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Criminal Defense Attorneys

Lawndale, Building & Safety Code Violations, Dismissed

In early 2019, our clients were contacted by the City of Lawndale and advised that the City’s Building and Safety Department had conducted an inspection of the property (without our client’s knowledge) and found over ten building and safety violations with the property. 

The letter warned the clients that if all ten violations were not remedied within 30 days, the City would file a criminal complaint against our clients.  The letter told our clients that they needed to submit a landscaping plan for approval to rectify a front yard violation involving an unpermitted patio built inside their front yard with artificial turf. 

It also advised that the entire fence surrounding the property had less than the minimum space between it and two garages in the back yard (for fireman access) of the property, one which had been converted to a two-unit living area and one that was used as a storage shed, but was in “extreme disrepair,” according to the City.  Indeed, it was literally falling apart from rotting wood.

The letter further notified our clients that they City required our clients to remove and replace unpermitted underground sewage, electrical and water lines that had been installed to the backyard units with cement above the lines.

The letter also told our clients that they needed to remove an enormous amount of debris (just trash) that was in the backyard and constituted a fire hazard.  Indeed, a Google-Earth photo of the property showed exactly this – the entire property was filed with trash.

Our clients, a then age 34 year old school district employee (as a janitor) and his mother, then age 55, did nothing in response.  The expense involved would prove to be close to $100,000.

Accordingly, as promised, the City then filed its criminal lawsuit, alleging eleven misdemeanor violations.  The violations were each significant in cost to fix and involved up to six months in county jail as punishment for each offense.  Our clients were shocked and indignant, insisting that they could basically do anything they wanted on their private property.

The clients called Greg Hill & Associates.  Greg had experience in such cases in several other cities, including Downey, Torrance and Hollywood.  Greg explained how such cases had resolved and described what he could do to help the clients, however, the client’s insistence that they had the right to do anything they wanted on their property was not going to persuade the City of Lawndale or the Torrance Superior Court judge to dismiss the case.

The clients insisted that many of the prior “unpermitted” electrical, water and sewer lines were “grandfathered” in and that the City actually approved the backyard structures decades ago.

Greg then visited the property with the clients and observed the many violations that the City of Lawndale had found.
Our clients first removed the immense amount of trash that had accumulated over years in the property’s backyard and an updated Google-Earth photo showed the dramatic change.

Slowly, over many months, our client submitted architectural plans to the City with the help of a local architect.  The plans included landscaping plans for the front yard, then for the fence, then for the two rear buildings.

Greg appeared in the Torrance Superior Court for our clients and, in negotiations with the City, worked out an agreement that all charges would be dismissed for a $100 fine from both clients ($50 each) as long as the clients worked with due diligence and in good faith toward bringing the property into compliance.

Over a period of four years, the clients made progress on fixing the property, making this case one of the oldest cases in the Torrance Courthouse by the time it was eventually dismissed when the clients finally demolished the two backyard structures and the City inspected the demolition, approving it.  This was extremely expensive for our clients.

This case epitomized the risks and problems of doing things yourself, which our clients naively believed was allowed on one’s own property.  We find that this naivete is actually very common, particularly in recent immigrants to the United States who may have been able to do exactly what they did in their birth country with no problems.

For more information about the issues in this case, please click on the following articles:
Client Reviews
"Thank you so much for putting so much effort in this case. We really appreciate it and we are happy that all turned out well." S.A., Torrance
"Greg Hill did an outstanding job on every level. He was efficient, thorough, knowledgeable, courteous, responsive & brilliant. He welcomed my input and my concerns. . . from the first conversation to the last - I always felt 'it mattered' to him." S.C., Rolling Hills Estates
"Thanks again for your hard work. We want you to know that we are very appreciative of all that you have done [on our son's] behalf. With warmest regards." L.H., Torrance
"Dear Greg, Thank you again for all your help. Your professionalism and thoroughness is greatly admired. I will definitely recommend you to my friends if they ever need legal help." V.L., Carson
"Thanks for investing in my case. I talked to other attorneys out there and they had an arms-length of attitude, but not you. Your intensity and interest helped a lot." C.R., Pomona