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Receiver appointed to Sunny Acres

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A receiver will assume partial control of Sunny Acres, the much-beleaguered ranch and residence for otherwise homeless residents of the county.

According to a Jan. 20 ruling issued by San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall, Los Angeles-based receiver David Pasternak will step in to oversee the process to clear code violations on the ranch owned by homeless advocate Dan De Vaul.

The ruling comes more than a year and a half after the court determined conditions at Sunny Acres constituted a public nuisance and health hazard. Crandall issued an order requiring much of the structures at Sunny Acres to be vacated, which forced many residents to pack up their things and leave. However, in the many court proceedings that followed, county officials argued that De Vaul had failed to fully comply with the earlier court order and that code violations remained.

De Vaul and his attorney John Belsher argued that the county refused to accept their permit applications, which were necessary to complete construction and demolition work at the ranch. County officials, frustrated with the slow progress at Sunny Acres, asked the court to appoint a receiver, who would step in and coordinate the necessary architectural, planning, and construction work on De Vaul’s dime.

In his 10-page ruling, Crandall acknowledged that some progress has been made toward compliance. While appointing a receiver is an “extraordinary step,” he wrote, “no other reasonable useful solution has been proposed.”

Belsher recommended that the court appoint a “special master” to overtake the proceedings and remove it from the public domain, but Crandall decided such a remedy “would result in more foot-dragging and delay.”

 “While it cannot be denied that, at the eleventh hour, Sunny Acres has started to pick up the pace of its compliance efforts, such a Johnny-come-lately attitude is far too little and far too late in the proceedings to avoid the consequences of years of obstructionist, recalcitrant tactics,” he wrote.

In his conclusion, Crandall writes that “it is simply wrong to say that any housing is better than no housing.”

Pasternak was out of the office through Feb. 7 and couldn’t be reached for comment. According to the ruling, he will be paid $200 per hour, though Crandall stipulated that the court “will closely monitor compliance activities to ensure that costs are kept within the reasonable range.”

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