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San Luis Obispo rancher who housed homeless is sentenced to jail for safety code violations

November 23, 2009 | 12:38 pm
Rancher

A San Luis Obispo rancher who for years has illegally housed homeless people was ordered today to serve 90 days in jail.

A defiant Dan de Vaul stretched out his arms and let deputies place handcuffs on him before being led out of the San Luis Obispo courtroom. The 66-year-old defendant was offered probation after a jury convicted him in September of two misdemeanor violations of building and safety codes at his Sunny Acres ranch.

But De Vaul refused the terms of his probation because he said it would mean he could no longer provide shelter for about 30 people who reside in his sober-living facility. For eight years, he’s operated the program on his 72-acre ranch, housing clients in mobile homes, tents, garden sheds and an aging Victorian home.

For a time, he also housed people in a three-story stucco barracks until it was shut down last year.

“The first condition of probation is obey all laws,” De Vaul said before the hearing, which was attended by about 30 of his supporters. “I’m proud to go to jail for housing the homeless.”

Superior Court Judge John Trice said San Luis Obispo officials have repeatedly offered to help De Vaul bring his property up to code. But De Vaul has declined all attempts at help, Trice said.

“Such conduct can only be viewed as irresponsible and arrogant,” the judge said before sentencing him to jail.

De Vaul was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

-- Catherine Saillant in San Luis Obispo

Photo: San Luis Obispo deputy sheriff Noah Martin puts the handcuffs on Dan De Vaul after De Vaul was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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