Government / Politics

SJB declares property a public nuisance citing San Juan Creek floodplain violations

Kulta Farms LLC agrees to the City Council’s corrective actions.
Grading at the property. Photo part of the Nov. 29 San Juan Bautista City Council agenda packet.
Grading at the property. Photo part of the Nov. 29 San Juan Bautista City Council agenda packet.
Photo part of the Nov. 29 San Juan Bautista City Council agenda packet.
Photo part of the Nov. 29 San Juan Bautista City Council agenda packet.

A special San Juan Bautista City Council meeting was held on Nov. 29 to allow public comment on the city’s ongoing attempts to resolve violations of its floodplain ordinance occurring at 451 San Juan Hollister Road, a property owned by Kulta Farms LLC. The city said violations included unacceptable grading of the property and maintaining an automobile and contractor’s yard without a permit.

While Kulta Farms representative Maria Orozco said she was prepared to move forward on the corrective actions the city required, the council voted to officially declare the property a nuisance.

According to documents in the agenda packet, the declaration was the culmination of events that began on March 28, 2022, with the lodging of public complaints that led to an off-site inspection by the city’s code enforcement staff and the issuing of a stop work order. 

That was followed by an on-site inspection by city staff and California Department of Fish and Game Warden Kyle Sommer, who discovered grading and “significant” fill within the floodplain in areas previously identified as wetlands by the Army Corps of Engineers, according to a May 24 letter from Code Enforcement Officer Rich Brown to property owners.

In that letter, Brown wrote that the stop work order would not be lifted until a plan was submitted to the city that provided for a program to remediate the damage done by the unpermitted work with a July 1 submission deadline for the plan and a completion date before Oct. 15.

On June 5, Brown issued a 10-day notice of violation after visiting the site on May 31, reporting he observed recycling pallets without a use permit.

Having sought the voluntary compliance of the property owner, the City Council passed a resolution on Oct. 25 as the first step to declaring the property a public nuisance, citing the placement of fill, spoils, and debris on the property and along San Juan Creek as violating sections of the San Juan Bautista Municipal Code regarding floodplains.

A series of corrective actions were ordered, including submitting a stormwater pollution prevention study, corrective grading and restoration of the contours of San Juan Creek, reestablishment of pre-violation habitat, a field survey by a Native American consultant, and removal of any grading spoils. Also required are the proper applications and the payment of fees for operating a contractor’s yard and automobile storage yard.

Orozco was the only one to speak during the public comment section of the meeting and she responded to the city’s concerns by saying that following the first warnings in March 2022, she had not had the ability to correct the violations because she had not received reports that the city had commissioned on the property. 

“We have now hired an engineer to start the procedure to create a development application so we can do the abatement,” she said. “We have also hired a biologist and archeologist to do the required studies, EMC Consulting Group, which I understand the city has used before and is reliable.”

Orozco said she had a timeline in place for her engineers and expected to have plans to submit to the city by the end of this week. Prior to the city council voting unanimously against Orozco’s objections and declaring the property a nuisance, Assistant City Manager Brian Foucht said that the city was prepared to take over the abatement and charge the property owners for the costs should it prove necessary.

 

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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.