28 Aug 2007

Six Months in Jail For Lacking Building Permits

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Francisco Linares of Rolling Hills Estates, California will be going to jail for six months. His crime? Getting into an argument with the authorities enforcing the Kafka-esque system of construction permits in his California town over a termite-infested fence on city property.


The 51-year-old bought the nearly 1-acre property in the 4600 block of Palos Verdes Drive North in 1998. After tearing down an adobe house on the site and building a 3,000-square-foot French-style home, he began landscaping.

When Linares asked the city to repair the white three-railed fence behind his house, he was told it was on his property and his responsibility. So he replaced the termite-infested planks. Then the city reversed itself and said Linares had illegally built the fence on city property.

In October 2004, the city charged Linares with three misdemeanors: for not taking down the fence, having a retaining wall built higher than a 2-foot restriction and for erecting stone columns without a neighborhood compatibility analysis. Later inspections found eight other violations, including a lack of permits for plumbing and grading.

“He’s had a couple of years to correct the problems,” said Dean Pucci, a Fullerton attorney contracted as the city’s prosecutor. “His options were to obtain final permits or remove all of these structures built without permits.”

Linares lives in the house with his wife and three daughters. He contends that he didn’t remove the structures because he believed the permits would be approved.

However, Pucci said no permits are pending, since Linares failed to resubmit an application that was deemed incomplete.

At the sentencing, Hamar said his client was a good Christian man who has never committed a crime and who worked diligently – 142 hours – to try to resolve the issues with the city.

And the only reason he was not able to complete the stipulations of the plea agreement, he said, was because of the city’s confusing building codes and negligence in rendering a decision on his permit applications.

“We established that he did everything that was humanly possible to comply. And the un-rebutted evidence is that (the city) hasn’t ruled on the permits.”


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