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The D.A. and Dan DeVaul 

County's criminal charges work against a solution

You can’t help but love working for a man who regularly starts sentences with, “I’ll bet you two bits to a dog turd … .”

For the past nine months I have had the privilege of working as Project Manager at the Sunny Acres Ranch. I was three months out of Cal Poly and two days back from Kenya, Africa when I showed up at Dan DeVaul’s doorstep looking for a new challenge. Be careful of what you ask for! I really enjoy working for the fine establishment that is Sunny Acres and to have known the founder, Mr. Dan DeVaul. I work everyday with Dan and I feel like I know him quite well. I know his hopes, his dreams and all of the frustrations and idiosyncrasies that make him a diamond in the rough.

Dan’s fascinating quirks aside, I would like to comment on the challenge here at Sunny Acres ... We need to add seven bedrooms to the farmhouse so that this winter residents can move out of tents and into a warm bed, bottom line. However, it seems that this will never occur as long as code violations exist on Dan’s property. We have a problem with Code Enforcement officers from the SLO County Department of Planning and Building and they have a problem with us. It is becoming apparent that this department is holding Sunny Acres in a headlock of code violations for the specific purpose of preventing any legitimate growth for the program.

Code Enforcement has most recently responded to Dan’s good faith efforts to comply with its codes by filing a criminal complaint with the District Attorney. It would be more seemly, one might think, to take a non-combative stance against an individual who has opened his land to house our county’s most disenfranchised citizens.

Part of my job has been to resolve the violations in question. A drive past the ranch along Los Osos Valley Road is a significantly more attractive drive these days. We are very grateful to all the folks who have stopped by to tell us what a good job we have done on our ongoing cleanup. Ongoing being the key word here. With our limited resources, and while caring for anywhere between 25 and 55 people, we have still managed to make significant improvements in meeting compliance.

Criminal charges. Let’s see, according to Webster’s we’re talking, “illegal, wrong, against the law, unlawful, illicit, immoral, scandalous, excessive, iniquitous, senseless, outrageous, wicked, villainous, crooked, felonious, delinquent, offensive” and so on.

Code Enforcement has a problem with our roadside stand. They don’t want us selling barrels and wood. They are requiring that at least 50 percent of what we sell on the property be produced on the property. We have planted a three-acre crop parcel to comply. We admit it: we are obviously outrageous and wicked on this one. We also have a problem with scrap metal. We have removed 75,000 pounds to this date and we plan to remove more. This is a lengthy and arduous task. We haven’t finished the job – that’s absolutely villainous! We have too many stored non-agricultural vehicles. Over the past several months we have removed over 25 vehicles and are in the process of selling and/or removing the remainder. You know how hard it is to sell a car, try selling 25 dirty, rusty cars. That’s in addition to the vehicles we’ve already crushed and taken off as scrap metal. Okay, we admit it—this one is senseless and excessive, but we’re working on it! We are not importing any material to the property and have removed the 84 cubic yards the county objected to. Scandalous, no doubt! The stucco building is closed and has been vacant since the raid in February. We are requesting two years to fix the stucco building and I am sure you have seen people in tents along the road. There are currently 10 people still in tents. Now that’s undeniably senseless and iniquitous: imagine, housing the homeless! We have three mentally ill people in “stored” mobile homes and RV’s. Call Dan immoral, because he simply refuses to force these individuals into homelessness for code violations. What we’d really like to do is build an addition to the farmhouse and house them a little more comfortably.

We need permission and a basic permit to add legitimate housing for those who need it the most and have had nothing but roadblocks. Getting fined, violated, and forced from illegitimate housing while attempting to offer legitimate housing, to no avail, makes this whole picture absurd. ? Steve Jones can be reached through New Times editor Ed Connolly at

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