Court favors Calabasas in septic tank legal battle – Calabasas Real Estate
Court favors Calabasas in septic tank legal battle2011-04-14 / Front PageAppeal expected
The fight between the city of Calabasas and a group of residents who oppose mandated septic tank inspections will continue despite a court ruling last Friday that favors the city.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Stone denied a request by Old Topanga residents Toby and Deloris Keeler to stop the city from enforcing its septic systems inspection program.
Calabasas adopted the septic ordinance in August 2009 requiring all city homeowners with septic tanks to undergo inspections. Most of the approximately 154 properties with septic systems have had the inspections. Twenty septic owners hooked into sewer systems.
The Keelers filed a complaint asking the court to issue an immediate order that would restrain Calabasas from requiring them to comply with the septic systems ordinance.
The couple believed the inspection program was unlawfully adopted and could not be enforced. But the judge said the Keelers did not provide enough evidence to support an order to stop the city’s code enforcement efforts.
The Keelers are expected to file a new brief today, April 14.
“The city’s only goal is to attain compliance and to protect public health and the environment. We regret that the recalcitrance of a few property owners, some of them absentee landowners and landlords, has made litigation necessary,” said Tony Coroalles, city manager.
Attorney Steven Gambardella, who represents the Keelers and five other property owners opposed to the septic tank inspections, said the city’s position is misleading.
“Judge Stone thoughtfully considered the request for a temporary order halting enforcement of the ordinances, declined to grant the request and, instead, invited full briefing on the issue, setting an expedited hearing to take place on May 12,” Gambardella said.
In a previous interview, Gambardella alleged that conduct of the city and its staff while enforcing septic system regulations serves to degrade the value of the property in question and causes distress for its owner. According to the attorney, more than 15 homeowners were compelled to hire lawyers and spend thousands of dollars to fight city lawsuits.
“Friday’s decision was a not a ruling or judgment on the merits of the city’s flawed effort to enact so-called urgent, comprehensive and sweeping changes to . . . California’s building and plumbing codes. A trial will hopefully take place later this year,” Gambardella said.
Michael Hafken, spokesperson for Calabasas, said the city has sued eight property owners, including the Keelers, who didn’t comply with the septic tank inspections.
Of the original 154 identified septic tank owners, including about 20 who chose to connect to a nearby sewer, about two-thirds have repaired or are undertaking repair work on their systems.
Costs for repairs have ranged from a few hundred dollars to $35,000, depending on the condition of the tanks.
The City of Los Angeles is preparing to adopt a septic tank inspection ordinance similar to the one in Calabasas. L.A.’s will call for inspections every three years as opposed to every five years in Calabasas.
Where do you stand on the matter of Calabasas and it’s septic tank battle with residents? Is the City of Calabasas merely trying to protect public health and protect the environment? There are only a few Calabasas home owners, several of whom are absentee owners, who oppose the inspections.