Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2016  
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  Horses in Richmond?
December 2, 2016

The media has had a field day with the story about the impending eviction of over 100 horses in the only affordable stable in the area. It’s a good story but has not been well or accurately reported. See copies of the media coverage at the end of this email.

Here are the facts:

The City of Richmond has been investigating the property on Giant Road since at least March of 2016, and issued a “Notice of Violation and Notice to Abate” to the owner, Diane Frizzie,on October 13, 2016. The violations included the storage of abandoned, wrecked, dismantled or inoperative vehicles in public view,  release of non-storm water discharges into the City storm water system, water from horse washing and other activities discharged into Rheem Creek, horse manure piles not covered such that when in contact with rainwater discharge into Rheem Creek, fences, walls signs or other structures not maintained in structurally sound condition and/or without blight, keeping, storage, depositing or accumulation of dirt, gravel, sand concrete or other similar materials, overgrown weeds, bushes or other vegetation, buildings constructed without permits, horse stables not allowed in M-2 zoning district, and accumulation of unsalvageable items.

·          The property owned by Diane Frizzie is Assessor’s parcel No. 408-070-009 and apparently has no assigned street address, although it is accessed by a driveway at 2775 and 2777 Giant Road (AP 408-070-005 and 408-078-010). Frizzie has a business license #40010625, which expires 12/31/2016, but the stated business is for renting property, not a commercial horse boarding stable. There is no record of any City of Richmond inspections at the Frizzie property prior to this year.

There is a total of five currently licensed businesses using the 2775 and 2777 Giant Road Address, including:

·         Certified Towing, 2777 Giant Road, #4005344, expires 12/31/16. Last fire department and building inspection 2009.
·         TNT Enterprises, 2777 Giant Road, #40004292, expires 12/31/2016, Lat fire department inspection 2014, expired
·         Jorg & Mimi Fleige, (J & M Properties, nonresidential building operators) 2777 Giant Road, #40010380, expires 12/31/2016, no record of inspections
·         CCATT LLC, (Cell Tower) 2777 Giant Road, #40050719, expires 12/1/2016, no inspections
·         Dyna-Gro Nutrition Solutions, 2775 Giant Road, #40013443, expires 12/31/2016, no inspections

Frizzie Propery (lower, southern parcel #408-070-009) and 2775-2777 Giant Road (upper, northern parcels #408-070-005 and 408-078-010) You can see two round corrals and a rectangular exercise area

Richmond has possibly the most liberal, non-restrictive and tolerant policies of any city in Contra Costa County, maybe in the entire Bay Area, about keeping of animals. Except or dogs, which are limited to two or three, depending on the type of dwelling unit, the Richmond ordinance simply reads:

9.24.060 - Number of animals and fowl kept on premises to be reasonable. The number of animals, including fowl, on any premises shall be of a prudent and reasonable number and is at no time to be excessive in number as to the facilities provided for them. (Ord. No. 05-12 N.S., § I, 7-10-2012)

But that pertains to animals on private property , not to a commercially operated boarding facility.

Beth Ward of Contra Costa Animal Services told me that based on their inspections, there is no cruelty or inhumane treatment of horses occurring, but she said they are still awaiting tests of the water. On the other hand, I’m not sure how hard Contra Costa Animal Services wants to look. Apparently they have no capacity to deal with large number of horses, and they don’t want to be responsible. The standard for animal cruelty is pretty high, as defined by Penal Code Section 597(b):

597.(a) Except as provided in subdivision (c) of this section or Section 599c, every person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal, or maliciously and intentionally kills an animal, is guilty of a crime punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).    (b) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (a) or (c), every person who overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter, cruelly beats, mutilates, or cruelly kills any animal, or causes or procures any animal to be so overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked, tortured, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter, or to be cruelly beaten, mutilated, or cruelly killed; and whoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the animal, or in any manner abuses any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather, or who drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is, for each offense, guilty of a crime punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).

Beth Ward also told me that they had been able to find alternate boarding locations for about half the horses and were working on finding places for the remainder.

The City of Richmond ordinances regarding both animals and stables are far more stringent than state law and include the following:

9.24.030 - Premises confining animals and fowl to be maintained in neat and sanitary condition.

Wherever animals, including fowl, may be tethered, corralled, confined, sheltered or fed, the premises shall be maintained in a neat and sanitary condition so that no nuisance due to unsightliness, odor or pest breeding or harborage shall be caused by such animals or premises.
No animals shall be allowed to roam at large on any public street, alley, highway or other public place.

All barns or stables intended for or presently used to shelter livestock which are now erected and maintained, or may be erected, constructed, altered or repaired within the City of Richmond shall conform to the requirements of the zoning ordinance, the building code, and all other applicable laws of the City. Further, any barn or stable to be erected, constructed, altered or repaired shall be so designed as to be in accordance with the following specifications:

(a)   Stall floors shall be constructed with a four-inch concrete floor, with a fall of not less than one-fourth of an inch to the foot; each stall floor shall be covered with two-inch by four-inch, or two-inch by six-inch, planks, laid one-half inch apart on removable frames.
(b)   Gutters shall be of cement, with four-inch outlets to be connected with properly trapped drain to public sewer or approved private sewage disposal system.
(c) All stables shall be provided with outside ventilation of not less than one square foot of open space for each single stall.
(d)   All stall floors shall drain into gutters. Openings from gutters and sumps shall be protected by iron strainers set in iron frames so as to be removable. Drainage pipe shall not be less than four inches in diameter. Catch basins must be constructed of masonry or iron and be at least two feet in any internal dimension.

(Ord. No. 05-12 N.S., § I, 7-10-2012)

9.24.040 - Barns and stables—Bins for manure; distance from dwellings.

Every guardian, lessee or occupant of a building or premises used for a barn or stable shall provide the same with a fly-tight bin for manure, pending its removal, of such dimensions as to contain all accumulations of manure and barn cleanings, and no manure or barn cleanings shall be allowed to accumulate on floors or adjacent grounds; no such bin shall be built, kept or maintained nearer to any adjoining house than one hundred feet, and then the contents thereof shall be removed from the said bin and said bin thoroughly cleaned at least once every seven days, and oftener if the Director of Public Health shall so direct and order.

No manure or barn cleanings shall be stacked or piled or caused or permitted to be stacked or piled for any fertilizing purposes on any truck farm or garden in the City of Richmond, within one hundred feet of any place used in whole or in part for dwelling purposes, unless stored in a closed bin covered to prevent breeding and access of flies thereto.

No guardian, lessee or occupant shall keep in an unsanitary condition or improperly ventilated any barn or stable or premises adjacent thereto or in connection therewith.

No stable shall be erected or constructed within the City of Richmond at a distance of one hundred feet or less from the door or window of any dwelling.

No chicken coop, house or pen, nor any structure used for the containment of fowl, including pigeons, shall be kept at a distance of twenty feet or less from the door or window of any dwelling.

(Ord. No. 05-12 N.S., § I, 7-10-2012)

A local city council member and former mayor who boards a horse at the Giant Road facility emailed me:

Many of the stalls are in atrocious condition with days of manure and old bedding. Some horses too are neglected. This info is from an equine dental practitioner who knows the property well and expounded on the booze, drugs, prostitution and partying until all hours. Many of the Mexicans and Brazilians have never owned horses before and while many look pretty, healthwise some are not healthy. I have seen the conditions personally. Among other things, the entire facility of ramshackle buildings is certainly a fire hazard. In all conscience Tom, I can't support the people after all who rent from the owner, Diane. The problem is hers though, and it is going to be a big job to get all that shit removed and the horses relocated.

I talked to the veterinarian cited in the email above, who also works at Golden Gate Fields, and he told me that while he had not seen any horses that were severely abused, he said that the facilities and care were substandard. Some of the stalls did not meet minimum size standards, cleanliness was lacking, and watering did not conform to prevailing standards.

In response to the San Francisco Chronicle article by Steve Rubenstein “Richmond Moves to Oust Low-cost but Illegal Stable,” City Manager Bill Lindsay wrote:”

The City of Richmond issued a Notice of Violation for violations of the Richmond Municipal Code.   In addition to the zoning violations related to the illegal stables, there is an illegal solid waste transfer site at the location. The Richmond Fire Department (RFD) also issued a notice for violations of the Fire Code.  The deadline for compliance is December 6, 2016.  However, due to the size of the property and extent of the violations, we are prepared to extend the compliance deadline if the property owner continues to work in good faith to bring the property in compliance.

The City of Richmond Code Enforcement Unit, Fire Department, Environmental Department and Police Department along with Contra Costa County Environmental Management all participated in the initial inspection.  It should be noted that we have been partnering with the County to shut down illegal transfer sites throughout the City. Although we were sure there was an illegal transfer site in operation, we had no knowledge that a horse stable was in operation when we initially inspected the property. When we discovered the 120 horses living in squalid conditions, we requested County Animal Services to join our task force. Many of the horses were standing in feces and urine. Some were tethered to the roof of the stable with no access to water.  Much of the feces and urine was running into our storm water system as there is no acceptable drainage at the site.  As part of a different investigation, County Animal Services recently removed 2 horses from this location for suspected abuse.  We also observed piles of unidentified construction debris, concrete, dirt and garbage as well as trucks and heavy equipment used for dumping and hauling.

We are committed to obtaining voluntary compliance.  As long as there is substantial, good faith progress, we will allow for reasonable extensions.  We are aware that the property owner has issued eviction notices to all tenants in an effort to bring the property into compliance.

So what would it take to continue the operation of the stables?

The property’s former zoning was M-3 Heavy Industrial, which clearly did not allow a commercial boarding stable. The Zoning Ordinance was adopted in 1994, which clearly predates the beginning of the Giant Road stable facility, so it was illegal from the beginning. The new Zoning Ordinance, which will go into effect in December 2016, designates the property as IL “Industrial Light,” which also prohibits a commercial stable operation.

Theoretically, the Zoning Ordinance could be amended by the City Council to allow horse boarding stables with or without a Conditional Use Permit, but zoning is really not the main issue. Another solution would be for the horse owners to establish a non-profit cooperative so that the operation would no longer be a commercial business. They would come under RMC 9.24.060 instead of the Zoning Code regulating businesses.

However, by California State law, buildings, including in this case, a commercial stable, have to be designed and constructed according to the California Building Code. They have to be permitted and inspected, none of which has occurred or likely could occur. These stables are not just for horses; people occupy them regularly to care for and clean up after the horses. They have to conform not only to building code requirements but also to OSHA requirements for a safe workplace. Because they are used by the public, they would be required to have accessible restrooms.

The site drainage issues are violations of the federal Clean Water Act as enforced by the State of California Water resources Control Board, the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board and Contra Costa County.

The reason the Giant Road Stables can be operated with such a low fee is that the owner never incurred the cost of obtaining the permits and constructing a proper facility. There have also been allegations that the employees caring for the horses are not being paid the Richmond minimum wage.

The City of Richmond has a reputation for blight that we are working hard to change, and allowing unpermitted construction and multiple health and safety code violations on a property just so that the user can benefit from low costs is not in the long term interest of the City. This blight issue is so pervasive that the City is still fighting with former Council member Corky Booze to clean up his multiple illegal junkyards in the city.

As City Manager Bill Lindsay stated above, “As long as there is substantial, good faith progress, we will allow for reasonable extensions.” The horses are not going to be turned out to meet any deadline.

The horses and their owners taking advantage of low cost services generate a lot of sympathy, but the City of Richmond cannot allow this extreme violation of health and safety codes to continue just because people might be inconvenienced. If here is anyone to blame, it is the property  owner who flouted numerous laws and regulations simply to make a profit.

Tom Butt

Richmond officials threaten to close stable with 110 horses

Richmond officials threaten to close stable with 110 horses in them

The city of Richmond is standing tough on its threat to close stables with 110 horses in them by the first week of December. (KGO-TV)

By Wayne Freedman
Monday, November 28, 2016 07:30PM
RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) --

The city of Richmond is standing tough on its threat to close stables with 110 horses in them.

The deadline is the first week of December, but the city is hoping to see progress now.

It's a working man's stable, not fancy, but affordable for horse aficionados like Elias Mercado who just retired after 33 years as a baker at Safeway. "This is part of my life, to kill my stress and try to survive," Mercado said.

He boards two horses at two stables on the edge of Richmond. Or did, until now anyway.

Last month, city inspectors found code violations and threatened to close these facilities on December 3.

Terry Johnson runs one of the stables. "They were here two years ago, enforcement, city, county, and passed with flying colors," he said.
Now, owners of 110 horses may need to find them new homes.

This is no easy task for other owners including Brian Gaither. "I have no idea where to take them, you know," he said.

It's a tough stance by the city of Richmond. Mayor says Tom Butt says he is tired of fielding complaints. "From what I can tell they have no business license, no permit," he said.

Among top complaints, horse manure piled high in violation of code flowing into a nearby creek. "Everything is up to code. I need to pull some weeds and that is it," Johnson said.

Contra Costa Animal Control says that if it has to close this place down, it has already found homes for half the horses. They're hoping it does not happen at all.

"In any code enforcement action our goal is to get the violation cleaned up," Butt said.
(Copyright ©2016 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

Dozens Of Horses Displaced After Illegal Dumping Operation Found At Richmond Stable

November 21, 2016 3:40 PM
Filed Under: Horses, Horses displaced, Illegal Dumping, Richmond, Stable

RICHMOND (CBS SF) — Some Richmond horse owners have until December 3 to move their animals after an illegal dumping operation was discovered at their stable.

The city happened upon the 17-year-old barn when officers were investigating an illegal transfer station. According to the East Bay Times, debris, old furniture and other trash was stored on one part of the property and the horse boarding facility was operating on another part.

The stable, located at 2777 Giant Road, housed several dozen horses. Officials said the animals all appeared to be well-fed and healthy, but the location is not zoned for horses.

Boarders paid only $160 a month and the facility is described as “rundown,” but it lies in close proximity to scenic riding trails at nearby Point Pinole Regional Park. Stables in the vicinity charge boarders 5 times as much.

Cliff Yamashita said the cheap rent will be hard to match. It allowed “blue-collar workers to have a horse.”

“There really is not an area where we can move these horses that is nearby,” said Jabier Castaneda. He says the places he has called, so far, do not have room.

Many of the horses have already been moved, but there are about 50 still on the property. Contra Costa Animal Services is reaching out to horse rescue groups who may be able to take the horses in after Dec. 3.

Richmond moves to oust low-cost but illegal stable

By Steve Rubenstein
Updated 5:11 pm, Sunday, November 27, 2016
Top: Horse advocate Anne Novak and horse owner Guilleromo Avendano are battling the city to preserve the stable housing 100 horses. Photo: Scott Strazzante, The Chronicle

Photo: Scott Strazzante, The Chronicle
Top: Horse advocate Anne Novak and horse owner Guilleromo Avendano are battling the city to preserve the stable housing 100 horses.

One hundred horses that haven’t done anything wrong except, perhaps, answer nature’s call too often have been ordered to hit the trail in Richmond.

It’s the biggest roundup in city history — and the horses’ owners pledge it will never happen.

“They’ll have to arrest me,” said Javier Castaneda, who has been boarding Ghost and Princess at the low-budget Richmond Stable for years. “I have no place for them to go. I’m not going to let them go hungry. If they lock the gate, I’ll come in and feed them anyway. If that’s trespassing, I guess I’ll go to jail.”

The stable, operating for nearly two decades on a patch of industrial land next to the Amtrak tracks on the north side of town, got a notice of code violations three weeks ago. City officials say the land is not zoned for a stable and that the property owner allows illegal dumping on an adjacent tract of land. They contend the stables are an eyesore, full of debris, lack adequate drainage and feature a small, pungent mountain of what horsemen refer to as “gardener’s gold.”

“Well, it’s the same stuff that comes out of the mayor and the City Council,” said one horse owner, who preferred not to be associated by name with that particular sentiment.

The horse crowd happily acknowledges that the Richmond Stable is a low-budget affair. Horse owners pay $160 a month to board a horse, said to be the lowest rent in the Bay Area by at least half. That sum entitles a horse to a modest, jerry-built stall fashioned from repurposed plywood. The stable’s main office is a converted truck trailer. Inside is manager Brian Gaither.

“There’s no way the city could take care of all these horses if they make us leave,” Gaither said. “The animal care and control people said they didn’t have room for more than four horses. So they can’t just shut it down.”

Gaither said the city, in seeking to end the illegal dumping, is turning the horses into scapegoats.

The tenants say the Richmond Stable is just about the last affordable place where a blue-collar horse lover can board a horse in the Bay Area. Owning a horse in a city is not a blue-collar kind of thing, the Richmond Stable tenants acknowledge. At the historic Folger Stable in Woodside, for example, where horses get “long-stemmed high quality hay” and a comfy blanket at night, the monthly boarding charge is $1,000.

Cliff Yamashita
, a retired tow truck driver, owns Miley and her new colt, Titan. Like most of his fellow boarders, he likes to go riding at nearby Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. He said he would probably have to sell both animals if he gets kicked out.

“I can’t afford the other stables,” he said. “Nobody here can. There are nicer stables, sure, but they charge you for that. As long as the horse is taken care of, it doesn’t mind what the stable looks like.”

Inspectors from the city and from the animal control department visited the property this month. A spokesman for the animal control department said the animals all looked fine.

“The horses were all healthy, with food and water,” said Steve Burdo, a spokesman for the department. “There were no issues of abuse or neglect.”

Code enforcement officers issued abatement orders and installed padlocks on the gates leading to what they said were the illegal dumps next door, but allowed the horses to remain. Horse owners said the city inspectors told them they did not even know there was a stable on the property. City Manager Bill Lindsay said the stable had operated “under the radar.”

At that, the horse owners whinnied in disbelief. It’s not easy, they said, to hide 100 horses for 17 years.

Richmond Councilman Jael Myrick, who met with the horse owners, said he “hopes we can find a way to let them stay there, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”

Myrick, choosing his words as carefully as a man in fancy shoes might choose his path through a corral, called the stable a “community resource that the city wasn’t officially aware of.”

Lindsay said the city would “use appropriate patience” with the stable tenants and allow them to occupy the premises “temporarily, pending relocation” if they show good faith at cleanup efforts. Asked how long “temporarily” might be, Lindsay said, “weeks — not days, not months.” But he said the landlord could also file a formal application to operate a stable and submit a request to have the property rezoned.

Frank Frizzie owns the entire site, including the stable and the illegal dumps. He also drives a small bulldozer around the property, trying to stay ahead of the debris that always seems to pile up at a place with 100 horses. He said the city knows all about his stable and is not shy about accepting his property tax checks, so for officials to plead ignorance is “not right.”

As for the giant pile of horse poop, Frizzie and Gaither arranged this month to have most of it hauled to a nearby organic garden, where operators understand the miracle of horse poop, refer to it as “manure” and welcomed it with somewhat open arms.

The horse owners say they suspect that big-money developers have their eye on the property and want to see the horses and the construction debris gone.

Horse trainer Nancy Artegiani, who gives $10 riding lessons to city kids who have never been on a horse before, said the Richmond horses are all “healthy and clean,” even though the stable is on the modest side.

“So what if things don’t match and the place ain’t picture pretty?” she said, while taking a 7-week-old colt out for a walk. “The horses are happy. They’re not complaining.”

Steve Rubenstein is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @SteveRubeSF