Chapter 14.30
NUISANCE ABATEMENT

Sections:

14.30.010    Purpose.

14.30.020    Public nuisances included.

14.30.030    Abatement by civil action.

14.30.040    Abatement by proceedings before city council.

14.30.050    Form of notice.

14.30.060    Hearing.

14.30.070    Further proceedings by authorized city officer.

14.30.080    Actual abatement.

14.30.090    Cost account.

14.30.100    Special assessment.

14.30.110    Public nuisance by judicial decree.

14.30.120    Summary abatement of nuisance.

14.30.010 Purpose.

Pursuant to Government Code Sections 38771, et seq., the city council establishes the procedures set forth in this section for the purpose of the abatement of nuisances. (Ord. 90-6 § 1, 1990).

14.30.020 Public nuisances included.

A. The provisions of this section shall be applicable to any nuisance heretofore or hereafter defined as a nuisance by any ordinance of the city, section of this code, resolution of the city council or statute of the state. Except when provisions of this code relative to abatement procedures are in conflict with these general provisions, the specific provision shall prevail. A public nuisance further includes, but is not limited to, any unlawful obstruction or encroachment upon or to any public property, any public street, highway, right-of-way, park or building.

B. Nuisance Standards – General Property Nuisances Defined. In addition to all laws and regulations already listed or which will be listed in the future within the Sonoma Municipal Code, it shall be unlawful and declared a public nuisance for any person owning, renting, leasing, occupying, or having charge or possession of any property in the city of Sonoma to maintain such property in such a manner that any of the following conditions are found to exist:

1. Refuse and waste matter which by reason of its location and character interferes with the reasonable enjoyment of property by neighbors or is in such a condition of deterioration that the same constitutes visual blight, or reduces the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood, or is offensive to the senses, or detrimentally affects property in the surrounding neighborhood or community;

2. Polluted or stagnant water, which, because of its nature or location, constitutes an unhealthy or unsafe condition;

3. Maintenance of property in such condition of deterioration or disrepair that same causes visual blight, or reduces the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood, or is offensive to the senses, or is detrimental to nearby properties, or constitutes a hazard to persons or property including, but not limited to:

a. Buildings which are abandoned, partially destroyed for a period of at least six months, or left in an unreasonable state of partial construction. An “unreasonable state of partial construction” is defined as any unfinished building or structure that has been in the course of construction for two years or more and where the appearance or other conditions of said unfinished building or structure constitutes visual blight, or reduces the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood, or is offensive to the senses, or is detrimental to nearby properties.

b. Unpainted buildings and those having dry rot, warping, or termite infestation. Any building on which the condition of existing paint has become so deteriorated as to permit substantial decay, checking, cracking, peeling, chalking, dry rot, warping, or termite infestation on 50 percent or more of the building.

c. Buildings with missing doors and/or windows containing broken glass and/or no glass at all where the window is of a type which normally contains glass. Plywood or other materials used to cover such window space and/or doors, if permitted under this code, shall be painted in a color or colors compatible with the remainder of the building.

d. Building exteriors, walls, fences, gates, hedges, structures, driveways, sidewalks, walkways, or alleys which for at least 72 consecutive hours are maintained in such condition as to be defective, unsightly, or in such a condition of deterioration or disrepair that the same constitutes visual blight or reduces the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood or is offensive to the senses or is detrimental to nearby properties.

e. The accumulation of dirt, litter, or debris in vestibules, doorways, or the adjoining sidewalks, passages or breezeways of a building for 72 consecutive hours or more.

f. The accumulation, disposal, keeping, scattering or dispersal of used or damaged lumber; junk; trash; debris; salvage materials; abandoned, discarded or unused objects or equipment; mattresses or furniture; stoves; refrigerators; sinks; toilets; cabinets; or air conditioners, water heaters, or other household fixtures; vehicles and vehicular parts; or equipment stored either (1) so as to be visible from a public street, alley, or from any adjoining property for at least 72 consecutive hours; or (2) so as otherwise to constitute a harborage for rodents or pests or a detriment to health, safety, and welfare of the occupants of the property or nearby properties, the neighborhood and/or the city. Nothing herein shall preclude the appropriate placement of stacked firewood for use on the premises.

g. Attractive nuisances dangerous to children and other persons including, but not limited to, abandoned, broken, or neglected household appliances, equipment and machinery; lack of malfunctioning or unmaintained safety devices, safety equipment, fences or barriers, as required by the city’s building code, for pools, spas, ponds, and excavations.

h. Construction equipment or machinery of any type or description parked or stored on property for at least 72 consecutive hours when it is readily visible from a public street, alley or adjoining property, except while excavation, construction or demolition operations covered by an active building permit are in progress on the subject property or an adjoining property or where the property is zoned for storage of construction equipment and/or machinery.

i. Improper maintenance of any sign and/or failure to remove any sign which advertises a business or product which is no longer sold on the property.

j. Storage of inoperative, nonregistered, abandoned, wrecked, dismantled, or unregistered vehicles, including recreational vehicles as defined in the Health and Safety Code Section 18010, for at least 72 consecutive hours.

k. Property, including, but not limited to, building exteriors which are maintained for at least 72 consecutive hours in such a condition as to be detrimental to the public health, safety, or general welfare, or in such a manner as to constitute a public nuisance as defined by Civil Code Section 3480.

l. Dead, decayed, diseased, or hazardous trees, weeds, and overgrown or uncultivated vegetation which are allowed to remain on property for at least 72 consecutive hours which are a hazardous condition to pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic and/or which are likely to harbor rats, vermin, or constitute visual blight, or reduce the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood, or are offensive to the senses, or are detrimental to nearby properties, or which may cause a danger to public safety or are a hazard.

m. Any wall, sign, fence, gate, hedge, or structure maintained in such condition of deterioration or disrepair as to constitute a hazard to persons or property, or constitute visual blight, or reduces the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood, or is offensive to the senses, or is detrimental to nearby properties.

n. Any property with a pooled accumulation of hazardous material, or a hazardous material flowing onto public rights-of-way or adjacent property, or excessive accumulations of a hazardous material on paved surfaces, buildings, walls or fences.

o. The nonmaintenance of any yard which causes excessive dust or airborne pollutants to the extent that, in the opinion of the enforcement officer or the city council, it causes damage or is detrimental to nearby properties, and/or which contains the accumulation of debris, or constitutes visual blight, or reduces the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood, or is offensive to the senses, or is detrimental to nearby properties.

p. The keeping, storing, depositing or accumulating on the premises for an unreasonable time: dirt, sand, gravel, concrete or other similar materials that constitute visual blight, or reduce the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood, or are offensive to the senses, or are detrimental to nearby properties, except when used for current excavations, construction or demolition projects for which an active building permit has been obtained. (Ord. 02-2005 § 2, 2005; Ord. 90-6 § 2, 1990).

14.30.030 Abatement by civil action.

A civil action may be brought in the name of the people of the state to abate a public nuisance as defined in this section, by the city attorney, or the district attorney or county counsel of the county, and each of said officers shall have concurrent right to bring such action for a public nuisance within this city. The city attorney shall bring such action when directed to do so by the city council. (Ord. 90-6 § 3, 1990).

14.30.040 Abatement by proceedings before city council.

If the public nuisance is to be abated by resolution and/or order of the city council, the hereinafter prescribed procedures shall be as follows:

Written notice of appearance before the city council shall be given to the property owner or owners at least 10 days prior to the date set for hearing before the city council. Service of the notice shall be made either by personal delivery thereof to the person to be notified or by deposit in the United States mail to such person to be notified at the address shown upon the last tax roll or as shown upon some other public record pertaining to the matter to which such notice is directed. Service by mail shall be deemed to have been completed at the time of deposit in the post office.

A copy of the notice shall be conspicuously posted in front of the property on which the nuisance exists or in any other location of the property wherein it will most likely give notice to the owner or owners, at least 10 days prior to the hearing date.

A notice shall direct the owner or owners of the property on which the nuisance exists to appear before the city council at a stated time and place and show cause why the nuisance should not be abated as herein provided. (Ord. 90-6 § 4, 1990).

14.30.050 Form of notice.

The notice provided for by SMC 14.30.040 shall be substantially in the following form:

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE ABATEMENT OF PUBLIC NUISANCE

TO: ___________

YOU ARE HEREBY ORDERED to appear before the City Council of the City of Sonoma on the ____ day of __________, 19___, at the Municipal Court/Council Chambers, 177 First Street West, Sonoma, California at the hour of _____ p.m., or as soon thereafter as the matter can be heard, and show cause, if any you have, why that certain ________________________ __________________________ should not be condemned as a public nuisance and said nuisance be abated by its removal or __________ and why the cost of such abatement should not be assessed upon the property from which the nuisance is abated, such cost to constitute a lien upon such property until paid.

Dated this ____ day of _________, 19___.

__________________________ City Clerk

(Ord. 90-6 § 5, 1990).

14.30.060 Hearing.

A. At the time stated in this notice, the city council shall hear and consider all objections or protests, if any, to the proposed abatement of the public nuisance, subject to the following provisions:

1. Oath or Affirmation. All oral evidence or testimony shall be taken only on oath or affirmation. The city clerk may administer the oath. In a given case where many witnesses are expected to testify, the presiding officer or the city clerk has the discretion to have all prospective witnesses rise and be sworn at the same time at the outset of the proceedings.

a. The oath or affirmation may be administered as follows, the person who swears or affirms expressing his assent when addressed in the following form:

You do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be), that the evidence you shall give in this issue (or matter), pending before this body, shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God.

2. Evidence. The hearing need not be conducted according to technical rules relating to evidence and witnesses. Any relevant evidence shall be admitted if it is the sort of evidence on which responsible persons are accustomed to rely in the conduct of serious affairs, regardless of the existence of any common law or statutory rule which might make improper the admission of such evidence over objection in civil actions. Hearsay evidence may be used for the purpose of supplementing or explaining other evidence but shall not be sufficient in itself to support a finding unless it would be admissible over objection in civil actions. The rules of privilege shall be effective to the extent that they are otherwise required by statute to be recognized at the hearing, and irrelevant and unduly repetitious evidence shall be excluded.

3. Witnesses. In a contest proceeding, each side shall have these rights: to call and examine witnesses; to introduce exhibits; to cross-examine opposing witnesses on any matter relevant to the issues; to impeach any witness and to rebut the evidence against him. The presiding officer has the discretionary authority to: limit the number of witnesses to testify for each side where their testimony would be cumulative or repetitive in nature; require each side to appoint one spokesman for purposes of cross-examination; limit or curtail any abusive, argumentative, repetitive, or otherwise irrelevant cross-examination; and in conformance with other rules in this code, place reasonable time limits on the right to cross-examine and the presenting of evidence.

B. The hearing may be continued from time to time. After final action is taken by the city council on the disposition of any protests or objections which are received, the council may declare, by resolution, that a public nuisance exists and may order an appropriate city officer to abate the nuisance. The council may further order that the cost of any such abatement will be assessed upon the property from which the nuisance is abated, and that such costs shall constitute a lien upon such property until paid.

The decision of the city council shall be final and conclusive, unless the owner or owners file, within 15 days after the aforesaid decision is rendered, an action and/or appeal to the court of competent jurisdiction. (Ord. 90-6 § 6, 1990).

14.30.070 Further proceedings by authorized city officer.

At any time within 30 days after the passage of any resolution directing the abatement of a nuisance, the city officer authorized to abate the nuisance shall serve and post a copy thereof in the manner of giving notice as prescribed in SMC 14.30.040.

Furthermore, if the city council, at the aforesaid hearing, determines that the abatement of the nuisance is likely to cause a significant depreciation in the value of the property upon which the nuisance is located, the city may order that all mortgages and/or beneficiaries under any deeds of trust of record on the property be served with a copy of the resolution in the manner prescribed in this section.

At any time following a period of five days after the serving and posting of a copy of the resolution ordering abatement as required above, the city officer may abate the nuisance as directed by the city council. (Ord. 90-6 § 7, 1990).

14.30.080 Actual abatement.

The city officer may direct any officer or his assistant, deputy, employee, contracting agent or other representative to enter upon private property for the purpose of abating the public nuisance. Should it be practicable to sell or salvage any material procured from the aforesaid abatement, it may be sold at private or public sale at the best price obtainable and an itemized account of the proceeds shall be maintained by the authorized city officer. Such proceeds, if any, shall be deposited in an general fund of the city and shall be credited against the cost of abatement as provided for herein. (Ord. 90-6 § 8, 1990).

14.30.090 Cost account.

The officer abating the nuisance shall keep an account of the cost of abatement and shall render an itemized written report to the city council, showing the cost of removing and/or abating the nuisance.

Before the report is submitted to the city council, a copy shall be posted for at least three days on the bulletin board of the City Hall, with a notice of the time when the report will be submitted to the city council for confirmation. A copy of the account and notice shall also be mailed to the owner of the property, at the address shown on the last tax roll, at least 10 days prior to submission to the city council.

At the time fixed for receiving and considering the report, the city council shall hear it and any objections by the property owner liable to be assessed for the work of abatement. Thereupon the city council may make such modifications in the report as it deems necessary, after which, by order or resolution, the report shall be confirmed. (Ord. 90-6 § 9, 1990).

14.30.100 Special assessment.

The cost of such abatement as determined by the city council shall become a special assessment and lien against the aforesaid property, which assessment may be collected at the same time and in the same manner as ordinary municipal taxes are collected, and shall be subject to the same penalties and the same procedure and sale in case of delinquency as provided for ordinary municipal taxes. All laws applicable to the levy, collection and enforcement of municipal taxes shall be applicable to such special assessment. (Ord. 90-6 § 10, 1990).

14.30.110 Public nuisance by judicial decree.

If a public nuisance has been declared by judicial decree, after the defendant(s) receive(s) notice of entry of judgment as prescribed by law, and the time within which an appeal may be filed has expired, all procedures of SMC 14.30.080 and 14.30.100 shall be applicable and shall be followed in the same manner as if a resolution by city council had been passed declaring a public nuisance to exist. (Ord. 90-6 § 11, 1990).

14.30.120 Summary abatement of nuisance.

A. Whenever there is imminent or immediate danger to a significant portion of the public, by the existence or continuance of any nuisance endangering the public health, welfare or safety, arising from any act, condition or use or occupation of property, or otherwise amounting to a nuisance per se, it is the duty of the city council or the appropriate officials of the city to abate such nuisance.

B. Whenever conditions exist which are immediately dangerous to life, limb, property or safety of occupants of a dangerous structure as determined by the city council, city manager or city building official, either the building official or city manager may order the structure vacated as provided in the Uniform Code for Abatement of Dangerous Buildings, Sections 403 and 404, and shall be considered as a summary abatement.

C. A summary abatement of any nuisance shall be at the sole expense of the persons creating, causing, committing or maintaining it, and the expense of the nuisance, in addition to a lien on the property, shall be a personal obligation of the property owner as provided in California Government Code Section 38773, including attorneys fees and costs of a foreclosure action. (Ord. 90-6 § 12, 1990).