Governor Brown Signs Brown Lawn Bill By Assembly Member Brown

By Michael Reiter Attorney at Law

You may have seen the articles about the new California law that permits dead lawns during the drought. Here is the text of AB1, introduced by Assembly Member Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino):

ENROLLED   JUNE 29, 2015
PASSED  IN  SENATE  JUNE 22, 2015
PASSED  IN  ASSEMBLY  JUNE 25, 2015
AMENDED  IN  SENATE  JUNE 16, 2015
CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2015–2016 REGULAR SESSION
ASSEMBLY BILL No. 1

Introduced by Assembly Member Brown
(Coauthor: Senator Nielsen)
December 01, 2014

An act to add Section 8627.7 to the Government Code, relating to water.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 1, Brown. Drought: local governments: fines.
The California Constitution requires that the water resources of the state be put to beneficial use to the fullest extent of which they are capable and that the waste or unreasonable use or unreasonable method of use of water be prevented. Existing law, the California Emergency Services Act, sets forth the emergency powers of the Governor under its provisions and empowers the Governor to proclaim a state of emergency for certain conditions, including drought.
This bill would prohibit a city, county, or city and county from imposing a fine under any ordinance for a failure to water a lawn or having a brown lawn during a period for which the Governor has issued a proclamation of a state of emergency based on drought conditions.

DIGEST KEY

Vote: majority   Appropriation: no   Fiscal Committee: no   Local Program: no  


BILL TEXT

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1.

The Legislature finds and declares both of the following:

(a) That this act is in furtherance of the policy contained in Section 2 of Article X of the California Constitution.
(b) The prohibition on imposing fines for failing to water a lawn or for having a brown lawn during a period for which the Governor has issued a proclamation of a state of emergency based on drought conditions is a matter of statewide concern and not a municipal affair, as that term is used in Section 5 of Article XI of the California Constitution. Therefore, Section 2 of this act shall apply to charter cities.

SEC. 2.

Section 8627.7 is added to the Government Code, to read:

8627.7.

(a) During a period for which the Governor has issued a proclamation of a state of emergency under this chapter based on drought conditions, a city, county, or city and county shall not impose a fine under any ordinance for a failure to water a lawn or for having a brown lawn.

(b) A violation of this section is not subject to the criminal penalties set forth in Section 8665.

What does this mean?  It means that cities, counties, and the state’s only City and County (San Francisco) cannot impose a fine under existing property maintenance ordinances during the drought. The Senate Floor analysis expressly states this applies to charter cities:

 Apply to charter cities because the prohibition of fines imposed for

failing to water a lawn or having a brown lawn during a period for which the

Governor has issued a proclamation of a state of emergency based on

drought conditions is a matter of statewide concern and not a municipal

affair, as that term is used in Section 5 of Article XI of the California

Constitution.

It passed the Assembly by a vote of 80-0  on June 25, 2015. The bill passed the California Senate by a vote of 37 Yes, 0 No, and 3 No Votes Recorded (Senators Hall, Morrell and Pavley). Senator Isidore Hall III is a Democrat representing the South Bay of Los Angeles (35th District), Senator Mike Morrell is a Republican serving the 23rd Senatorial District including Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands and San Bernardino, and Senator Fran Pavley is a Democrat representing 27th District representing parts of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

The legislative history tells us which cities were seen by Assembly Member Brown as the most egregious violators:

From the Assembly Floor Analysis June 24, 2015:

In the most severe situation provided by the author, a homeowner in the City of Upland faced

misdemeanor charges for “failing to follow city code, and properly maintaining his front yard

and parkway space,” according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, stemming from the

homeowner’s decision to stop watering his lawn in August of 2013.  As of January 2015, that

homeowner planned to go to trial, and faced, according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin,

up to $4,000 in fines, or six months in jail.  The homeowner was offered a deal several times

to reduce the amount of the fine if he corrected the issue, but he opted instead to go to trial.

Assembly Member Brown also singled out the cities of Glendale and San Bernardino.

In a nightmare for municipal lawyers trying to find this section for years in the future, this law was placed in Title 2 (Government of the State of California), Division 1 (General), Chapter 7 (California Emergency Services Act), Article 13 (State of Emergency). I understand why (because it deals with the declaration of the drought emergency), but it probably would have been more visible elsewhere.

The Senate Analysis states supporters “argue that this bill is straight-forward and provides a

common sense measure to ensure households are not penalized for conserving water.”

What will a defense to an administrative citation or criminal citation for unmaintained landscaping look like?  Hopefully, local public entities will voluntarily stop citing brown lawns during the drought.  However, if they don’t, a criminal demurrer, or an appeal of an administrative citation should do the trick.

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

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What Municipal (Local City and Town) Offices are Up for Election in San Bernardino County in November 6, 2012?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

In short, it is an election year for everyone except the City of San Bernardino.  Many local cities consolidate their election to either the Presidential election and the Congressional Midterm Elections, because it costs less.

Starting with the High Desert, the City of Adelanto is electing two Council Members; Apple Valley, two Town Council Members; Barstow is electing the Mayor, the City Clerk, City Treasurer, and two City Council Members, Hesperia, two Council Members, Needles is electing two Council Members and the Mayor, Twentynine Palms is electing two Council Members. Rounding out the High Desert is Victorville, electing three Council Members, and Yucca Valley electing two Town Council Members.
In the San Bernardino Mountains, the City of Big Bear Lake is electing two City Council Members

In the Southwest of San Bernardino County, Chino is electing two City Council Members, and Chino Hills, the same number.

In the East-end of San Bernardino, the City of Colton is electing City Council Members in two districts, 3 and 5; the City Clerk and City Treasurer, and the Blue Mountain City, Grand Terrace, is electing three Council Members.  Fontana, which either is the western part of the East Valley, or the Western part of the West-end, is electing two City Council members.  Highland is electing two Council Members, the adjoining City of Redlands has two Council Member seats up for election, and City Clerk and City Treasurer.  Rialto has a mayoral election, City Clerk, City Treasurer, and two Council Member seats.  Lastly, Yucaipa is electing three Council Members.

In the West-end, Montclair is electing two Council Members; Ontario is electing Mayor, City Clerk, City Treasurer, and two Council Members; Rancho Cucamonga, land of Victoria Gardens, is electing its City Clerk, City Treasurer, and two Council Members; Upland, is electing one Council Member, the Mayor and Treasurer.

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 Attorneys of San Bernardino County Cities and Towns

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

People are searching the Internet for a definitive list of City Attorneys in San Bernardino County and the Inland Empire.   Here is the information, which is current as of today (2/1/2012)  to the best of my knowledge.  Please note that I am not the City Attorney nor the Assistant City Attorney for any of these cities.

City of Adelanto:

 

Todd Litfin

Rutan & Tucker LLP

611 Anton Blvd. #1400

Costa Mesa, CA  92626

 

Town of Apple Valley:

 

John E. Brown

Best Best & Krieger LLP

3500 Porsche Way, Suite 200

Ontario, CA 91764

 

City of Barstow:

 

Teresa Highsmith (Interim City Attorney)

Colantuono & Levin

300 S. Grand Ave. Ste 2700

Los Angeles CA 90071

 

City of Big Bear Lake:

 

Stephen Dietsch

Best Best & Krieger LLP

3500 Porsche Way, Suite 200

Ontario CA 91764

 

City of Chino:

 

Jimmy L. Gutierrez

12616 Central Ave
Chino, CA 91710

 

City of Chino Hills:

 

Mark D. Hensley

Jenkins & Hogin LLP
Manhattan Towers
1230 Rosecrans Ave #110
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

 

City of Colton:

 

Dean Derleth

Best Best & Krieger LLP
300 S Grand Ave 25th FL
Los Angeles, CA 90071

 

City of Fontana:

 

Clark Alsop

Best Best & Krieger LLP

3500 Porsche Way, Suite 200

Ontario, CA 91764

 

City of Grand Terrace:

 

Richard L. Adams, II

Jones & Mayer

3777 N. Harbor Blvd.

Fullerton CA 92835

 

City of Hesperia:

 

Eric Dunn

Aleshire & Wynder LLP
18881 Von Karman Ave #400
Irvine, CA 92612

 

City of Highland:

 

Craig Steele

Richards Watson & Gershon

355 S. Grand Ave., 40th Floor

Los Angeles, CA 90071-3101

 

City of Loma Linda:

 

Richard E.  Holdaway

Robbins & Holdaway
201 W “F” St
Ontario, CA 91762

 

City of Montclair:

 

Diane E. Robbins

Robbins & Holdaway
201 W “F” St
Ontario, CA 91762

 

City of Needles:

 

John Pinkney

Slovak, Baron & Empey LLP
1800 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, California 92262

 

City of Ontario:

 

John E. Brown

Best Best & Krieger LLP

3500 Porsche Way, Suite 200

Ontario, CA 91764

 

City of Rancho Cucamonga:

James L. Markman

Richards Watson & Gershon
P O Box 1059
Brea, CA 92822-1059

 

City of Redlands:

Daniel J. McHugh

P.O. Box 3005

Redlands, CA 92373

 

City of Rialto:

Jimmy L. Gutierrez

12616 Central Ave
Chino, CA 91710

 

City of San Bernardino:

James F. Penman

300 North D Street

Sixth Floor

San Bernardino, CA 92418

 

City of Twentynine Palms:

Patrick Munoz

Rutan & Tucker

P.O. Box 1950

Costa Mesa, CA 92628-9990

 

City of Upland:

William P. Curley III

Richards Watson & Gershon
P O Box 1059
Brea, CA 92822-1059

 

City of Victorville:

Andre de Bortnowsky

Green, de Bortnowsky & Quintanilla

23801 Calabasas Rd. #1015

Calabasas, CA 91302-1595

 

City of Yucaipa:

 

David Snow (Interim City Attorney)

Richards Watson & Gershon

355 S. Grand Ave., 40th Floor

Los Angeles, CA 90071-3101

 

Town of Yucca Valley:

 

Lona Laymon

Aleshire & Wynder LLP
18881 Von Karman Ave #400
Irvine, CA 92612

 

Copyright 2012 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

California Public Records Act, How and Where to Make a Request in San Bernardino County and Riverside County

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The California Public Records Act is an invaluable tool for individuals, traditional and new media,  public interest groups, non-profits, business entities, and even lawyers and political groups to find out what local government is doing.  This first post has to do with a very brief overview of the Act, and how to make a Public Records Act request.  Private Attorneys especially do not use the Act efficiently, much to the delight of City Attorneys and much to the detriment of their clients.

I have handled Public Records Act Requests on behalf of local agencies, and I have made Public Records Act Requests to local agencies, so I have a good perspective about how the Act is handled on both sides of the counter.  Having an attorney knowledgeable about the California Public Records Act is important if a client is involved in a case against a City, County, or other local government agency.

The Public Records Act is found in the California Government Code.  A Requester can find the California Government Code here.  The version found here is unannotated.  If a Requester wants to see an annotated code, it can be found at most public libraries and law libraries.  The annotated version gives case law and secondary source references.  The Act is codified at Government Code, Title 1 “General”, Division 7 “Miscellaneous,” Chapter 3.5 “Inspection of Public Records”, Article 1, “General Provisions” and Article 2 “Other Exemptions From Disclosure.”   If a Requester is searching manually, the Act is found in Government Code section 6250 et seq.  [“Et seq.” is legal jargon from the Latin “et sequentia” meaning “and following.”  It is shorthand to tell a court, or others, the general location of an some amount of primary or secondary law.]

The California Legislature, in enacting the Act, found and declared  “that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in” California.  Government Code section 6250.

While, there are generally two rights, to inspect and/or copy public records, this post will focus on how to make the request.

How and When to make a request to a local government agency in San Bernardino County and Riverside County:

The Act requires that records not subject to an exemption are to be made available “upon a request”  Government Code section 6253(b).  The Court of Appeal for the Second District of California found that the “California Public Records Act plainly does not require a written request.”  Los Angeles Times v. Alameda Corridor Transp. Authority (2001) 88 Cal.App. 4th 1381, 1392.

What does this mean, practically?  A Requester can ask the local government agency in person, or over the phone, to inspect or copy records.  However, the practical thing to do is to put it in writing so that there is a record of the request.  Local governments are collections of individuals, and if the individual employed by the government does not understand the request, or does not write the request down correctly, a Requester may not get to inspect the records in a timely fashion.  A Requester’s best practice is to put the Public Record Act request in writing and date it.  A Requester does not have to use a form provided by the local government agency, but sometimes it is easier to use their form.

Where and to whom should the Request be made?  Though the Act does not specify, local government agencies in Riverside and San Bernardino County usually have Departments that are responsible for responding to routine requests, such as for copies of ordinances or minutes.   In an incorporated city or town, the Requester can usually request the documents from the City Clerk, and it should be routed within the City to the right department if it is not the City Clerk .  In cities with in-house City Attorney’s Offices, such as the City of San Bernardino and the City of Riverside, a Requester can request the documents from the City Attorney.  Likewise, it will be routed to the correct department.

However, the best practice is to request from the specific department that has the records.  If the Requester is ling with a specific department, such as Planning or Code Enforcement, the Requester can make the request directly to the department who is likely to handle the request.  If the Requester is asking for records from different departments, the Requester might want to make the request to the City Manager or City Administrator.  A Requester should feel free to ask someone in the particular city, town or county.  Most local government entities understand their responsibilities under the Act, and want to help the public.  Some do not.

A later discussion with examine how to make a reasonably described record request.

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