Code Enforcement – Don’t Come Knocking on My Door

By Jamie Simone
Posted on Freedom Advocates on March 19, 2008 

Right now we don’t go knocking on doors.” The ambiguity of this statement causes one to seriously question, “When exactly will they be pounding on my door?” 


Santa Cruz County, CA There was a lot of hemming and hawing at The Board of Supervisors meeting on March 18, 2008 regarding an ordinance for accessory structures. (item 67 Board of Supervisors Agenda).


Distinct groups gathered together to voice their reactions to the proposed ordinance. Sierra Club members proclaimed that property owners obtain government permits (failure to do so should land a citizen in jail, according to one speaker) while pro-Staff citizens wasted everyone’s time by simply stating and re-stating their support for the ordinance. There were others who spoke, very concerned about this ordinance and its threat to property rights.

Tom Burns, Planning Director and his staff proposed a lengthy series of regulations and restrictions having to do with private land usage while claiming to be working toward a less complicated permit system. How can one possibly expect the system to be simpler when there is such a big fuss about whether a work unit should be granted permission to have heating? Other nonsensical complications included the legality of  the size of animal enclosures, and the requirement of a permit for structures 18” (inches) tall.

Most shocking about the ordinance is its proposal to allow inspectors onto private land without a warrant, an outright violation of the Constitution’s 4th Amendment rights against unwarranted search and seizure.  [See current ordinance already written into county code 13.10.611 Accessory Structures *]

Burns felt it necessary to further clarify the proposal after facing much critique. He reassured the Board that landowners would be notified prior to their inspection.

Burns stated, “Right now we don’t go knocking on doors.” The ambiguity of this statement causes one to seriously question, “When exactly will they be pounding on my door?” 

A continuation hearing on this ordinance is scheduled for April 15, 2008.

* Santa Cruz County Code Section 13.10.611
2. As a condition of approval, permits for accessory structures shall provide for inspection as follows:
i. The structure may be inspected for condition compliance twelve months after approval, and at any time thereafter at the discretion of the Planning Director. Construction of or conversion to an accessory structure pursuant to an approved permit shall entitle County employees or agents to enter and inspect the property for such compliance without warrant or other requirement for permission. (Ord. 3632, 3/26/85; 3996, 6/6/89; 4099, 12/11/90; 4496-C, 8/4/98)

See Related article with history of Board hearings and documents Planning Department Bait and Switch 

County Considers More Teeth to Crack Down on Illegal Structures: Homeowners Worried Compliance Inspection Violates Their Rights by Aldwin Fajardo Mid-County Post April 1-14, 2008 

Santa Cruz Sentinel report on March 18 Hearing plus comments. 

Contact Citizens for Planning Reform at or Freedom Advocates  at

[This article contains links to outside sources not controlled by Freedom Advocates and therefore are subject to change.]

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