The purpose of this letter is to address the concerns and impacts to residents in the city of Tehachapi regarding proposed ordinance 8.68 addressed to the Tehachapi City Council on March 4.
The proposed ordinance is presumed to be delivered with the highest regard to community safety and overall quality of life for the citizens of Tehachapi. The city of Tehachapi has gone to great lengths to make our town one of “Kern County’s Safest Cities.” The actions taken to achieve this recognition are in no doubt directly attributed to the hard work and dedication that our city police put forth every day..
The objection to this ordinance is in no way meant to degrade the integrity and diligence of our community police. In fact, the objection is made with the utmost respect to those who continue pursuing ways to make our community a better place. In order to ensure the respect and trust between the community members, the city and the police force, the proposed ordinance should be taken off the agenda or at a minimum be reviewed and amended to ensure the rights of the community members who own rental properties are not federally violated.
As stated below on the agenda item presented to the Tehachapi City Council, “From 2015 to 2019, the City of Tehachapi and the Tehachapi Police Department were required to take enforcement action on 48 Drug and Chronic Nuisance Properties within the City. An analysis of these Chronic Nuisance Properties revealed that 87.5% were rental properties at the time enforcement action was required.”
This works out to be less than one enforcement action per month at a rental property within the city limits. A question for the statisticians: As Tehachapi has earned the “Safest City” award, how many enforcement actions occurred January 2018 through March 8, 2019 in the whole of Tehachapi? How many of those were directly related to rental properties? Where did these enforcement actions occur? Are they spread throughout the community or is the vast majority isolated to a few certain “problem areas”?
To hold a responsible citizen and property owner liable for tenants’ violations is outright absurd. Tenants have more rights than landlords, which in itself can be difficult to legally manage. To fine, charge and imprison a land owner (see ordinance 5.08.340) for violations under this ordinance is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. In basic terms, you do not get to come on my property uninvited for any search without probable cause or a warrant. The business license is not a warrant, it is a tax.
Property owners and landlords are not police. The city of Tehachapi already has code enforcement and a very talented, diligent, capable police force paid by the citizens, which operates under local, state and federal laws. Law-abiding citizens should in no way be held accountable or be punished and stripped of constitutional rights just so the city can accrue more revenue, unlawfully search premises, fine, imprison and or charge residents, and ultimately seize assets if the citizen’s property is not to the city’s “liking.”
As many lawsuits have been filed and won over ordinances such as this, will the city of Tehachapi ultimately opt to disgrace and disrespect its citizens who employ them? Can the city of Tehachapi really afford another lawsuit? Will the city of Tehachapi use citizen tax dollars to fight a lawsuit that may attribute to this ordinance should one ensue? To live in the city that our forefathers built is a privilege.
Do not turn this into every other community out there like Lancaster or Palmdale; that is not who we are. Do not use the responsible citizens of Tehachapi as the pack mule for “the city’s budget and salary increases.” Do not overstep your authority and mandate that the responsible citizens take the fall for those who take advantage of the system. You are doing well at promoting safety, beautifying the town, mitigating nuisances, providing jobs, empowering people, earning respect, earning trust. Do not throw it away over something as petty as this ordinance. If additional funds are needed for enforcement, just say so and let’s work together to get what is needed.
Multiple cases have been made throughout the U.S.; a simple Google search will show that when ordinances such as these are put in place, typically the places that drove the communities to adopt such ordinances get worse. They stop making calls to the police for fear they will lose their home. They don’t call code enforcement to report problems.
Let’s all enact Neighborhood Watch and really help the police identify the problems using the current legal means and strive to make a better place. By the way, what happens to the renters when an owner goes default? What about their rights?
— Scoutt Lantz, Helen Lantz and Jon Lantz