Sacramento, CA — Dan Alstatt is a retired 83-year-old from California who may spend the rest of his life "homeless and penniless" because government claims what you can and can't do with your own property. Alstatt never harmed anyone, nor did he destroy or other wise harm anyone else's property, but these facts are irrelevant to the state who claims Alstatt owes them $573,000 for using his private property the way he wanted.
Alstatt worked on old cars in his own yard and according to the city of Sacramento, this is illegal. When Alstatt disputed the city's claim, the city then told Alstatt he owed them money. Now, Alstatt is worried that the state will come and seize his home because he cannot afford to pay the ridiculously high fines.
According to an article in the SacBee, Alstatt's nightmare began in 2014 when he brought a van into his backyard to fix them — a code enforcement penalty — according to the local government.
He also had at least five other vehicles on the property, some of which he inherited when his brother died, he said. A neighbor complained, and the city cited him, claiming all the vehicles appeared to be inoperable. It also issued violations for other backyard items — car parts, generators, propane tanks and fruit that had fallen off his orange and grapefruit trees. Altstatt has since removed the inoperable vehicles and other items.
To be clear, none of the vehicles could be seen as they were in his back yard behind a privacy fence and the front of Alstatt's home is well kept and maintained. Absolutely no one is being harmed or was ever harmed by Alstatt working on vehicles but the state still pursued the case.
Despite the fact that Alstatt has since removed all the "violations," the city still claims he owes them over a half million dollars. He appealed their fines but lost that appeal this month.
Alstatt argued that the fines totaling over a half million dollars were "excessive" and violate his Eighth Amendment right to be free from "excessive fines imposed." The city claimed that Alstatt's accusations of excessive fines for working on vehicles in his own back yard were "unfounded and unsupported."
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Alstatt also accused the city of using code enforcement as a predatory means to collect revenue which will render him “homeless and penniless." The city also claimed this was unfounded.
Imagine the type of mental gymnastics it takes for a city code enforcer to think that fining a retiree $573,000 for working on a van in his back yard is not "excessive" or "predatory."
Nevertheless, the court took Alstatt's claims, threw them out, and used them as an opportunity to mock him in their dismissal of his appeal.
“Defendant’s argument is unfocused and difficult to discern,” 3rd District Court of Appeal Judge Louis Mauro wrote in the ruling.
The city claims they will now work with Alstatt and provide him "support" as they rob him of his home and money.
“That the city can charge such exorbitant and unreasonable fees for having things in the backyard is beyond belief,” Altstatt said to the SacBee. “I don’t know how they are able to do this. It is perplexing how disputed allegations of so-called ‘junk and debris’ in a person’s backyard can escalate to the point where the city owns your property.”