Judge may roust 20 people from Sunny Acres

About 20 residents of Dan De Vaul’s Sunny Acres could be forced to move if a judge decides to issue a court order because of allegedly unsafe living conditions.

De Vaul was before San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall on Thursday for a hearing about a possible injunction on his Sunny Acres property because of alleged violations of health and safety codes.

De Vaul houses people seeking treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, as well as those who are homeless.

Under terms of the injunction, the residents would have until July 17 to move from some of the farm dwellings at Sunny Acres.

De Vaul also could have to pay each resident forced to leave more than $1,000.

About 10 people live in a Victorian farmhouse at the 72-acre property at 10660 Los Osos Valley Road. That home meets code, and residents there can stay, county officials said.

However, the county alleges that residents are living in other dwellings — such as sheds — that don’t meet legal standards and that well water on the property is unsanitary.

De Vaul’s lawyer, John Belsher, said his client has been working with county officials to comply with orders.

Belsher argues that the county should be required to show cause that De Vaul hasn’t complied with code before any court order can be considered.

Belsher disputes the water-quality issue, and De Vaul said outside court Thursday that he has hired experts to conduct tests to show the well water is safe.

De Vaul had proposed a new 16-room house to the county, but failed negotiations between him and county officials over filing fees for the proposal have essentially killed it.

The county sought the requirement of a receivership at Thursday’s hearing — meaning the custodial responsibility of De Vaul’s property could be assigned to an independent supervisor.

But Crandall told the county’s contracted lawyer, Terence Cassidy, that he wouldn’t consider a receivership at this point in the legal process.

Cassidy said a fire at Sunny Acres in July 2009 put people’s lives in danger and that the safety issues continue to make living conditions hazardous.

But De Vaul said nobody was harmed in the small blaze; he believes county officials don’t want Sunny Acres to exist and have been thwarting his efforts through their orders and litigation.

Sunny Acres has housed up to 72 people at a time, and it provides much assistance to the homeless in the county, spokeswoman Becky Jorgeson said.

De Vaul was convicted in a criminal case in September of two charges of violating health and safety laws, and he was acquitted on two other allegations; five additional charges that resulted in a deadlocked jury were dropped by the District Attorney’s Office.

He has appealed the conviction and, after several delays, that appeal is still pending.

The hearing is set to continue at 9:15 a.m. today.