Two contradictory decisions by the Thousand Oaks Planning Commission--one giving a landlord a break and the other taking a tough stand--have raised concerns that a new city law restricting parking at rental properties might be both unfair and illegal.
"It makes no sense," Commissioner Mervyn Kopp said, following the panel's approval Monday night of a four-car permit at one rental house one week after it insisted on a two-car limit at another home. He said there was no difference between the two permit applications.
Although the city's ordinance has not been challenged, Deputy City Atty. Nancy Schreiner said it is defensible in court.
"That's our position," she said. "But you never know what will happen."
The commission voted unanimously Monday to grant a rental permit to Elias Springer for his 1,700-square-foot Camino Calandria home, with a condition allowing his tenants four cars. The family that now lives in the house includes four adults and two children.
The crowding ordinance requires landlords to get a permit when renting single-family homes to four or more adults. The controversial law, which took effect in June, gives the city the power to limit cars at single-family rental homes to a maximum of four.
The ordinance was intended to reduce traffic and parking problems in overcrowded single-family neighborhoods, but since its passage some landlords have questioned whether it is legal and whether it can be enforced fairly.
Springer said Monday that city officials must have been "out of touch with reality" when they passed the law.
"We're living in the 1990s, not the 1940s," he said. "Most homeowners are going to have three or more cars. I think it's very unreasonable to say that four adults cannot each have a car."
Springer told the commission Monday night that to prohibit his tenants the use of four cars would create a hardship for them, because they all depend on the vehicles to get to work. Several neighbors Monday spoke in support of Springer and his tenants, who belong to one family and have lived at the Camino Calandria residence for four years.
But last week, after hearing a similar hardship claim, the commission voted to restrict Adel Barakat from renting his Calle Tulipan home to tenants with three or more vehicles. Half a dozen residents at that meeting complained to the commission that traffic and parking problems in the neighborhood had gotten out of hand because of overcrowding.
Barakat told the commission that the vehicle restriction might force him to evict his tenants--four adults and two children of the same family.
Barakat, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has 10 days remaining to file an appeal to the City Council.
Commissioner Kopp cast the only vote against the two-car limit in Barakat's case. He said he found the city's crowding ordinance to be discriminatory and questioned whether it would stand up to legal challenge.
The City Council is scheduled next month to review the crowding ordinance to see if any changes are necessary. Commission Chairman Forrest Frields said before Monday's hearing that the council will have to deal with a number of unresolved issues raised by the ordinance.
The most significant question is where additional cars, as in the case of Springer, will be allowed to park, Frields said. To discourage parking one car behind another, all vehicle parking spaces must comply with certain requirements for front, side and rear areas. The city discourages on-street parking.
Following Monday's hearing, Frields told Springer: "It's up to you to provide legal parking for your tenants." Springer said he would, but said he was not certain how.