§ 1203    Administrative Citations.

§ 1203.1    Legislative Findings and Statement of Purpose.

§ 1203.2    Definitions.

§ 1203.3    Authority and Fines.

§ 1203.4    Service Procedures.

§ 1203.5    Contents of Notice.

§ 1203.6    Satisfaction of Administrative Citation.

§ 1203.7    Appeal of Administrative Citation.

§ 1203.8    Hearing Officer/Hearing Panel.

§ 1203.9    Hearing Procedure.

§ 1203.10    Hearing Officer’s/Hearing Panel’s Decision.

§ 1203.11    Failure to Pay Fines.

§ 1203.12    Right to Judicial Review.

§ 1203.13    Notices.

§ 1203.14    Civil Actions.

§ 1203.15    Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees.

1203 Administrative Citations.

CMC 1203, et seq., shall establish the City’s regulations for issuing administrative citations. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.1 Legislative Findings and Statement of Purpose.

(a) The City Council finds that there is a need for an alternative method of enforcement for various violations of the Carson Municipal Code. The City Council also finds that an appropriate method for enforcement of various violations is an administrative citation program that will reduce the burden on the judicial system while providing full due process for those cited.

(b) The procedures established in this Chapter are in addition to criminal, civil or other legal remedies that may be available to the City to enforce violations of the Code or applicable State Codes.

(c) The City Council finds and determines that enforcement of the provisions of the Carson Municipal Code and conditions on entitlements or permits are municipal affairs as well as matters of purely local concern to the citizens of Carson.

(d) The City Council finds that the adoption and implementation of the administrative citation program is within the power and authority of the City of Carson and will achieve the following goals:

(i) To promote and protect the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the City of Carson;

(ii) To help ensure compliance with the Code and State Codes, ordinances and regulations in a timely and efficient manner;

(iii) To provide for an administrative process to appeal the imposition of administrative citations and fines that will fully comport with due process and provide those cited with the right to a fair hearing without the need for legal counsel;

(iv) To provide a method to hold parties responsible when they fail or refuse to comply with the provisions of the Code, ordinances, agreements or terms and conditions on entitlements in the City of Carson;

(v) To reduce the burden on the judicial system and minimize the time and expense of defending the citation on the part of the person cited.

(e) Use of this Chapter shall be at the sole discretion of the City and nothing in this Chapter shall preclude the City from enforcing City law through other civil, administrative and criminal remedies. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.2 Definitions.

The following definitions apply to the use of these terms for the purposes of this Section:

“Citation” means an administrative citation issued pursuant to this Section to remedy a violation.

“Citee” means any person served with an administrative citation charging him or her as a responsible person for a violation.

“Code” means the Carson Municipal Code.

“Code Enforcement Officer” means any employee or agent of the City of Carson designated to enforce any provision of this Code.

“Department” means any department of the City of Carson that shall have issued an administrative citation.

“Hearing officer” or “hearing panel” means a person or a group of people up to and including the City of Carson Public Safety Commission designated by the City Manager to serve as the hearing officer or hearing panel for administrative hearings hereunder.

“Person” means a natural person or a legal entity that is also an owner, tenant, lessee or other person with any right to possession or control of the property where a violation of this Code exists.

“Responsible person” means a person who causes a Code violation to occur, or allows a violation to exist or continue, by his or her action or failure to act, or whose agent, employee, or independent contractor causes a violation to occur, or allows a violation to exist or continue. There is a rebuttable presumption that the record owner of a parcel, as shown on the County’s latest equalized property tax assessment rolls, and an occupant or lessee of a parcel has notice of any violation existing on said property. For the purposes of this Chapter, there may be more than one responsible person for a violation. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.3 Authority and Fines.

(a) Any person violating any provision of the Carson Municipal Code may be issued an administrative citation by a Code Enforcement Officer as provided in this Chapter. A violation of this Code includes, but is not limited to, all violations of the Code, the Uniform Codes adopted by the City Council, or the failure to comply with any condition imposed by any entitlement, permit, agreement or environmental document issued or approved pursuant to this Code.

(b) Each and every day a violation of the Code exists constitutes a separate and distinct offense.

(c) A fine shall be assessed by means of an administrative citation issued by the Code Enforcement Officer and shall be payable directly to the City’s Finance Department.

(d) Fines shall be assessed in the amounts specified by resolution of the City Council, or where no amount is specified:

(i) A fine not exceeding $100.00 for a first violation;

(ii) A fine not exceeding $200.00 for a second violation of the same ordinance or permit within one (1) year from the date of the first violation;

(iii) A fine not exceeding $500.00 for each additional violation of the same ordinance or permit within one (1) year from the date of the first violation. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.4 Service Procedures.

(a) An administrative citation on a form approved by the City Manager may be issued to the responsible person by a Code Enforcement Officer for violations of the Code or applicable State Code in the following manner:

(i) Personal Service. In any case where an administrative citation is issued:

a. The Code Enforcement Officer shall attempt to locate and personally serve the responsible person and obtain the signature of the responsible person on the administrative citation.

b. If the responsible person served refuses or fails to sign the administrative citation, the failure or refusal to sign shall not affect the validity of the administrative citation or of subsequent proceedings.

(b) Service of Citation by Mail. If the Code Enforcement Officer is unable to locate the responsible person, the administrative citation shall be mailed to the responsible person by certified mail, postage prepaid with a requested return receipt. Simultaneously, the citation may be sent by first class mail. If the citation is sent by certified mail and returned unsigned, then service shall be deemed effective pursuant to first class mail, unless the citation sent by first class mail is returned.

(c) Service by Citation by Posting Notice. If the Code Enforcement Officer does not succeed in personally serving the responsible person, or by certified mail or regular mail, the Code Enforcement Officer shall post the administrative citation on any real property within the City in which the City has knowledge that the responsible person has an interest as an owner or tenant, and such posting shall be deemed effective service. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.5 Contents of Notice.

Each administrative citation shall contain the following information:

(a) Date, approximate time, and address or definite description of the location where the violation(s) was observed;

(b) A description of the violation(s);

(c) An order to the responsible person to correct the violations within the time specified, and an explanation of the consequences of failure to correct the violation(s);

(d) The amount of the daily fine to be imposed for each of the violation(s) of this Code;

(e) The date or dates when the fine or fines will be imposed unless the violation or violations of this Code are corrected prior to the date or dates specified in the citation;

(f) A notice that each violation of the Code also constitutes a nuisance and that collection of any unpaid fines or nuisance abatement costs may be enforced as an assessment or lien against the real property where the Code violation occurred and that unpaid assessments can result in the property being sold after three (3) years by the County Assessor;

(g) Identification of the rights to an appeal, including the time within which the citation may be contested and the place to obtain a request for hearing form to contest the administrative citation;

(h) A statement advising the citee that he may request permission to pay the fine in as many as five (5) installments, if an installment plan is approved by the City’s Finance Officer pursuant to CMC 1203.6; and

(i) The name and signature of the Code Enforcement Officer. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.6 Satisfaction of Administrative Citation.

Upon receipt of a citation, the responsible person must do the following:

(i) Unless an installment plan has been approved pursuant to subsection (ii) of this Section, pay the fine to the City within fifteen (15) days from the correction date of the administrative citation. All fines assessed shall be payable to the City of Carson via the Finance Office. Payment of a fine shall not excuse or discharge the failure to correct the violation(s), nor shall it bar further enforcement action by the City.

(ii) The citee of a fine of $500.00 or more may submit a request for permission to pay the fine in as many as five (5) monthly installments on a pre-approved form to the Finance Department within fifteen (15) calendar days of the date of issuance of the citation. The Finance Department shall notify the citee of the dates on which the installment payments shall be due, the procedure that citee must follow for submitting payments and the processing charge for setting up a payment plan, which charge shall be added to the first installment payment. The citee’s failure to make the agreed-upon payments on the specified dates will result in an additional $100.00 fee, suspension of the payment plan and immediate collection activity.

(iii) Remedy the violation(s), if the violation(s) is of such a nature that it can be remedied. If the violation(s) is corrected before the date provided on the citation, and at the discretion of the Code Enforcement Officer, no fine shall be imposed. If the responsible person fails to correct the violation(s), subsequent administrative citations may be issued for the same violation(s). The amount of the fine for failure to correct the violation shall increase at a rate specified in this Chapter or by ordinance. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 07-1372, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.7 Appeal of Administrative Citation.

Any recipient of an administrative citation may contest a citation by completing a request for hearing form and returning it to the City within fifteen (15) days from the correction date of the administrative citation, together with an advanced deposit of the fine and a statement of the grounds for contesting the citation. A citee may contest the citation and the proposed fine by denying that the citee owns, possesses, or controls the property where the violation exists, denying that the citee is responsible for the violation described in the citation, denying that a violation exists or existed, or proving that the violation was corrected within the period described in the citation or such further period granted by the Director. Any issue or defense at the hearing that was not included on the request form from the citee may be disregarded by the hearing officer.

Any administrative citation fine which has been deposited shall be refunded if it is determined, after a hearing, that the person charged in the administrative citation was not responsible for the violation(s) or that there was no violation(s) as charged in the administrative citation. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.8 Hearing Officer/Hearing Panel.

The Carson City Manager shall designate the hearing officer/hearing panel for the administrative citation hearing. The hearing officer/hearing panel shall not be a direct City employee(s). The employment, performance evaluation, compensation and benefits of the hearing officer/hearing panel, if any, shall not be directly or indirectly conditioned upon the number of administrative citation fines upheld by the hearing officer/hearing panel. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.9 Hearing Procedure.

(a) No hearing to contest an administrative citation before a hearing officer/hearing panel shall be held unless and until a request for hearing form has been completed and submitted, and the total amount of the fine has been deposited in advance.

(b) A hearing before the hearing officer/hearing panel shall be set for a date that is not less than fifteen (15) and not more than sixty (60) days from the date that the request for hearing is filed in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter. The person requesting the hearing shall be notified of the time and place set for the hearing at least ten (10) days prior to the date of the hearing. The hearing shall proceed solely on the issues and defenses raised in the request for a hearing filed by the citee and may disregard any matter not contested in said request.

(c) The hearing officer/hearing panel shall only consider evidence that is relevant to whether the violation(s) occurred and whether the responsible person has caused or maintained the violation(s) of the Code on the date(s) specified in the administrative citation. The City shall have the burden to prove the facts of the citation by a preponderance of the evidence. The citation and other reports prepared by a Code Enforcement Officer concerning the violation or the attempted correction of the citation shall be admitted into evidence. In addition, the City may present such other evidence and reports as may be necessary or helpful to the hearing officer/hearing panel to resolve the issues raised by the citee.

(d) The responsible person contesting the administrative citation shall be given the opportunity to testify and present witnesses and evidence concerning the administrative citation.

(e) The failure of any person requesting a hearing to appear at the administrative citation hearing shall constitute a forfeiture of the fine and a failure to exhaust their administrative remedies.

(f) The administrative citation and any additional documents submitted by the Code Enforcement Officer shall constitute prima facie evidence of the respective facts contained in those documents.

(g) If the Code Enforcement Officer submits an additional written report concerning the administrative citation to the hearing officer/hearing panel for consideration at the hearing, then a copy of this report also shall be served by mail on the person requesting the hearing at least five (5) days prior to the date of the hearing.

(h) At least ten (10) days prior to the hearing, the recipient of an administrative citation shall be provided with copies of the citations, reports and other documents submitted or relied upon by the Code Enforcement Officer. Formal rules of evidence shall not apply.

(i) The hearing officer/hearing panel may continue the hearing and request additional information from the Code Enforcement Officer or the recipient of the administrative citation prior to issuing a written decision. All continuance requests must be made in person at the hearing. When a continuance is granted, a new hearing date shall be set by the hearing officer/hearing panel.

(j) The hearing officer/hearing panel shall have the authority to issue a subpoena. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.10 Hearing Officer’s/Hearing Panel’s Decision.

(a) After considering all of the testimony and evidence submitted at the hearing, the hearing officer/hearing panel shall issue a written decision within ten (10) days of the hearing to uphold or deny the administrative citation and shall list in the decision the reasons for that decision. The decision of the hearing officer/hearing panel shall be final.

(b) If the hearing officer/hearing panel determines that the administrative citation should be upheld, then the fine amount on deposit with the City shall be retained by the City.

(c) If the hearing officer/hearing panel determines that the administrative citation should be canceled and the fine was deposited with the City, then the City shall promptly refund the amount of the deposited fine.

(d) The recipient of the administrative citation shall be served with a copy of the hearing officer’s/hearing panel’s written decision in the manner prescribed by CMC 1307. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.11 Failure to Pay Fines.

The failure of any person to pay the civil fines assessed by an administrative citation within the time specified on the citation may result in the matter being referred to the Finance Officer to file a claim with the Small Claims Court. Alternatively, the City may pursue any other legal remedy to collect the civil fines. The City may also recover its collections costs according to proof. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.12 Right to Judicial Review.

Any person aggrieved by an administrative decision of a hearing officer/hearing panel on an administrative citation may obtain review of the administrative decision by filing a petition for review with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, in accordance with the timelines and provisions as set forth in California Government Code Section 53069.4. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.13 Notices.

(a) The administrative citation and all notices to be given by this Chapter shall be served on the responsible person in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter and CMC 1307, where applicable.

(b) Failure to receive any notice specified in this Chapter does not affect the validity of proceedings conducted hereunder. (Ord. 06-1346, § 1; Ord. 13-1511, § 1)

1203.14 Civil Actions.

(a) Commencement of Action. If a Code Enforcement Officer has issued a notice of public nuisance and/or an order to abate a public nuisance under any part of the CMC to a responsible person and the corrective or abatement work specified in the notice or order has not been completed within the time stated therein, the City, through its City Attorney or other authorized legal counsel, may commence a civil action against the responsible person in a court of competent jurisdiction to prevent, restrain, correct, and/or abate the Code violation or public nuisance, and to recover its enforcement and abatement costs, including reasonable prevailing party attorneys’ fees and costs, as well as any other damages and relief to which the City may be entitled, as authorized by this section, CMC 1203.15, and applicable State law.

(b) Notice of Pendency. Upon the commencement of a civil action, the City may record a notice of pendency of action in each case where the Code violation or public nuisance affects title to, or the right to possession of, specific real property, or use of an easement, against the real property owned, leased, or possessed by a responsible party, as provided in Code of Civil Procedure Section 405 et seq.

(c) Relief Sought. The City may seek any order or judgment from a court against any responsible person that is reasonably likely to prevent, restrain, correct, or abate the violation or public nuisance or to compensate the City therefor including, but not limited to, any and all of following:

(1) Injunctive relief, including temporary restraining orders, preliminary injunctions, and permanent injunctions to restrain and enjoin the responsible person from causing, permitting or continuing a public nuisance, from using or occupying any real property, buildings, dwellings or structures in violation of this Code or in a manner that constitutes a public nuisance, from engaging in specified actions which are reasonably likely to lead to a public nuisance or a violation of the Code, or from any act or omission which threatens or endangers the public health, safety or welfare;

(2) Orders requiring the correction of a public nuisance or a violation of this Code by repairing, rehabilitating, razing, demolishing or removing any building or structure, or by grading, clearing, grubbing or cleaning any real property by removing trash and debris, by ceasing any use or activity that is a public nuisance or that is in violation of any provision of this Code, or by other appropriate remedy approved by the court;

(3) Judgments for recovery of damages incurred by the City, awards of enforcement costs and any abatement costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred by the City related to the Code violation or public nuisance, and for such other and further relief as the court may grant;

(4) Pursuant to California Government Code Section 38773.7, upon entry of a second or subsequent civil order or judgment within a two (2) year period finding that a responsible person is responsible for a public nuisance under the CMC, the court may order the responsible person to pay treble damages to the City equal to three (3) times amount of the enforcement and abatement costs incurred by the City related to the Code violation or public nuisance. (Ord. 21-2117, § 3)

1203.15 Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees.

Pursuant to California Government Code Section 38773.5(b), in any action, special proceeding, or administrative proceeding initiated by the City for the purpose of correcting or abating any Code violation or public nuisance, the prevailing party in said action or proceeding shall be entitled to recovery of that party’s attorneys’ fees in an amount not to exceed the amount of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by the City in said action or proceeding. Notwithstanding the foregoing, recovery of prevailing party attorneys’ fees pursuant to this section shall be limited to those individual actions or proceedings in which the City elects, at the initiation of that individual action or proceeding, to seek recovery of its own attorneys’ fees. (Ord. 21-2117, § 4)