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7-0-18 Administrative Citation / Correction Notice Issuance and Processing

Purpose

The intent of this policy is to provide a consistent and standardized framework for staff when contemplating the issuance of an administrative citation for enforcement of provisions of the Sonoma County Code (“SCC”) and/or other state and local codes and ordinances.

Definitions

Enforcing Officer
Any officer, employee, or agent of the county that is authorized by SCC, ordinance, state law, or board action to enforce or administer any law that may be enforced by an administrative citation including any deputy or designees of such officer, employee, or agent.
Person
Any person, firm, association, organization, partnership, joint venture, business trust, corporation, or company.
Responsible Party
Any person that causes, maintains, permits, or is otherwise responsible for a violation as defined in this policy; or a person who has an ownership interest in real property upon which a violation exists;  or a person who exercises possession or control of real property upon which a violation exists, including but not limited to a tenant, lessee, agent, employee, contractor, subcontractor, or other occupant.
Violation
The failure to comply with any provision of the SCC and/or other local codes and ordinances adopted by the county; or licenses, permits, and approvals issued by the County of Sonoma.  Each day, or any portion thereof, during which any violation continues, exists, or occurs shall be deemed a separate violation for which an administrative citation may be issued and a fine may be incurred.  Each distinct code section, ordinance, license, permit, approval, or law violated shall give rise to a separate violation that may be cited.

General

Issuance of an administrative citation is an alternate tool for enforcement of codes and ordinances adopted by the County of Sonoma.  An issued citation is an alternative to enforcement actions taken through an administrative hearing process as outlined in SCC  Section 1-7.3.  The use of a citation may be exercised in place of, but shall not be deemed a waiver of, the use of any other available enforcement remedy at the exclusive discretion of the Enforcing Officer.

Violations where an administrative citation may be an appropriate enforcement method include:

  • Vacation rentals
  • Signage
  • Excess animals
  • Non-operative motor vehicles
  • Occupied travel trailers
  • Junkyard conditions
  • Home occupations
  • Fences
  • Riparian corridor violations
  • Minor drainage obstructions
  • Accessibility violations
  • Storm water violations
  • Encroachment violations

Authority

Government Code Section 53069.4

Sonoma County Code Section 1-7.6

Procedure

  1. Warnings / Compliance Orders

    1. If the enforcing officer encounters a continuing violation pertaining to building, plumbing, electrical, or other similar structural or zoning issues that does not create an immediate danger to health and safety, that enforcing officer must issue a Correction Notice before an administrative citation may be issued.
    2. The Correction Notice shall be issued on form V1-19 and must include a specified time period within which the violation must be abated. 
    3. Upon or after the expiration of the correction period the enforcing officer shall re-inspect the property for compliance.  If the violation is found to not be adequately corrected at the time of inspection, the enforcing officer may, in his or her sole discretion, extend the compliance period to correct the violation or issue an administrative citation. An administrative citation may be issued to the responsible party.
    4. A correction period is not required prior to citation issuance for the following violations:
      1. Non-continuing violations,
      2. Violations creating an immediate danger to health and safety,
      3. Continuing violations unrelated to building, plumbing, electrical, or other similar structural or zoning issue, and,
      4. Unlawful commercial cannabis activities.
  2. Citation Issuance

    1. An administrative citation may be issued immediately for any of the violations listed or following the issuance of a correction notice if the violation has not been removed within the specified correction period.  Upon the determination by the enforcing officer that a violation exists and an administrative citation is to be issued, that citation and any subsequent citations must be issued on form V1-19 Administrative Citation. 
    2. The enforcing officer should list all know responsible parties on the administrative citation.
  3. Fines

    1. Except as otherwise provided in SCC, the maximum fine imposed by an administrative citation for any violation that is subject to Section 1-7.6 shall be as follows:
      1. Up to one hundred dollars ($100.00) for a first violation, up to two hundred dollars ($200.00) for a second violation of the same ordinance within one (1) year, and up to five hundred dollars ($500.00) for each additional violation of the same ordinance within one (1) year.
      2. For a violation of a building or safety ordinance, up to one hundred thirty  dollars ($130.00) for a first violation, up to seven hundred dollars ($700.00) for a second violation of the same ordinance within one (1) year, up to one thousand three hundred dollars ($1,300.00) for each additional violation of the same ordinance within one (1) year, and up to two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) for each additional violation of the same ordinance within two (2) years of the first violation for commercial properties where the violation is due to a failure to remove visible refuse or prohibit an unauthorized use.
      3. For a violation of an event permit requirement, up to one hundred fifty dollars ($150.00) for a first violation, up to seven hundred dollars ($700.00) for a second violation within three (3) years, and up to two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) for each additional violation within three (3) years.
    2. For violations related to commercial cannabis activities, the maximum fine imposed by an administrative citation is as follows:
      1. For cultivation in exceedance of the permitting cultivation area, up to twenty dollars ($20) per square foot for the first violation, up to thirty dollars ($30) per square foot for the second violation within two (2) years, and up to fifty dollars ($50) per square foot for the third violation within two (2) years.
      2. For each violation of a standard or condition of a permit or the SCC, up to one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the first violation, up to five thousand dollars ($5,000) for the second violation within two (2) years, and up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for the third violation within two (2) years.
      3. For each unpermitted cannabis use, up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for the first violation, up to twenty five thousand dollars ($25,000) for the second violation within two (2) years, and up to fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) for the third violation within two (2) years.
      4. The maximum fine amounts provided in Section 1-7.6(f) do not supersede or limit any SCC section that provides for administrative citations with fines that differ from those specified in that subsection.
  4. Service of Citation

    1. Personal service.  An enforcing officer may personally serve the responsible party. The enforcing officer may obtain the signature of the responsible party to establish personal service. If the responsible party refuses to or otherwise does not provide a signature, the lack of signature shall in no way affect the validity of the administrative citation or related proceedings. The enforcing officer shall write on the citation's signature line that the responsible party refused to sign the citation.   Personal service shall be effective on the date of personal service.
      1. Proof of personal service may be made by a declaration of service by any officer or employee of the county or by affidavit of any person over the age of eighteen (18) years.
    2. Service by mail.  The enforcing officer may effect service by first class mail and certified mail, postage prepaid and return receipt requested, to any one of the following: the property address where the violation is being maintained, the mailing address listed for the property owner on the last county equalized assessment roll, or any other location reasonably calculated to give notice to the responsible party.
      1. A copy shall also be sent by first class mail and certified mail, postage prepaid and return receipt requested, to the property where the violation is being maintained or any other location reasonably calculated to give notice to the responsible party.  Service by mail shall be effective on the date of verified receipt of certified mail. If the citation or notice is returned as unable to serve via certified mail, service is effective on the date three (3) days following deposit in the first-class mail.
      2. The failure of a person to receive or accept a properly addressed service shall not affect its validity or the validity of any proceedings relating to the violation.                 Proof of service by mail may be made by a declaration of service by any officer or employee of the county or by affidavit of any person over the age of eighteen (18) years.
    3. Within three (3) days of service, Staff shall electronically store a copy of the issued citation under the appropriate violation record along with all supporting evidence (photos, research, notes, etc.). 
  5. Payment

    1. Payment. The fine must be paid to the address specified in the administrative citation within thirty (30) days after the service of the citation. Payment of the fine does not excuse any continuation or repeated occurrence of the violation that is the subject of the fine or bar the county from taking any other enforcement action regarding a violation that is not corrected. Abatement of a violation shall not excuse the obligation of the responsible party to pay a fine or any late charges or interest imposed on its untimely payment.
  6. Appeal

    1. Any person to whom an administrative citation is issued may contest the citation within thirty (30) days after service by requesting a hearing pursuant to the procedures set forth in SCC Section 1-7.6(h).  All appeals must be submitted on Form CDE-015 Request to Appeal Administrative Citation directly to the citation processing company.
    2. The appeal must be submitted with either (i) an advance deposit of the full amount of the fine or (ii) notice that form CDE-016 Request for Advance Deposit Hardship Waiver has been filed pursuant to SCC Chapter 1 §1-7.6. No hearing to contest an administrative citation shall be scheduled or heard unless and until the administrative fine has been deposited in advance or an advance deposit hardship waiver has been granted.
    3. The failure of any person to file a proper appeal in accordance with this section shall constitute a failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and a waiver of the right to an administrative hearing and adjudication of the administrative citation or fine or any portion thereof. The enforcing officer's decision regarding the violation and the amount of the fine shall be deemed confirmed.
    4. The appeal and appeal hearing provisions in SCC Chapter 1 §1-7.6 may be applied in the absence of procedures to contest administrative citations authorized elsewhere in SCC but shall not supersede or limit any appeal and hearing procedures provided elsewhere.

Approved By

Approved By: /S/ Tennis Wick, Director

Reviewed By Department Manager:  Tyra Harrington, Code Enforcement Manager

Reviewed By County Counsel:  Holly Rickett, Deputy County Counsel

Lead Author:  Mark Franceschi, Code Enforcement Supervisor

Version

08/30/2019

Contact Information

Address
2550 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
38.465074, -122.723705

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