Chapter 1.28


1.28.010    Purpose and application.

1.28.020    Definitions.

1.28.030    Fines.

1.28.040    Contents of citation.

1.28.050    Service procedures.

1.28.060    Satisfaction of the administrative citation.

1.28.070    Appeal of the administrative citation.

1.28.080    Hearing procedure.

1.28.090    Hearing officer’s decision.

1.28.100    Collection of unpaid fines.

1.28.110    Right to judicial review.

1.28.010 Purpose and application.

A. Any violation of this code may be redressed with an administrative fine through the proceedings set forth under this chapter.

B. It is the intent of this chapter that an administrative fine procedure be established as provided under Government Code Section 53069.4 which may be applied to any violation of this code.

C. The proceedings set forth under this chapter shall not be exclusive and may be in addition to any other available criminal, civil, or administrative remedy established under this code or under applicable state law or otherwise, except that no single offense within the meaning of SMC 1.12.010(F) shall be subject to proceedings under both this chapter and administrative fines proceedings under Chapter 1.30 SMC. This chapter shall be used at the sole discretion of the city.

D. When the proceedings set forth under this chapter are used for any violation of this code that pertains to building, plumbing, electrical or other similar structural or zoning issues that do not create an immediate danger to health or safety, a notice of correction shall be issued by the code enforcement officer containing the following information prior to any other proceedings being commenced under this chapter:

1. All of the contents of a citation required under this chapter with the exception of a fine amount.

2. A date not less than 10 days and not more than 90 days from the date of the notice constituting a reasonable time by which the violation is to be corrected or remedied.

3. The statement that failure to correct or remedy the violation by the date established will result in administrative fine proceedings being commenced under this chapter. (Ord. 03-2018 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018).

1.28.020 Definitions.

A. Responsible Person. For the purposes of this chapter, a “responsible person” is any of the following:

1. A person who causes a code violation to occur;

2. A person who maintains or allows a code violation to continue, by his or her action or failure to act;

3. A person whose agent, employee, or independent contractor causes a code violation by its action or failure to act;

4. A person who is the owner of, and/or a person who is a lessee or sublessee with the current right of possession of, real property where a property-related code violation occurs; or

5. A person who is the on-site manager of a business who normally works daily at the site when the business is open and is responsible for the activities of such premises.

B. For the purposes of this chapter, “person” includes a natural person or legal entity, and the owners, majority stockholders, corporate officers, trustees, and general partners of a legal entity.

C. Enforcement Officer. For the purposes of this chapter, an “enforcement officer” shall mean any city of Sonoma employee or agent of the city with the authority to enforce any provision of this code or this chapter. (Ord. 03-2018 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018).

1.28.030 Fines.

The city council shall establish the amounts of fines for violations of this code imposed pursuant to this chapter through a schedule of fines established by resolution of the city council. The schedule of fines shall specify any increased fines for repeat violations of the same code provision by the same person within one year from the date of the administrative citation. (Ord. 03-2018 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018).

1.28.040 Contents of citation.

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 committed;

B. The code sections or conditions violated and a description of the violation(s);

C. The amount of the fine for the violation(s);

D. An explanation of how the fine shall be paid and the time period by which it shall be paid;

E. Identification of rights of 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;

F. The name and signature of the enforcement officer issuing the citation; and

G. If the violation is one which is continuing, an order to correct the violation and an explanation of the consequences for failing to correct the violation. (Ord. 03-2018 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018).

1.28.050 Service procedures.

Service of an administrative citation shall be made as follows:

A. Personal Service. The enforcement officer shall attempt to locate and personally serve the responsible person and obtain the signature of the responsible person on the administrative citation. 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 enforcement officer does not succeed in personally serving 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 shall 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, provided the citation sent by first class mail is not returned. The location of the responsible person outside of Sonoma County shall be sufficient grounds for service of citation by mail without first attempting personal service. (Ord. 03-2018 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018).

1.28.060 Satisfaction of the administrative citation.

A. Upon receipt of a citation, the responsible person must pay the fine to the city within 15 days from the date of the citation. All fines assessed shall be payable to the city of Sonoma and delivered to City of Sonoma at #1 The Plaza, Sonoma, CA 95476.

B. Payment of a fine shall not excuse or discharge a failure to correct continuing violations nor shall it bar further enforcement action by the city. (Ord. 03-2018 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018).

1.28.070 Appeal of the administrative citation.

A. Time to File an Appeal. Any recipient of an administrative citation may contest that there was a violation of this code or that he or she is the responsible person by completing a “request for hearing” form and returning it to the city within 15 days from the date the administrative citation is served or deemed to have been served, together with an advanced deposit of the fine. Such “request for hearing” forms shall be made available at no charge at City Hall. A failure to file a timely “request for hearing” shall be deemed a waiver of the right to appeal the citation and to seek judicial review. The requirement that the fine be deposited in advance may be waived by the city manager upon a showing by the recipient of an economic hardship resulting to the recipient from having to make an advance deposit, which waiver shall be within the sole discretion of the city manager.

B. Return of Deposit. 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 or that there was no violation as charged in the administrative citation.

C. Hearing Officer. The city manager shall designate the hearing officer for the administrative citation hearing on a rotational or other regular basis which is not subject to change in accordance with the terms and conditions of an agreement between the city and the hearing officer. (Ord. 03-2018 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018).

1.28.080 Hearing procedure.

A. No hearing to contest an administrative citation before a hearing officer shall be held unless and until a timely “request for hearing” form has been completed and submitted, and the fine has been deposited in advance or waived by the city manager as provided under SMC 1.28.070.

B. After receipt of the “request for hearing” and fine deposit, a hearing before the hearing officer shall be set for a date that is not less than 15 and not more than 60 days from the date that the “request for hearing” is filed in accordance with the provisions of this section. The person requesting the hearing shall be notified of the time and place set for the hearing at least 10 days prior to the date of the hearing. The failure of any recipient of an administrative citation to appear at the hearing shall constitute a forfeiture of the fine and be a bar to judicial review of the hearing officer decision based upon a failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

C. The hearing officer shall only consider evidence that is relevant to whether the violation occurred and whether the responsible person has caused or maintained the violation of this code on the date(s) specified in the administrative citation.

D. The responsible person contesting the administrative citation shall be given the opportunity to testify and present witnesses and evidence concerning the administrative citation. The city shall have the burden of proof by preponderance of the evidence to establish that the violation was caused or maintained by the responsible person at or about the location and on or about the date(s) specified in the administrative citation.

E. The administrative citation and any additional document submitted by the issuing officer/employee shall constitute prima facie evidence of the respective facts contained in those documents. Formal rules of evidence shall not apply.

F. Upon request, the recipient of an administrative citation shall be provided with copies of the citations, reports and other documents submitted or relied upon by the issuing officer/employee when issuing the citation. In addition, if the issuing officer/employee submits any additional written reports concerning the administrative citation to the hearing officer for consideration at the hearing, then a copy of said documentation also shall be served by mail on the person requesting the hearing.

G. The hearing officer may continue the hearing and request additional information from the issuing officer/employee or the recipient of the administrative citation prior to issuing a written decision. (Ord. 03-2018 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018).

1.28.090 Hearing officer’s decision.

After considering all of the testimony and evidence submitted at the hearing, the hearing officer may immediately issue a verbal decision which shall be followed by a decision in writing setting forth the findings supporting the decision within 30 days of the hearing or may issue a written decision setting forth the findings supporting the decision within 10 days of the hearing. The decision in writing shall include the reasons for the decision and such written decision shall be final. If the hearing officer determines that the administrative citation should be upheld, then the fine amount on deposit with the city shall be retained by the city. If the hearing officer 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. The written decision shall be served upon the recipient in the manner set forth by SMC 1.28.050. If no appeal is filed with the superior court pursuant to Government Code Section 53069.4 to the written decision within 20 calendar days after service, then the written decision is hereby deemed confirmed. (Ord. 03-2018 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018).

1.28.100 Collection of unpaid fines.

Failure of any person to pay the penalty assessed by an administrative citation within 15 days or such other time limit set forth in the administrative citation or by the time determined by the hearing officer as provided in SMC 1.28.090 shall constitute a debt owed to the city and may be enforced as a personal obligation of the responsible party. Administrative penalties shall accrue interest at the same annual rate as any civil judgment in favor of the city. Interest shall accrue commencing on the twentieth day after the penalty becomes due. In the event a civil action is commenced to collect the administrative penalty, the city shall be entitled to recover all costs associated with the collection of the penalty, including, but not limited to, staff time and attorney fees incurred in the collection of the penalty and those costs set forth in Code of Civil Procedure Section 1033.5. The city may take such other actions as are allowed for enforcement of a civil judgment as provided for pursuant to the Enforcement of Judgments Law, California Code of Civil Procedure Section 680.010 et seq. The remedies set forth in this section are not exclusive. (Ord. 03-2018 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018).

1.28.110 Right to judicial review.

Any person who is aggrieved by the decision of the hearing officer may obtain judicial review of such decision by filing an appeal to be heard in the Sonoma County superior court in accordance with Government Code Section 53069.4. A copy of the notice of appeal shall be served in person or by first class mail upon the city clerk. The appeal provisions of Government Code Section 53069.4 shall be applicable to an appeal under this chapter. (Ord. 03-2018 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018).