Grandma Threatened with Jail Over Garage Conversion

Having solved all of its problems like crime and poverty, La Quinta, California, is going after Ageda Camargo. The 83-year-old grandma may land in jail for ... an illegal garage conversion!

Camargo, a grandmother of six, has run afoul of La Quinta's code enforcement in a big way, big enough to put her behind bars.

The city near Palm Springs insists that one of her three bedrooms is really an illegally converted garage. She insists it's just a bedroom.

"What right do they have to call this a garage?" she asked, walking around the room with its cabinets, sink, bathroom and refrigerator. "I never called it a garage. How do they know it's not a bedroom? If this is a garage, then they owe me a bedroom."

For 18 months now, code enforcement officials have been after Camargo to turn the bedroom back into a garage. Insisting that her home is her castle, she has ignored more than a dozen warnings. Her resistance crumbled last week when a local judge ordered her to comply or face possible jail time.

"It's traumatic. It's like tearing my house down," she said. "I bought this place 30 years ago, and it was always a bedroom. And now they are trying to shove this down my throat."

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Maybe she ticked off someone. Maybe somebody wants her house. The municipality can fine her and put her in jail if she can't pay the fine. (Around where I live it's about $1,000 or two weeks in jail.) They can bulldoze the garage, probably using village vehicles and village employees, and put the cost of that (guaranteed to cost a lot more than any independent contractor) on her taxes. Presto, they take the house. Nobody will represent her with any vigor, either. They want their house taken away from them? We have to fight for democracy. This could be age discrimination, too. How likely is she to put up a fight? Any pro bono lawyers out her way?
Concerned for America
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Looking at the photo, I'm guessing the linoleum on that floor might have been put down 30 - 40 years ago. The orangey-looking decor suggests late 1960's or early 1970's. Maybe in those days laws governing fitouts were different. If city council is applying its current laws retrospectively, that in itself could be illegal and the lady may have a case against the bureaucrats. You can't say that a particular building law dated such-and-such date must be applied to anything done before that date otherwise everybody would be forced to tear their houses down and replace them with tepees or forest or whatever existed in California before the Spanish arrived!

What about the neighbours? Have they complained about any noises or other problems arising from the conversion?

Also I should think any conversion that doesn't alter the exterior appearance of the house as seen from the street would not need city council approval but I live in Australia where this law applies in some towns and cities.
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You might also notice, that the entire city council is as White as a slice of Wonder bread, but the grandmother they want to jail is likely Latino. Hmmm...

http://www.la-quinta.org/Index.aspx?page=38

Same with the Housing a-hole:
Director of Building & Safety: Tom Hartung
http://la-quinta.org/Index.aspx?page=23
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"tell us why garage conversions are a safety hazard? Seems very odd."

My hunch is for two reasons. One, the bureaucrats don't want houses to contain "too many" people, which an extra bedroom would facilitate, and two, the bureaucrats don't want "ugly vehicles" parked outside in view, by necessity.

It's all about limiting the ability of The People to arrange affordable housing, like (several people or a large family) sharing one house, and "keeping up appearances." Same reason many municipalities forbid people from drying their clothes on a line outside.

The bureaucrats who make and enforce these rules, don't ever have to worry about a roof over their head(s), or how to pay the electric bill.
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