People v. Parmar, No. C032818.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtScotland
Citation86 Cal.App.4th 781,104 Cal.Rptr.2d 31
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Prakash Vallabhdas PARMAR et al., Defendants and Respondents.
Decision Date30 January 2001
Docket NumberNo. C032818.
104 Cal.Rptr.2d 31
86 Cal.App.4th 781
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant,
Prakash Vallabhdas PARMAR et al., Defendants and Respondents.
No. C032818.
Court of Appeal, Third District.
January 30, 2001.
Review Denied April 11, 2001.

[104 Cal.Rptr.2d 35]

[86 Cal.App.4th 787]

Jan Scully, District Attorney, Albert C. Locher, Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Paulino Duran, Public Defender, Michael R. Nelson, Assistant Public Defender, for Defendant and Respondent Rosemary Parmar.

C. Emmett Mahle, for Defendant and Respondent Prakash Vallabhdas Parmer.

Barry & Randolph, Michelle J. Gray, and Adrian L. Randolph, Sacramento, for Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Appellant.

[104 Cal.Rptr.2d 36]


Upon certification by the Appellate Division of the Sacramento County Superior Court, we ordered this appeal transferred to this court in order to settle an important question of law. (Pen. Code, § 1471.)

The defendants, Prakash Vallabhdas Parmar and Rosemary Parmar, are facing a 250-count misdemeanor complaint arising out of their ownership and operation of two contiguous motels on Auburn Boulevard in Sacramento County. On defendants' motion, the trial court entered an order disqualifying Deputy District Attorney Rita-Jane Spillane, her immediate supervisors, and the office unit of which she is a part from prosecuting the action. (Pen.Code, § 1424, subd. (a)(1).) In ruling on the disqualification motion, the court concluded that a contract between the district attorney's office and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA), by which SHRA

86 Cal.App.4th 788

partially funds a position in the district attorney's office for the purpose of prosecuting nuisance actions, is contrary to public policy and void.

As we shall explain, we agree with the district attorney that the contract is not contrary to public policy, and that the evidence is insufficient to support the disqualification order. Accordingly, we will reverse and remand for further proceedings.


SHRA is a joint powers agency of the City of Sacramento and the County of Sacramento. SHRA serves as both housing authority and redevelopment agency for the city and the county. In performing its function, SHRA coordinates its actions with a variety of state and local entities. To encourage citizen participation, it has created local Project Area Committees in which residents, community organizations, property owners, and business owners from affected areas can meet and make recommendations.

A major portion of SHRA's funding is derived from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD funds administered by SHRA include Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. (42 U.S.C. § 5301 et seq.) The county is a CDBG entitlement jurisdiction, and it has delegated to SHRA the responsibility for administering the CDBG funds.

The purposes of the CDBG program include the construction and improvement of the infrastructure in low/moderate income areas; the improvement and enhancement of the livability of low/moderate income neighborhoods; the expansion of economic opportunities; the provision of decent housing and suitable living environments; and the elimination of slums and blight.

The statutorily permitted uses of CDBG funds include "the elimination of conditions which are detrimental to health, safety, and public welfare, through code enforcement, demolition, interim rehabilitation assistance, and related activities." (42 U.S.C. § 5301(c)(2).)

In 1996, SHRA determined that some of the county's CDBG funds should be used to partially fund a position in the district attorney's office to concentrate on nuisance abatement in targeted areas. The county board of supervisors and HUD approved this use of CDBG funds. According to the district attorney, she "has long recognized the need to address complaints concerning problem properties. Unfortunately, the financial resources have

86 Cal.App.4th 789

not been available to add a prosecutor to deal solely with nuisance abatement cases. This transfer of funds from SHRA, as approved by the Board of Supervisors, has now made the addition of this position possible."

The district attorney and SHRA entered into an agreement. SHRA agreed to fund one-half of a prosecutorial position. The district attorney agreed: (1) "The assigned Deputy District Attorney will focus primarily on Nuisance Abatement cases in

104 Cal.Rptr.2d 37

SHRA targeted areas within the County of Sacramento to pursue civil and criminal actions as authorized by law. The Deputy District Attorney will seek all legal and equitable remedies available to the District Attorney under law on individuals who are found to be in violation of Nuisance statutes." (2) "The assigned Deputy District Attorney will file cases under authority granted in California State Health and Safety Code 11570 [drug-house abatement] and Penal Code Section 186.22a [street gang abatement] and will prosecute such other actions as the District Attorney is empowered to file by law." (3) "The assigned Deputy District Attorney will target specific properties, accumulate evidence and documentation supporting the alleged nuisance activity, evaluate what remedies are sought, and file suit if response by landowner is inadequate. The Deputy District Attorney will formulate and implement procedures, guidelines and protocols between agencies." (4) "The assigned Deputy District Attorney will meet with Agency staff, County staff, City staff, [Sacramento County Sheriffs Department] and [Sacramento Police Department] officers and all and any other multi-agency staff as necessary for case development. Monthly meetings will be held between the Agency and the District Attorney's Office to target problem properties, coordinate joint operations between agencies."

Deputy District Attorney Spillane was assigned to the position created after execution of the agreement.

SHRA targeted areas include areas that have been designated redevelopment areas pursuant to the Community Redevelopment Law. (Health & Saf.Code, § 33000 et seq.) Redevelopment areas are "blighted areas which constitute physical and economic liabilities, requiring redevelopment in the interest of the health, safety, and general welfare of the people of these communities and of the state." (Health & Saf.Code, § 33030.) It is the policy of the state to utilize all appropriate means to promote the sound development and redevelopment of such areas. (Health & Saf. Code, § 33037.)

One of SHRA's targeted areas, and the area of concern here, is the Auburn Boulevard Redevelopment Project. That project area is a narrow strip of about 173 acres along Interstate 80. Auburn Boulevard was once a major

86 Cal.App.4th 790

roadway into and out of the city. At that time, the project area was a commercial strip that included motels and travel/trailer courts. With the construction of Interstate 80 in the mid-1960's, the economic viability of these businesses began to wane. The businesses began to shift away from temporary residential/shelter uses to longer-term residential use, although they were not designed and in many cases were not fit for such long-term use. This led to a variety of problems, including overcrowding, with insufficient open space and recreational areas, and aging, obsolete, and deteriorating buildings and structures. By 1992, when the area was designated as a redevelopment area, crime primarily centered around prostitution and drugs had become a firmly rooted attribute of the area.

Two of the problem motels in the Auburn Boulevard Redevelopment Project are the Rolling Green and the Ritz. Defendants, through their corporation Amit Investments, Inc., acquired the Rolling Green in 1994 and the Ritz in 1996. From the Fall of 1996 through the Fall of 1997, inspections revealed numerous code violations in the Rolling Green and Ritz motels. Defendants were given notice of the violations.

Eventually, with the one-year statute of limitations running down on some of the criminal violations, Spillane filed a 20-count misdemeanor complaint against defendants. The complaint later was amended to allege 250 misdemeanor violations, to wit, 1 count of criminal public nuisance, 116 counts of substandard housing conditions, 31 counts of renting a substandard dwelling, 63 counts of failing to obey an order to correct substandard conditions, 28 counts of renting a dwelling that has been

104 Cal.Rptr.2d 38

the subject of a substandard order without first obtaining a county inspection, 4 counts of failing to acquire proper permits, and 7 counts for the accumulation of trash and garbage. For purposes of the hearing on the motion to disqualify Spillane from prosecuting the action, the parties stipulated that there is probable cause for each of the charged violations.

Much of the evidence at the disqualification hearing was directed toward Spillane's conduct in the discharge of her duties. It was shown that on various occasions she attended meetings of the Auburn Boulevard Project Area Committee. She went, as an observer, on some of the inspections of the properties with representatives of the sheriffs department, the building department, the county environmental management division, the utilities company, and others. She exchanged information with the county sheriffs department, the county probation department, the county counsel, the city police department, the city counsel, the city social nuisance program, and others. She maintained frequent contact with Elizabeth Wolf, a SHRA associate planner who served as coordinator of the district attorney program.

86 Cal.App.4th 791

When Spillane began her assignment, she discussed the problems associated with nuisance actions with attorneys from various other local governments. She learned that frequently, as a response to enforcement action, a...

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