Correcting a California Municipal Code Codification Error

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

As I mentioned in the last municipal code post, you should never rely on the online version of a code.  Part of that is because of my training as a Senior Technical Editor of the Santa Clara Computer & High Technology Law Journal at Santa Clara University School of Law.  For analog textual sources, we never relied on Westlaw or Nexis, we required the citation checkers to pull the original hard copy from the law library.  I once cite checked a source only available at Stanford University to ensure the citation’s accuracy.

The majority of California cities and counties use code publishers to publish their municipal codes.  This is certainly true in the County of San Bernardino, and the County of Riverside.   It has been my experience that the publisher sends a proof to the City Clerk, and then publishes codes.  I have noticed slight discrepancies between ordinances and the codified version.  Sometimes it is only a matter of style, such as “City” consistently printed as “city” despite the capitalization in the ordinance.  However, there have been cases where there are substantive problems between the ordinance text and the codification.

If this happens, and you are a municipal attorney, work with the City Clerk or the person in charge of codification to have it corrected.  This should be corrected immediately upon noticing a discrepancy.

If this happens and you are not an attorney, contact the person in charge of codification to bring it to their attention.  If you are involved in litigation, have the court take notice of the uncodified ordinance, because that is the version that will control.

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

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

What is a San Bernardino County Code Enforcement Attorney and a Riverside County Code Enforcement Attorney?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I have been involved in Code Enforcement for a long time now.  My first exposure was when I was working for the City of Santa Clara during law school at Santa Clara University School of Law.  Most of the code enforcement at that time was done by a Deputy City Attorney and involved drinking in public by Santa Clara University students.  Drinking in public is a common infraction or misdemeanor prohibited by cities’ municipal codes.  One of the reasons behind this is because it is not preempted by the State of California’s prohibition of being drunk in public.  Police officers can cite people with open containers of alcohol seen drinking alcohol or presumed to be drinking alcohol without proving that they were intoxicated.  However, generally, the term “Code Enforcement” means property maintenance.

My next brush with code enforcement came as an attorney for Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino.  A common defense for an unlawful detainer defendant is a lack of habitability.  Often, the tenant would complain to a code enforcement agency about the interior conditions of their house or apartment.  However, sometimes this could have disastrous results.  Either the tenant would complain about the conditions and it would have no effect on the unlawful detainer action, the tenant would get cited into court by the code enforcement agency for the problem, or in the absolute worst-case scenario, the conditions were so bad at the apartment or house that the code enforcement agency red tagged the unit, making the tenant homeless.

When I became a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino in February 2001, my role changed from observer of code enforcement to assisting Code Enforcement.  I became a City Prosecutor, prosecuting violations of the San Bernardino Municipal Code in San Bernardino Superior Court, along with other Deputy City Attorneys.   I also co-advised the City of San Bernardino’s Code Enforcement Department (which previously was a Division, and would later become a Division again).  When I was Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, I served a similar function, including prosecuting violations of the Redlands Municipal Code, advising staff at administrative hearings, and drafting code enforcement ordinances.

What does being a Code Enforcement Attorney mean in San Bernardino County and Riverside County?  In incorporated cities and towns in San Bernardino County and Riverside County, that means prosecuting violation of city or town ordinances, usually codified in the Municipal Code, or prosecuting violations of County ordinances codified in the San Bernardino County Code or the Riverside County Code.  It also means drafting new ordinances.  Some of these ordinances are new code enforcement tools, new prohibitions, or modifying existing ordinances to allow certain behavior or prohibit certain behavior.  Being a Code Enforcement Attorney also means representing staff in front of administrative hearing officers, both in post deprivation due process hearings, administrative citation hearings or administrative civil penalty hearings.  Code Enforcement Attorneys also review administrative warrant applications, review criminal citations for filing with the court, review proposed hearing orders, and other similar tasks.  Some of those tasks include training code enforcement officers about the law, including constitutional protections regarding inspections of private property.  Code Enforcement Attorneys help agencies respond to California Public Records Act requests.  Code Enforcement Attorneys also help defend cities and code enforcement officers from collateral attacks on the process, including quiet title actions to nullify code enforcement liens, requests for injunctions to stop code enforcement actions, and allegations of Federal Civil Rights violations pursuant to 42 United States Code section 1983.  Code Enforcement Attorneys also can file civil abatement actions, including nuisance actions, and receivership actions under the California Health and Safety Code.  In Redlands and San Bernardino, I was involved in all of those functions.

However, in addition to public Code Enforcement Attorneys, a Code Enforcement Attorney can protect the rights of the public.  As a private attorney, I have helped clients that are faced with demands from overly-aggressive code enforcement agencies.  When picking an attorney to help you on a code enforcement matter, it helps to find one that has experience on the other side, prosecuting violations of municipal codes.  Find someone with experience with the Public Records Act, because that’s an important tool in defending against a code enforcement action.  Find someone who is familiar with the political systems in play in the relevant entity, and who can give you realistic advice about your options.

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

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

Where to find San Bernardino County and Riverside County Municipal Codes

Most cities, towns and counties in California codify their ordinances in municipal codes.  Codes are organized versions of ordinances passed by the legislative body of the local agency (such as City Council in incorporated cities, Boards of Supervisors in Counties).  They make it easier to find a particular law and make it easier to give a citation to a particular section.  Cities and Counties often organize their codes into Titles, Chapters and Sections. You will often find that the general scheme of municipal codes are similar.  For example, many local cities entitle Title 6 “Animals.”  Some ordinance are not codified at all, and some local agencies do not codify their ordinances.  Some agencies separately codify their zoning ordinances

Where do you find local San Bernardino County and Riverside County Municipal Codes for cities like San Bernardino, Riverside and Ontario as well as the County of San Bernardino and the County of Riverside?  The official copy is kept by each City Clerk or Clerk of the Board.  Copies of the official code can be found in local libraries, and law libraries.  Interested persons should rely on the original ordinance if possible, then the printed copy, and make sure the copy of the municipal code is current.

However, there are online versions available of local municipal codes.  When I was an Assistant City Attorney and a Deputy City Attorney, I sometimes found errors or omissions in online codes (and even in printed codes).  When in doubt, get a copy of the written code, or check the original, uncodified ordinance.

County of San Bernardino Code

County of Riverside Code

Here are the codes of the five largest cities in each county:

Riverside County

City of Riverside

City of Moreno Valley

City of Temecula

City of Corona

City of Murrieta

San Bernardino County

City of San Bernardino

City of Fontana

City of Ontario

City of Rancho Cucamonga

City of Victorville

 

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

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 County Food Trucks

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I first heard of Gourmet Food Trucks in San Francisco a few years ago.  I had some college friends who often headed to the Fruitvale neighborhood in Oakland to visit a taco truck (until they got robbed at 2 AM), but these are obviously not the same kind of food trucks.  I won’t mention the rhyming pejorative that often accompanied catering trucks that I heard in the San Bernardino of my youth.

The Los Angeles County-based trucks are now well-known, with multiple blogs, television coverage, and Yelp entries dedicated to the trucks.  I went to the Santa Anita Food Truck Festival II and there were 80 trucks.  Even though there were two Nom Nom Trucks at the event, one ran out of food. The Grilled Cheese Truck had an hours-long wait, and I was lucky to have only a twenty-minute wait at the Lobsta Truck for a lobster roll at 11:30 a.m.  Most interestingly, someone was handing out fliers for an event for aspiring food truck owners.  They even claimed to deal with legal issues.  Unfortunately, I was not given the flier.

Street cuisine seems to be the cuisine du jour.  According to San Bernardino County Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford, mobile food trucks (other than at fixed events) are currently not allowed in the County of San Bernardino.  The Rutherford Report (Newsletter), March 2011, Page 1.

Update 6/29/2011

Someone wrote to me about this post.  To clarify, I believe catering trucks are currently permitted in San Bernardino County because catering trucks have pre-made food.  Gourmet Food Trucks involve preparation of food in the truck, and are only allowed at special events like the Food Truck Festival held recently in Ontario.  I know the County is still reviewing, at Supervisor Rutherford’s request, the prohibition on Gourmet Food Trucks.  To clarify further, when I quote an ordinance, I am not stating my own opinion.  I do not hold political opinions on this blog.  Even if I did something in previous employment, that was not my opinion, it was what my client wanted.  Attorneys, particularly public attorneys, do not have the liberty of having opinions.

 

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

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