The Sacramento Bee last week published an incomplete and misleading article titled “He wanted to work on an old car in his yard. Now he owes $573K in Sacramento code violations” (April 13).
The article centered on Daniel Altstatt, a property owner in Sacramento, and did not paint a full and accurate picture of his interactions with the City.
In response, the City is sharing the following information so the public has a better understanding of what occurred.
Altstatt, in court proceedings with the City, has argued that he is not subject to local (and state and federal) laws, a fact that The Bee article did not mention. The Bee article also failed to mention that Altstatt has denied the City access to inspect his property, despite repeated offers from the City over the past eight years to him and his legal representatives to resolve this case.
In addition, The Bee article omitted critical information about the City’s due-process procedures and what property owners can do to resolve or appeal a code violation. Lastly, the article failed to acknowledge resources available to property owners, including extensions and support with compliance plans.
The City last week spoke with editors at The Sacramento Bee about these omissions and expressed concerns about the false perceptions they created. To date, The Bee has not addressed these issues.
The City in 2014 began receiving complaints about the condition of Altstatt’s property, with some neighbors complaining that it had become a harborage for rats. The City that same year provided Altstatt with a notice and order to abate the nuisances on his property, which included storage and accumulation of junk and debris as well as inoperable vehicles.
The City offered solutions to Altstatt to remedy the violations on his property, but the offers were not accepted. In addition, Altstatt did not appeal the violation.
In court filings, Altstatt has argued that it “has not been proved … that any constitution operates on (him),” and that “since it has not been proved that any constitution operates on (him) then it follows that the legislature created under the power of said constitution does not operate on (him)” and that “since it has not been proved that any legislature operates on (him), then it follows that any/all codes/titles/statutes/rules and regulations promulgated by such legislature also cannot be proved to operate on (him).”
Because of Altstatt’s continued non-compliance, the City in 2015 decided to have this matter heard in Sacramento County Superior Court. Rather than respond to the complaint or remedy the public nuisance, Altstatt twice attempted to change the court venue and move the City’s action to federal court. Each time, the federal courts sent the case back to Superior Court.
Over the years, the court issued inspections warrants to the City for the purpose of determining Altstatt’s compliance with the law. During inspections of his property, City staff discovered violations including unlawful storage of excessive junk and debris such as metal objects, propane tanks, broken appliances, automotive parts, gasoline canisters, liquid cleansers and solvents, paint cans, and boxes full of miscellaneous trash and plastic waste.
Altstatt never filed an answer to the Superior Court action, and a default was entered against him on Feb. 1, 2018. Judgment in the City’s favor was entered on March 11, 2020, for approximately $573,000. This amount was the court’s finding of the appropriate judgment; it was not an amount levied by the City.
Altstatt has since sought to appeal the judgment in the 3rd District Court of Appeal. That action is still pending. The City has not sought to enforce the judgment (even though the appellate court already has ruled that it is enforceable) and will wait until the appeal is complete before taking any action.
“The City of Sacramento remains open to working with Mr. Altstatt and to resolving this issue in a fair and just way,” said Tim Swanson, media and communications manager for the City.