This measure increases the maximum permissible fine amounts for violations or infractions of local ordinances and local building and safety codes.
Local ordinances and building and safety codes reflect policies adopted by communities to establish standards, resolve issues, maintain public and private property and protect public health and safety. There must be adequate enforcement mechanisms for such laws to be effective. While existing law authorizes various levels of fines, including up to $100 for the first violation, these statutory amounts have not been updated in many years.
Inadequate penalties can erode respect for the law. If the consequences for violating a local ordinance or building standard are deemed to be minimal then some community members will ignore the law and create inequities in its application.
For instance, if an ordinance requires dry brush to be cleared for fire protection, and a property owner chooses not to do so, they could be placing the homes of their neighboring properties at risk. If one property owner allows trash and junk to build up on their property, it could attract vermin and devalue adjacent properties.
Obviously, the appropriate level of the fines is a policy question. Fines need to be high enough to encourage compliance, while avoiding being overly burdensome or disproportionate on the unaware or first offenders, with more severe penalties for those that violate repeatedly. Amendments taken to AB 345 on March 21 propose various levels of increases.
The Assembly Local Government Committee will hear AB 345 on Wednesday, May 10. If it passes out of that committee, the measure is expected to be a work in progress over the next few months. The final maximum allowable amounts could potentially change.
Cities are encouraged to review this measure and support it. A sample support letter, along with the League’s letter and bill language can be found at www.cacities.org/billsearch
by plugging AB 345 into the search function.