Ventura “Granny Flat” Conflict Continues to Citizens’ Appeal

Some Ventura property owners subjected to undue hardships? Study and decide.

SecondUnitVtaBy Camille Harris

Editor’s note: The City of Ventura has attempted to crack down on non-compliant “second units” (rentals and “granny flats”). A compromise was offered and implemented, but many of those affected would/are suffering large financial burdens and/or are tied up in bureaucratic red tape. The attached letter  (AttachmentG.IJ.Letter ) from the Institute for Justice best explains the situation. Camille Harris and Helen Yunker have been in the forefront of fighting for homeowners and affected tenants/residents ….

To date, only 1% of the estimated 5,000 granny flats have been able to participate in Ventura’s 2nd unit program. It is the 99% who have not been able to participate which gives citizens great concern.

Though the program has been extended through 2014, even the maker of the motion admits he expects just a “few more” to make it through the program.

Below, are issues expressed by the community that have prevented their participation.

Financial Relief Needed

The 2nd unit program’s lack of affordability was aggravated May 1st 2013, by the imposing of expensive energy code upgrades, onto vintage granny flats that were built in one of the mildest climates in California. Attorneys at the California Energy Commission directed both the city and the attorneys at Morrison & Foerster to Public Resources code 25402, and subsection (h) of that portion of the code is support for applying the energy codes that were in existence at the time of construction, not the most current codes.  Alternatively, relief may be given from these codes, based on our climatic conditions, according to Ventura’s Assistant City Attorney Keith Bauerle and the HCD. (Case # 66689, Documents A and B attached)  Further, the permit was advertised as an amnesty permit, not a building permit.

In conversations with officials in state agencies and in other cities who have adopted second-unit ordinances, without exception they emphasized that legalizing process for second units affordably should be both a reasonable and achievable goal.

Additionally, time payments for the full fee amounts are needed and some cities are using CDBG funds for safety upgrades.

Federal Fair Housing Laws

 The program, as currently crafted, has a very disparate impact on the Latino community, which could put the City in violation of local and state federal fair housing laws. Specifically, #42, USC Section 3601, Title VIII (See document C).  The area most impacted is Census Tract 23 from Stanley Avenue on the North to Main Street on the South.  It’s76.9% Latino vs. 29.9% for the rest of Ventura.  The statistics and geographic area illustrating a disparate impact:

In addition to being primarily Latino, this area has a larger number of second units per the aerial view and the impact on that community is far greater than the rest of the City.

Latino Community Most Vulnerable

Members of the Latino community are voicing their concerns over the complexity and unaffordability of the second unit program.

With a greater number of second units unable to participate, the Latino community will likely experience more evictions and home losses as code enforcement becomes more proactive.

The rezoning the Latino properties for higher density could make them a target for developers. Properties with code violations are generally discounted for purchase. Every effort must be made to ensure there is an affordable opportunity for the Latino community to participate.

 Lost Permits Threaten Due Process

The City has lost permits but then claimed second unit conversions  have a missing public record and therefore must comply with modern building codes  City officials freely admit they lost these permit records.  In fact, a whole storage building of records was lost due to its flooding in Hall Canyon, and many permit records are said to have been lost in transfers from the County after areas were annexed. The City has no way of even estimating how many permits have been lost, damaged or made indecipherable without conducting an audit, (see attached permit example, Marked F.) The City has already received a letter discussing Due Process concerns from the Institute of Justice (Document G)

There are users of our public records who can testify that our city’s permit records are substandard.  Because of this, the Ventura Safe Housing Collaborative recommended grandfathering to give the City a fresh start, in the proposed Resolution in their final report (Section V). (Attachment H)

Threatened Criminalization

 Fear of criminalization for applying and then being unable to complete the process has been a major deterrent to the program. That clause in the ordinance serves no positive purpose, other than as a deterrent and should be stricken. (Document I) Other cities with 2nd unit amnesty programs offer confidentiality to applicants to encourage participation.

Compliance with Grand Jury Recommendation

 Modifications to create affordability and remove fear would create more confidence in the program and provide a better outcome. This was the recommendation of the Grand Jury in their report in June of 2012, Page 9, Recommendation R-02 and R-03   (attachment J). 

Restore Intention of the Program

This second unit program was intended to help the poor gain safe housing, and preserve a primary source of affordable housing. As currently crafted, it fails to help the poor and has sadly morphed into a tool that could drive them out. In its current form, it eliminates existing affordable housing and sets the stage for the punishment of those who can least afford it.

Policies regarding peoples’ homes need to be thought through very carefully to avoid the unintended consequences threatening Ventura property owners today. Grandfathering Ventura properties would give the city a fresh start and preserve existing affordable housing.

For more information, visit

Some relevant documents:

Climatic.Attach.A  Re: October 22, 2013 Email to City Council concerning the City’s Second

Unit Amnesty Program

Attach_B.Flexibility   From HCD: State Health & Safety Code Enforcement …

Attach.C.FairHousingAct Reference to The Federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 3601

Atttach.D.E._LatinoComm. Latino community impacted disproportionately


AttachmentG.IJ.Letter Letter from the Institute for Justice

AttachH.ResolutionVSHC Ventura’s Resolution for Nonconforming Property Amnesty Ordinance

Attach_I.__________________Criminalization____________Potential___pdf Criminalization Potential for Applicants of Second Unit Program

Attach.J_.Grand_Jury_Vta_CE Grand Jury report on City of Ventura Code Enforcement


This article is based upon a letter sent to the following officials and attorneys, in case readers want to know:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Camille Harris <[email protected]>
Date: Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 2:05 PM
Subject: Citizens’ Appeal
To: Andrew Stuffler <[email protected]>
Cc: [email protected][email protected][email protected], Ariel Calonne <[email protected]>, carl morehouse <[email protected]>, Cheryl Heitmann <[email protected]>, Christy Weir <[email protected]>, Jim Monahan <[email protected]>, mike tracy <[email protected]>, Neal Andrews <[email protected]>, Neal Andrews <[email protected]>, “Cogswell, Stephen J” <[email protected]>, Paul Smith <[email protected]>, [email protected], Monica De La Hoya <[email protected]>, Dana Berliner <[email protected]>, “Goodwin, William Carroll Murphy” <[email protected]>, Justin Sobodash <[email protected]>


Camille Harris is the co-proponent with Helen Yunker for the Safe City Initiative to legalize safe existing housing where permits are missing from the city’s records, for the city of Ventura.


Previous relevant CJ articles by Camille Harris:

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