Judge in De Vaul case leans toward injunction

About 20 people living at Dan De Vaul’s ranch west of San Luis Obispo got what they’d likely consider bad news Friday as a judge said he’s leaning toward granting a court order that includes evictions for some residents — but no formal decision has been made.

De Vaul has allegedly violated health and safety codes in regards to some of his occupied structures on his property at 10660 Los Osos Valley Road.

De Vaul, who operates Sunny Acres, a nonprofit, clean-and-sober-living program, now houses about 30 residents — 10 who live in a legal farmhouse.

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall said he’d consider a proposed injunction that includes nine possible measures on various issues that would force compliance.

Crandall said his tentative ruling would be to grant the injunction, but he said he needs to examine the evidence and each issue more closely.

De Vaul’s lawyer, John Belsher, argued that the county hasn’t shown valid legal reasons for each of the alleged violations and submitted a request seeking more time to meet county notices.

Belsher said that his client has tried to work with the county over issues including water quality, and that the county has been uncooperative in responding to a test De Vaul completed on his well water.

Belsher also said that the county wouldn’t accept a recent application from De Vaul for a 14-room facility.

The lawyer also said that De Vaul has complied with county notices to put windows in the 120-square-foot residences that he calls cabins — which the county calls sheds — where some residents live.

“The evidence doesn’t support a mandatory injunction,” Belsher said.

But county lawyer Terence J. Cassidy said that De Vaul has failed to comply with notices issued by the county in recent years, and that those warnings are sufficient for the court to grant an injunction.

“Notice of abatements have been posted on each building in question,” Cassidy said. “All (De Vaul) has to do is show compliance.”

Cassidy’s request for an injunction includes: demolishing a stucco barn or its return to “ag-exempt” status; using the residences the county calls sheds only for storage; and ensuring safety of the property’s water system.

Belsher said that he would need 60 days to meet health and safety permit standards, and contends that the 120-square-foot structures are legally habitable.

Belsher said that residents of Sunny Acres say they feel safe living there and could be forced to sleep on the ground or become homeless if they’re evicted.

Crandall said that Belsher’s claim that the county hasn’t cooperated with De Vaul could be viewed — considering the county’s previous orders — as De Vaul failing to cooperate with the county on efforts to bring his buildings up to code.

The judge didn’t indicate exactly when he might make his decision, but Cassidy estimated a ruling could come as early as next week.