Upland City Council Authorizes $1,000 Per Day Code Enforcement Fines

(June 14) UPLAND –A divided city council on Monday approved the schedule of fees and charges for the controversial  administrative citation ordinance the council ratified in April which gives the city the authority to fine an offending resident or business up to $365,000 per year.
Given a second required reading on April 22, the ordinance went into effect on May 22. The city’s action this week provides guidance to city staff on what penalties are to be assessed against code violators, although the council simply voted to approve staff recommendations on what those charges will be. The ordinance specifies two classes of violations, those classified as “general” and “building and safety.”
General violations, which relate mostly to the maintenance of property, will entail fines of  $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense.
Building and safety violations, which cover unpermitted structures, unsecured pools, sewage outflows or buildings in a severe state of disrepair, trigger a $500 fine for a first offense, $750 fine for a second offense and $1,000 fine for a third offense.
In making a case for the ordinance, city officials made two contradictory arguments on its behalf. One rationale was that the stepped up fines would allow the city to force offenders into compliance. The second rationale was that it would allow the city to recover its costs in making the enforcement effort.
Opponents of the ordinance countered that residents without the resources to maintain their own property would likely be unable to pay the fines. Unpaid fines are recorded as a tax lien against the offending property, giving the city the right, after five years, to confiscate and sell the property. The accumulated fines in such cases would far exceed the costs of enforcing the code in each specific instance. City officials initially wanted to charge an hourly rate of $92.50 for staff time in processing code enforcement actions but under the ordinance passed this week dropped that to $55, according to the staff report on the matter. .
Mayor Ray Musser, who with his official municipal advisor Tom Mitchell initially championed the ordinance and voted for it upon its first reading on April 8, voted against it on April 22. Councilman Glen Bozar opposed giving city staff members administrative citation authority on both April 8 and April 22.
Opponents cited constitutional grounds in seeking to persuade the council to reject the ordinance, saying it violates due process by allowing the city to serve as the citing authority, arbitrating authority, hearing authority and fining authority. Musser, after his turnaround, acknowledged this.
“I’m all for good code compliance and saving the city and its taxpayers money,” he said, “but I see now the ordinance gives us too much authority. We are giving out the citations and we are collecting the fines. We say we are putting in the added check and balance of an independent hearing officer but that hearing officer will be getting paid by the city of Upland to resolve the matter and I feel that is just not an arm’s length transaction.”
Bozar and Musser’s votes were not sufficient to keep the ordinance from passing on April 22, as council members Debbie Stone, Gino Filippi and Brendan Brandt supported it.  This week, Stone Filippi and Brandt supported the fine schedule. Bozar opposed it and Musser abstained.

Leave a Reply