Sacramento, CA

City of Sacramento calls Sac Bee article misleading and incomplete

Robert J Hansen
Screenshot of Sacramento Bee article that the City of Sacramento is calling misleading.(The Sacramento Bee)

Sacramento, Calif.- by Robert J Hansen

The Sacramento Bee published an article titled “He wanted to work on an old car in his yard. Now he owes $573K in Sacramento code violations,” on April 13 that the City of Sacramento is calling misleading and incomplete according to a statement released by the city today.

The City spoke with editors at The Sacramento Bee last week about these omissions and expressed concerns about the false perceptions they created.

The Bee has not addressed these issues according to the city.

The Bee reported that Daniel Altstatt, a property owner in Sacramento, was issued code violations for the vehicles that to the city appeared to be inoperable.

Altstatt said within a couple of months of being issued the violations he removed the vehicle and other items from the backyard yet owes the city $573,000.

“I have suffered seven years of litigation abuse,” Altstatt said. “It’s difficult to put a dollar amount on the level of aggravation, pain, and suffering it has caused.”

The City of Sacramento is claiming Altstatt did not paint a full and accurate picture of his interactions with the city and in response shared the following information.

“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 statement said. “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.”

The Bee article also omitted critical information about the City’s due-process procedures and what property owners can do to resolve or appeal a code violation according to the statement.

“Lastly, the article failed to acknowledge resources available to property owners, including extensions and support with compliance plans,” the statement said.

In 2014 the city began receiving complaints about Altstatt’s property, with some neighbors complaining that it had become a harbor for rats. 

Sacramento served 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 that same year.

Sacramento said it offered solutions to Altstatt to remedy the violations on his property however he did not accept the offers nor did Altstatt appeal the violation.

According to the city’s statement, court filings show that Altstatt argued 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 decided to have this matter heard in Sacramento County Superior Court in 2015.

“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,” the statement said.

Over the years, the court issued inspection warrants to the city to determine 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 not an amount levied by the city but an amount the court found an appropriate judgment.

Altstatt has since sought to appeal the judgment in the 3rd District Court of Appeal. That action is still pending. 

The City of Sacramento says it has not sought to enforce the judgment and will wait until the appeal is complete before taking any action.

“The City of Sacramento remains open to working with Mr. Altstatt and resolving this issue in a fair and just way,” Tim Swanson, Sacramento City media and communications manager said.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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