Nov. 6 2016
Angry residents show up
ACTON - As Los Angeles County officials explained a proposed new ordinance that in the Antelope Valley could affect nearly 50,000 so-called "landlocked" parcels - rural properties that do not adjoin a public right of way such as a road or highway - homeowners confronted them with fears about cost and time and questions about motivation and who it would help.
Nearly 100 people packed a meeting room Saturday morning at the Acton-Agua Dulce Library to question county planning and fire officials about the proposed "access requirements" ordinance, which the homeowners said seems to be an unnecessary burden and expressed fears it could complicate and add time and expense to something as simple as replacing a home roof.
"They want you to pay for this and duplicate everything you submitted," said Mike Ross, who brought to the meeting boxes of paperwork required by county officials before he received permission to build his house. "I'm from New York and we have a saying in New York: That stupid government."
If passed by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, the ordinance would require property owners who want to build a house or other structure, expand a house or do other work to provide documented proof of physical and legal access to lots or parcels of land prior to the issuance of zoning approvals and building permits.
According to the county, there are 49,818 parcels in unincorporated areas of the Antelope Valley that could be affected by the proposed "access requirements" ordinance. To review the draft ordinance and see if your lot is considered "landlocked," visit planning.lacounty.gov/aro/
The proposed ordinance would require landowners to provide proof of physical access including a sealed letter from a civil engineer or a licensed surveyor, and proof of legal access conterminous with the physical access, as substantiated by a land survey.
At the meeting, one repeated worry was how much work on an existing home could be carried out without being required to prove access. County officials said the access requirement could be waived in situations that include a home addition that increases the size of a building less than 50%, or reconstruction after a fire or natural disaster.
But asked if obtaining a permit to replace a roof would bring in requirements to meet the Los Angeles County Fire Department's own access standards, the Fire Department representative at the meeting said he wouldn't personally require it, but he didn't have the authority to commit the department to that policy.
The Regional Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance on Jan. 11, but the Association of Rural Town Councils wants the hearing to be delayed to provide more time for study.
People at the meeting Saturday also said they need more time to study the proposal and also said the Regional Planning Commission should hold its hearing in the Antelope Valley, since so many Valley properties would be affected. The commission usually meets in downtown Los Angeles.
"Bring them up here! Bring them up here!" the audience chanted at one point in Saturday's meeting.
People also said the county should notify every property owner potentially affected. The opposition surprised county officials.
"We're really just trying to collect information at this point," said Mitchell Glaser, assistant administrator for the county Department of Regional Planning's Current Planning Division. "We didn't anticipate the ordinance would be as controversial as it is."
At issue are the thousands of land parcels that over more than a century have been created around the Antelope Valley by various means, some of oldest simply by a landowner writing a deed to split off acreage from a larger property and having the deed recorded with county officials.
Many of the properties, even ones with homes, don't border public roads, but their owners use roads created by easements across adjoining parcels or beside them, or along government survey section lines. Often, however, the dirt roads meander and don't follow property lines because hills or other obstacles are in the way.
Acton Town Council member Jackie Ayer said county officials over the years have made the situation worse. They failed to require dedication of land for roads and even refused or returned dedications in some cases, she said.
"The county's actions have landlocked enormous areas in this community," Ayer said.
While worrying about what expense and trouble the proposed new ordinance would put them to, people at the meeting also pointed out cases where property owners have blocked neighbors from using a road or demanded payment for permission to do so.
County officials' suggestion that property owners could hire a title company to research their land's access rights and provide proof was met by objections that it would be costly and time-consuming, and something title companies won't be interested in doing.
A property might have a dozen parcels between it and the nearest public road, and each parcel's easements would have to be research individually at a separate cost.
"They're going to hand you a pile of deeds and hopefully you know how to read them," said Littlerock resident Britt Lundigan.
Even if the owners of 11 of the parcels agreed for a price to allow access, the 12th might refuse entirely, he said.
Homeowners also complained that county officials aren't disclosing in advance what the requirements will be and recounted incidents when officials seemingly arbitrarily changed requirements to build a home or deemed documents unacceptable. The county, they said, has the documentation that they proposing to ask property owners to provide about road easements.
"I have documents but they weren't accepted," Maureen Weston said. "You have them. You're asking for them again."