Coastal Post Online

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September, 2003

The Kinsey Report:
Why Does Steve Do The Things He Does?
By Jim Scanlon

Supervisor Steve Kinsey is at it again! Why does he continue to do illegal construction on his property when he doesn't have to, especially after having been outed and caught three years ago.

An ordinary citizen submitting complete and accurate plans for a building permit, waits from four to six weeks for permission to proceed, Kinsey, on the other hand, began major structural work on his Forest Knolls home days, if not weeks before the permit was issued. Without any interference from County Officials, he continued the work while his permit was processed in just 9 working days ---which has to be some kind of record. This smacks of blatant favoritism and an abuse of position and power.

On August 12, 2003 the Coastal Post received a copy of an anonymous complaint to County authorities that on July 21, 2003, Kinsey began to demolish an outer wall of his home, eventually excavating an area to place form boards for steel reinforcing rods for a concrete foundation. The complaint alleges that inquires were made at the County Building Department for what appeared to be illegal work on July 21 and 29 and no building or demolition permits were reportedly on file.

The Coastal Post often receives anonymous complaints but has never acted on any of them for lack of a means of verification or of questioning the complainers. The current case was different in that the envelope was postmarked and there were photos which were dated when they were developed.

Inquiries at the County's Building Department revealed that on July 30, Kinsey submitted plans to repair, remodel and construct an addition to his home and by August 12 the permit had been issued. As far as Building Enforcement was concerned the project was now legal and was not being investigated.

The Planning Department had signed off on July 30, Environmental Health on August 6 and Land Development on August 8. Fees totaling $1,450.61 were paid and the permit was issued on August 12, nine working days from start to finish. There is a "hold" on approval of the septic system but the head of Environmental Health said the hold is basically "pro forma" and he expected approval when the job was finished.

The complaint included photos taken August 1 (stamped at a photo lab August 6) and alleges that illegal, ongoing construction started earlier. From this it would seem incontrovertible that Kinsey began construction at least a week before the permit was issued on August 12. If one accepts the anonymous complaint, that work began on July 21, and that an inquiry was made that same day finding no permit application on file, it is plausible to hypothesize that a building permit was sought only after it was apparent that a complaint was being made.

It is indeed puzzling why Steve Kinsey does things this way. His plans are well done, the repair and expansion is reasonable, adding only 111 sq. feet to a small structure of 559 sq. ft. (the Assessor's Office lists the house as 548 sq. ft.) for a new total of 670. Not much to get excited about. Why would county authorities pushed through approval in 9 days? Why the hurry? It leaves one confused and wondering what is going on! Why put county authorities in such a potentially embarrassing position? It is hard to believe that someone would do such a thing to avoid paying the $1,500.00 fee.

Readers may well remember the long drawn out "Whistle Blower" case of Ed Stewart, the former head of the County's Environmental Health Services with a clean record of 28 years of county service who was fired along with a senior inspector after they publicly charged Kinsey with interference in their work regulating septic systems. Is this getting to be a habit? An informational call to the Building Department asking how long it might take to get a building permit` got this response: "If there were no design review, and everything was complete, four to six weeks"

A thoughtful Architect said, "These things are more complicated than they might seem. In the unincorporated area of the county, if it were a minor project, and no design review were involved, it would take, on average, 30 to 60 days. But it could also take three months, or even stretch out to a year!"

"County workers have been hard hit", he said, "they have a lot to do and it is hard for them to find time to examine the plans we submit. But this makes our job that much more difficult".

"What might happen if the work began before the permit was issued? the Coastal Post inquired. "Two things. A stop work order would be issued, a find might be imposed and, if work that was done did not meet county standards, it might be ordered removed".

Another Architect confirmed the 30-60 day estimate and a West Marin contractor said, "Three months".

The anonymous letter writer wrote, "The last time someone reported the owner of that property ... [he] ...[Kinsey] ...later confronted the complainant saying he had seen the CONFIDENTIAL file. Since it is evident that confidential complaints are not kept confidential from the subject of the complaint [Kinsey] I am reluctant to give my name" It seems reasonable to assume that Kinsey knows the rules since he was a licensed contractor for many years and, although not licensed, has extensive architectural training and experience. As readers of the Coastal Post know, Kinsey was involved in a long drawn out process over his having built an illegal septic system on his property and was required to upgrade it by installing an expensive experimental system.

Many people felt that he received special treatment because he was a member of the Board of Supervisors and that his actions had he effect of intimidating county regulatory staff. Despite his having an illegal septic system his colleagues on the Board acquiesced to his making appointments to and overseeing a committee to change septic system regulations. and Patrick Faulkner the County Council ruled Kinsey did not have a conflict of interest. Nevertheless, his permit violations did not substantially effect his last election and he won handily, although with greatly diminished support in West Marin.

It is hard to judge which is worse, Kinsey's disregard for rules or the silence of his fellow Board members and Marin's forgetful voters.

Whatever his motives in flouting basic county rules and regulations, his actions are foolish and destructive not only to his own reputation, but also to the morale of county officials entrusted to enforce regulations on a daily basis. He continues to set a bad example for all county workers. It is hard to see how he can ever make amends for his actions. Scofflaw seems appropriate.

 

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