Ventura Code Enforcement Gone Awry — Is Someone Manipulating the City to get Possession of this Property?

Editorial

 

 

Editor’s Note:  We have had unverified reports there were neighborhood issues with drugs, disrepair and vagrancy. 

By John  Stewart 

How two neighbors with connections at City Hall enabled the city to gain control of a house with a Health & Safety Receivership

I was contacted in May 2015 about one David Antilla, a retired state employee, who was in need of help. He had spent several years battling Brad Clarke from the City of Ventura’s Code Enforcement. David’s hillside ocean view home on a corner lot had been built for him by his father, who had died shortly before this process began. It is worth over $1,000,000.00. There are two mortgages. After reviewing several hundred pages of related documents, which included many $495.00 code enforcement citations, multiple hearing announcements, engineer reports, efforts by lawyers and a sign-off by Chief Building Official Andrew Stuffler, it was apparent this had less to do with code enforcement and more to do with neighbors who wanted the property. The matter had been dormant for 18 months after two prior years of haggling.

Then in April 2015 David was given a list of 120 “substandard” defects to his home with 30 days to correct them. When he sent a general contractor to pull the permit, city staff feigned ignorance and refused to give one. Honest to God. An expired light-bulb is considered a “substandard” defect. After exploring the premises, I estimated there were maybe 20-30 minor issues and nothing which would require such a drastic measure.

I then met with Mr. Brad Clarke, the issuer of the citations, and with Mr. Jeff Lambert, his boss, who is the Community Development Director, in their city offices. These men were obsessed with David Antilla. They had staged raids on the home on the pretense it was a meth lab – fire trucks and police cars, after David had refused them entry. They had David removed from the home, had it boarded up and had a chain link fence installed around the perimeter. David is homeless.

Each time Jeff Lambert said he drove past the home on his way to work, he calculated whether any windows had been opened or closed from the day before. David’s possessions were still inside. Brad Clarke would watch for any signs of “illegal” entry and would issue a $495.00 ticket to David for parking in his own driveway. Brad spoke regularly about his Glock pistol. This was a long term city harassment program.

Back in 2011 the Ventura County Grand Jury had issued a 12-page indictment of Ventura’s Code Enforcement procedures including multiple documented reports of harassment, intimidation and aggressive behavior by Code Enforcement employees. When the report was announced at a city council meeting, then-mayor Mike Tracy bellowed against it from the podium, announcing that it was all untrue. The City vowed to amend its behavior. However, supposedly Mr. Clarke and Mr. Lambert have maintained the history of Code Enforcement behavior as displayed in this matter. For example, Mr. Lambert’s Audi has allegedly been observed shining its headlights into Mr,Antilla’s home after dark. Mr. Clarke has supposedly been observed hiding around the corner in his vehicle on multiple occasions.

So far, a case entitled City of San Buenaventura v. Antilla has 189 submittal entries, filling over four volumes. The City of Ventura now demands $240,000.00 in legal fees from David, who has a $1200.00 per month pension from the state.

His mortgages, which total high six figures, are still unpaid. He is in his third week as a patient at Ventura County Hospital suffering the ill effects of this experience.

The adjacent neighbors, one of whom works for the Parks Dept. while operating a private landscaping business, the other who funds city election coffers while operating a multi-million business elsewhere, presumably they might be participants in the bidding war over David’s home, now estimated to be at $850,000.00. They might be seeking to have the house torn down and converted into a park, thereby increasing neighboring property values, as there have been no signs of the house being “repaired”.  There are currently 16 bidders.

What is a Health and Safety Receivership? It is a legal process wherein control of the property is temporarily taken from the owner and placed with a court-appointed receiver. Since the city must offer a compelling story in order for the court to grant receivership, given the observable facts and given a review of court documents, the city has blown a certain amount of smoke to the court in this case. The concept offers cities a less expensive way to address properties that present health and safety risks. The idea is to get the property completely “rehabilitated”. If the city opts to have the property placed in receivership, the receiver borrows money against the property to pay for the cleanup. To make the loan appealing to a commercial lender, loans taken out under a health and safety receivership are given a priority status over all loans against the property except tax liens.

In the present case, the receiver has placed the property up for sale. Perhaps he was unable to obtain the necessary funds to do the rehabilitation. Perhaps the intent of the city was never to rehabilitate the property. Perhaps the neighbors might want to buy it. Neither Mr. Clarke nor Mr. Lambert has come to Mr. Antilla with an offer of city- managed low income housing. Mr. Antilla is a homeless patient in Ventura County Hospital. David’s extended family has spent $40,000.00 in legal fees to defend itself from the city; far more than it would have cost to completely rehabilitate the house – including all new carpets and paint – inside and outside.

According real estate agent, Linda Paizo, the property is in escrow.  You can see current photos of the house at the Coldwell Banker Listing

 

Buena Vista - Photo Credit Google Maps

Buena Vista – Photo Credit Google Maps

 

John Stewart from Stewart Design Associates, Ventura is a past member of Ventura Design Review Committee – 2004-2009 You can find out more about him at:  johnstewartdesignassociates.com, John Stewart/LinkedIn

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10 Responses to Ventura Code Enforcement Gone Awry — Is Someone Manipulating the City to get Possession of this Property?

  1. VG February 28, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    My family is experiencing the same heavy-handed extreme prejudice from the VENTURA COUNTY COAD INFORCEMENT.
    We are been find $1000 a day on or single-family dwelling for trumped up violations. Our home is only 12 years old, our family spent $1 million to build it on property we purchased almost 40 years ago. We’ve experienced extreme prejudice from neighbors when we first purchased the property who worked with the County of Ventura to help them keep us from building our dream house for over 25 years. I would like to think this there’s some kind of normal prejudice and not a racist situation as we are not white in an all-white neighborhood.

    Is there a Government or private agency that can help us we are running out of cash to fight this and feel it is and just and having great affects our health.

    The Ventura County government is trying to steal our home.
    PLEASE HELP
    We need help

    Reply
  2. Neighbor July 14, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Illegal work was performed on the property which compromised the structure and foundation. This triplex was converted into a 6 plex. The property was not to code and dangerous. The owner was given 5 years to make the necessary repairs and he was not capable or willing to do so. Public safety. People were living in a dangerous structure drugs were just a bonus. If you want more information and to truly understand what took place do your due diligence before you blog or reply. All records are in the court documents and city code enforcement along with the police and swat teams.

    Reply
    • Neighbor July 14, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      Mr Stewart – do you respect the laws and codes of our city- I believe you do as I do. Do you believe that if someone does not follow the laws and codes they should be allowed to just do what every they want. If they are provided every opportunity and allowance but do not comply do you believe there should be ramifications for their actions. Now reread the file with this in mind. The city acted responsibly and in the eyes of those that have lived this nightmare they acted too slowly. Your broad suggestions of improper actions is way off base. For those of us law abiding citizens, this property and its owner had total disregard for the law and those that enforce it. The property owner brought this outcome on to himself and an impartial judge made the final decision. Enough said!

      Reply
  3. Gina Diaz July 13, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Regardless if Dave is an addict, his property is being taken from him. Sounds like the home was built by his father a very long time ago and codes during that time of building likely passed inpections. But sounds like a conspiracy against Dave and his lifestyle has his neighbors looking for any reason to get him out. Not ok, his father I’m sure worked hard to build and leave this home to his children and grand children, not OK to take what’s not yours.

    Reply
    • Kathryn July 14, 2016 at 9:41 am

      His father worked hard for ALL of his kids. Dave has many brothers and sisters. He ended up with the house because he had nowhere else to go and they couldn’t get him out. He ran that place into the ground. His father would have been appalled. And absolutely not a place for children. Ever. I was afraid to go in the backyard and would never step foot in his apt. The brothers and sisters even had to move their elderly mother out of state away from him so he would stop leaching off of her. I know the city isn’t straight and could have gone about this differently but take the drugs away and there wouldn’t have been a problem. It’s a sad situation.

      Reply
  4. Ken Hubbard July 13, 2016 at 9:38 am

    This is business as usual by the city, they have stated they will change, but they have not. They have lost the confidence of its citizens.

    Reply
  5. Kathryn July 13, 2016 at 8:43 am

    This story is severely incomplete. I rented one of the upstairs apts from Dave for three years and was given 1/2 an hr to vacate the premises when the city red tagged it. What this story doesn’t include is that Dave is a heroine addict and had all of his addict “friends” around all the time. Dirty needles were found in our front yard more than once. Maybe the city didn’t go about it properly but it needed to stop somehow. It was not a safe situation for anybody involved. My hope is that Dave is receiving the care he has needed for a long time. Losing his home just might have saved his life. Heroine sucks.

    Reply
    • Marsha July 13, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      I’d call that slander, ms Kathryn !

      Reply
      • Kathryn July 14, 2016 at 9:32 am

        Finding dirty needles in my front yard, naked chicks screaming and yelling about him locking them out of his house and having my landlord hit me up for cash in the middle of the night is slander? Interesting perspective Marsha. Perhaps the million dollar mansion neighbors should’ve staged an intervention? Not sure what else could’ve been done. The city is not hurting Dave. Heroine is hurting Dave. It’s sad. But it’s true.

        Reply
  6. William "Bill" Hicks July 13, 2016 at 6:29 am

    Have Lambert or Clarke offered any explanation in detail? Because of the Grand Jury indictment, I’ll bet they’re really quiet.

    I’ve seen some lousy government’s but it seems that Ventura takes the cake.

    Reply

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