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Frequently Asked Questions

 

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Q. I suspect my neighbor is doing construction work or other unauthorized activity without required permits. How can I find out if a permit is required and if a permit was issued for the work in question?
A. To determine if construction work is being done with the required building permit, you may contact the Building Information Line between 1:00-5:00 PM at (831) 454-2260
Q. If a permit was issued, how can I find outwhat was approved to be constructed?
A. The Planning Department retains a copy of the approved plans for each issued active building permit. These plans may be reviewed at the Planning Department Records Room located at 701 Ocean St Room 400, in Santa Cruz during business hours of 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday.
Q. Who is responsible for insuring construction is completed according to plans?
A. A building inspector inspects on-going construction to ensure that the work is completed according to plans.
Q. How do I file a complaint?
A. Complaints of unpermitted construction, land uses, or grading, tree removal, or grading and/or placement of fill must be reported in writing. Complaint forms are available at the Planning Department. Complaints may also be filed online by completing our Code Complaint Form.
Q. Is my complaint confidential?
A. The name of the complainant is kept confidential. If litigation ensued, the name of the complainant could be made known to the judge who may or may not decide to make such information public.
Q. What happens with my complaint?
A. Your complaint is entered into a computer system and an Investigation File is prepared. Information concerning any issued development and building permits is researched along with information from various county departments and agencies such as the Assessors Department, fire agencies, etc.
Q. How can I check the status of my complaint once it is filed?
A. If you wish to have receipt of your complaint acknowledged, you may indicate so on the complaint form when you file it. Also, you may call the Planning Department Code Compliance telephone at (831) 454-2580 to inquire about the status of your complaint.
Q. May I withdraw a complaint once I file one?
Once the complaint has been processed, a first contact letter is sent to the property owner and an acknowledgement letter is sent to the complainant. At this point in time, your complaint cannot be withdrawn.
Q. I have been issued a Notice of Violation for a County Code violation. What do I do now?
A. Contact the Code Compliance Investigator that issued the notice, their name and telephone number is written on the notice and they are available to respond to your telephone calls 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM. By discussing the nature of the violation with the Code Compliance Investigator you will be given information of your next step to resolve the violation. Usually you will be referred to the building, environmental planning or zoning counter staff.
No appointment is necessary; however, please check our hours. The counter staff will have computer access to the information concerning the violation posted on your property and will advise you of the different options you have to resolve the violation. In many instances the required building permit and inspections can be obtained for the unpermitted construction; in some instances, the unpermitted construction cannot be permitted and must be removed. For a brochure on how to measure your structure and draw scaled plans, click here.
Q. How do I get a copy of the Ordinance section listed on the Notice of Violation to understand what the violation is?
A. The County Code is available online and you may view and/or print the code section listed on the Notice of Violation. The Code Compliance Investigator who responded to the complaint on your property and is conducting the investigation can also provide you, by mail or fax, a copy of the applicable code section.
Q. What happens if it remains uncorrected?
A. If you do not resolve the violation within 90 days, enforcement sanctions may be initiated. These sanctions may include referral to an Administrative Hearing Officer for the imposition of civil penalties or referral to Superior Court. If the case is referred to Superior Court, the County will request a court order allowing the recordation of the Notice of Violation on the property's title.
Q. Why is the Notice of Violation recorded on the property's title?
A. The Notice of Violation is recorded on the title of the property to inform any prospective purchaser or anyone who may assume financial interest in the property that a violation has been confirmed on the property.
Q. What is the process to correct a Zoning Code violation?
A. No appointment is required for you to meet with planning counter staff. Staff will have computer access to the information concerning the violation posted on your property and will advise you on the different options you have to resolve the violation. In many instances the required zoning approvals can be obtained for the unpermitted uses; in some instances, the unpermitted uses cannot be approved and must be ceased or removed.
Q. What is the process to correct a Building Code Violation?
A. No appointment is required for you to meet with building counter staff. Staff will have computer access to the information concerning the violation posted on your property and will advise you on the different options you have to resolve the violation. In many instances the required building permit and inspections can be obtained for the unpermitted construction; in some instances, the unpermitted uses cannot be approved and must be removed. Removal of unpermitted construction may require a demolition permit.
Q. What is the process to correct an Environmental Code Violation?
A. No appointment is required for you to meet with environmental planning counter staff. Staff will have computer access to the information concerning the violation posted on your property and will advise you on the different options you have to resolve the violation. In many instances the required environmental permit and inspections can be obtained for the unpermitted grading, tree removal, etc; in some instances, unpermitted grading, tree removal cannot be permitted and approved restoration will be required.
Q. What is the process to correct a Neglected Property violation?
A. County Code section 13.10.556, ordinance requires owners of residential properties to maintain their properties free of accumulations of debris, junk and trash as well as inoperable vehicles in the front and in the side yard setbacks. Violations posted as a Neglected Property are readily corrected by simply removing the debris, junk or trash to an approved disposal site. Alternatively such materials may be stored within an approved structure.
Q. I have completed the work and received a final inspection but there is a Code Enforcement 'hold' placed on my permit. How do I get the hold removed?
A. Contact the Code Compliance Investigator who issued the notice of violation. He or she will confirm that the permitted work has passed the final building inspection and all "holds" by other agencies or departments have been cleared. Once all other holds are cleared, the Code Compliance Investigator will remove the last remaining code compliance "hold".
Q. What happens when I comply by either removing the violation or legalizing the construction under permit?
A. Contact the Code Compliance Investigator who issued the notice of violation. He or she will confirm that the violation has been corrected or the permit legalizing the construction has been finaled. He/She will then update the County records to indicate that the violation has been corrected.
Q. How do I get the recorded violation removed or "expunged"?
A. If a Notice of Violation has been recorded on the title, you must request that this notice be expunged, e.g. erased. Recording an Expungement, which indicates that the violation has been corrected, accomplishes this. Payment of all Code Compliance enforcement costs as well as an expungement fee is required before the expungement will be recorded. Contact the Code Compliance Investigator who recorded the Notice of Violation on your property and he/she will have the appropriate forms and documents prepared.
Q. What will happen if I don't bring the property into compliance and/or obtain the permit approval and complete all inspections?
A. Fortunately most property owners act very promptly to correct violations on their property once they are informed of the need to do so. For those property owners who do not elect to correct posted violations, a thorough and often costly enforcement process results.

In an effort to keep your enforcement costs to a minimum, you may be sent a proposed Stipulation and Order. This document is a legal agreement between the property owner(s) and the County of Santa Cruz and is an enforceable Order in a court of law. If no agreement is reached, the matter may be referred to administration hearing, as authorized by state statute. In an administrative hearing the County presents evidence of the existence of a violation and seeks a decision which includes a deadline for correction of the violation, payment of all enforcement costs, a civil penalty and, where appropriate, illegal rents. In addition the County seeks the authority to lien all costs, civil penalties, and illegal rents on the property in question; such liens must be paid concurrently with property taxes or property will be in default.

More serious violations may be referred directly to County Counsel or the District Attorney for prosecution in Superior Court, bypassing the Administrative Hearing process.

Q. Is there a statute of limitations on land use violations?
A. County of Santa Cruz Chapter 1.12.010 states "It shall be a separate offense for each and every day during any portion of which any violation of, or failure to comply with, any provision of this code is committed, continued or permitted." Therefore, there is no statute of limitations on land use violations.
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