South Sacramento racks up the code enforcement fines

43 percent of cases referred to county Department of Revenue Recovery

Elected officials received an eye-opening report last month about how fines are assessed and—sometimes—collected throughout unincorporated Sacramento County.

A staff report to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors says that the Department of Community Development considers administrative civil penalties “one of the most effective enforcement tools” for redressing code-enforcement nuisances that threaten public health and safety, “particularly for rare and serious cases,” and doesn’t want to see any changes to the county’s nuisance code.

Yet most of these fines go uncollected, according to figures tabulated by the community development department. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 3015, code enforcement officers meted out $632,110 in fines to housing- and zoning-code violators, as well as to those who ran afoul of the county’s Rental Housing Inspection Program.

Resolving those fines—through collections or reversals—can be a slow process, taking until the following fiscal year, the staff report says. Only $155,549 in fines was collected last year, with another $56,670 reversed. That makes it look like 66 percent of the fines still have to be resolved, but doesn’t reflect the collections and reversals that have carried over from previous years.

To get a better grasp at the actual success rate, county officials considered figures over four years. Of the approximately $1.9 million in fees that code enforcement officers assessed between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2015, the county collected north of $773,000 and reversed nearly $231,000, leaving about 48 percent of the cases unresolved.

Examining code enforcement cases by zip code illustrates a map of the unincorporated county’s most neglected areas.

“South Sacramento has the highest amount of penalties per square mile,” the staff report notes. The two zip codes belonging to the south county have been cited 87 times, and average almost 52 penalties per square mile, according to one breakdown. According to a separate invoice provided by the county, there are actually 89 south county code enforcement cases, 43 percent of which have been referred to the county Department of Revenue Recovery, which “can negotiate and adjust penalty amounts in the interest of settlement,” the staff report says.

In all, 160 (36 percent) of the county’s 448 code enforcement cases are closed, while 216 (48 percent) have been referred to the Department of Revenue Recovery.

At their December 15, 2015, meeting, supervisors were being asked to order quarterly updates of these figures. According to online meeting notes, the board continued the matter to February 9.