernardino for 12 years.

Mr. Guthrie was known as an authority on corporation law. His clients included many of the industrial corporations of the State. He practiced frequently in Los Angeles courts, and was a member of the California, University and Jonathan clubs here.

He leaves his widow, Mrs. Mary D. Guthrie, a daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Goss, Claremont, and two brothers, James A. Guthrie, publisher and editor of the San Bernardino Sun, and Howard M. Guthrie, San Bernardino businessman.

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