Cal Poly team finishes work on De Vaul ranch

Students in PolyHouse project worked to help troubled San Luis Obispo facility get up to code

nwilson@thetribunenews.comJune 12, 2012 

A Cal Poly team appointed by a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge to help local rancher Dan De Vaul bring his property up to code has finished its work.

And the group members say they’re confident that upgrades will meet with official approval.

Court-appointed receiver David Pasternak, who’s assigned to oversee code compliance, is expected to file a report today. A county inspector has made visits to the property in recent weeks as well.

Roya Javadpour, the university’s industrial engineering professor who led the PolyHouse project, said her group of 36 students started their work on De Vaul’s property April 21.

They spent their weekends coordinating improvements to electrical and plumbing systems, as well as removing 122 tons of scrap. Some work they completed, while licensed professionals did others through donated work to the project. Contractor Paul Abbott worked with the team.

“Our checklist of work was about a page-and-a-half long,” Javadpour said. “Some things weren’t on the original list, such as installing a propane gas tank to the Victorian house on the property.”

Before the installation of the propane tank, they helped cut off an illegal gas line to the house where 17 people live.

De Vaul operates a sober living and homeless program, Sunny Acres, on his 72-acre ranch on Los Osos Valley Road near Foothill Boulevard just outside San Luis Obispo’s city limits.

A lawsuit between De Vaul and the county has led to the issues regarding code compliance. A status hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday in Judge Charles Crandall’s court.

Crandall assigned Pasternak oversight requiring that De Vaul ensure RVs, sheds, tents and other illegal living facilities are vacated; residents are provided safe drinking water; and wells are up to code.

Miller Drilling Co. of Templeton is working to ensure the safety of the property’s water wells.

The order also requires that three buildings violating code (a stucco barn, a dairy barn and an accessory shed) are either demolished or restored to legal condition.

Students said that a challenge was trying to satisfy the needs of various stakeholders, including De Vaul, the county and the people who live at Sunny Acres.

“This was great experience to work on a real-life project and get to see the direct impacts,” said Alex Mosbacher, a Cal Poly engineering student. “This project affects a lot of lives.”

Crandall recently ruled that De Vaul owes about $84,000 in legal fees to the county with a 10 percent annual interest rate.

That money, if not paid, could potentially lead to a lien against the Sunny Acres property. But it shouldn’t affect his ability to move forward with his plans to build a new 8,000-square-foot residence for his program, said John Belsher, De Vaul’s attorney.

The compliance with codes and permitting still would need to take place before construction of the building, Belsher said.

“We’re interested in working with Dan on that project,” said Javadpour. “But we’d still need to see if the timing will work out. We don’t know when he’d want to start on it. The PolyHouse course takes place in the spring.”

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