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Steve Hansen How meddling government killed my family’s business

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Steve Hansen

Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:19 am, Tue Feb 28, 2012.

The old store once stood brightly in the San Diego sun. It had been in our family since the late 19th century. It was on J Street in the heart of the historic downtown area.

It hadn't been easy to maintain this California relic through four generations. There was the drought and hard times experienced by my great-grandfather from 1889 to 1903. There was a shortage of goods to sell during World War I. The Depression of the 1930s took its toll and, of course, there was World War II.

Even as late as the 1980s, the neighborhood was a home for derelicts. But the city still demanded its taxes and the family still paid them — hoping that someday, the situation would change for the better.

It did.

During the late 1980s and early '90s, the area began to transform into the "Gaslamp District." New upscale shops and hotels appeared. The Padres baseball stadium would be built just three blocks away. We thought our ship had come in, but events would lead to a different course.

We were able to rent the structure to an antique dealer. Everyone was prospering until various acts of government began to insert their harnessing hands.

The first incident appeared when a man in a wheelchair entered the store. He asked the proprietor if he use the restroom. The business owner refused, saying it was not available to the public. But the man persisted, attesting that it was an emergency. Empathy reigned, and the proprietor made an exception.

The next thing we knew, an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit had been filed against the business owner and our family. The complaint stated that the towel rack in the restroom was two inches above regulations. However, the "victim" would go away quietly if we paid $2,000 for his "injuries."

It turned out that this guy was backed by a local law firm and had pulled the same ruse on an entire block of businesses.

But our troubles weren't over. Bureaucrats from the state of California, with their lengthy book of regulations, decided to pay us a visit. They asserted that the building was not up to earthquake code (even though it had stood for more than 100 years) and would need to be updated within a prescribed period of time. The cost for retrofitting would be thousands of dollars.

The forces of doom were not done with us yet. Now came a letter from a German developer, stating that he wanted the property for a hotel. He gave us a lowball offer.

A threat was implied if we did not cooperate. The builder claimed he had friends in high places and the property would be seized through "eminent domain."

The family refused, and cunning commercialist made good on his promise. Although we spent $50K in legal fees, we could not prevail. The property was eventually taken, along with several others nearby.

But as fate would have it, the beginning of the 2006 property crash began to take shape, and the developer backed out. The city tore down a century of family history. Where the old structure once stood was now a parking lot.

Today when some people say, "What's happened to our economy?" perhaps they are looking for answers in the wrong places.

Perhaps the real question should be, "How do small businesses succeed and create jobs when the long arm of government only seems to stall and prevent their progress?"

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 4:22 pm on Sun, Mar 4, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Pat... relax! Most people count sheep. Ms Bobin is busy counting bigots around every corner... 1,2.3,4,5,7,11,45,7787,989090,1,222,333,400...once she gets to counting, all else becomes mute... my only thought, since there are less than 100,000 people in the Lodi area, what city does she focus on after Lodi is finished? Probably her home town in New York my guess.

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 10:00 am on Fri, Mar 2, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    Where are you msb? The stress is killing me (I have already had a five-way bypass), why aren't you answering? Kind of reminds me of dealing with the govt agencies.

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 11:42 am on Thu, Mar 1, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    msb: The EPA was created by Nixon, that is a fact...unlike the people you support who wiish to expand the govt regulations on everything. If I remember correctly Carter created the Dept of Energy (bloated and worthless), Education (a joke), Johnson's HUD (welfare state) and Transportation (got roads?). Can you say $16 Trillion in debt? BO wants more...go figure...just following in their footsteps.

    Remember one more thing...when they run us out of business...I don't have to work any more...don't have to pay taxes...then what are YOU going to do???

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 9:59 am on Thu, Mar 1, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    What Mr. Maple neglects to state is that many of the agencies he has listed below were simply CONSOLIDATED under Nixon's proposal, not CREATED, in an attempt to cut bureaucratic levels and streamline government agencies under a single banner.

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 3:36 pm on Wed, Feb 29, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    And who started the EPA?? Richard Nixon?? A Republican?? Imagine that!!!

    EPA offices
    Office of Administration and Resources
    Office of Air and Radiation
    Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
    Office of Environmental Information
    Office of Environmental Justice
    Office of the Chief Financial Officer
    Office of General Counsel
    Office of Inspector General
    Office of International Affairs
    Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances
    Office of Research and Development
    Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response
    Office of Water
    Office of Chemical Safety & Pollution Prevention

    Can we count on your vote for Romney in November???

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 3:01 pm on Wed, Feb 29, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    In the 70's and 80's I worked at a company that routinely sent 50 gallon drums of paint residue, including the toxic chemical toluene, to the SJ dump on Harney Lane. They B&Moaned when SJ EPA put a stop to it and they had to use a hazmat disposal company to get rid of it.

    I feel sorry for the people who have homes near that dump. Who knows what problems their future children, grandchildren and on and on will have?

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 10:02 am on Tue, Feb 28, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    Steve: Ten years ago I ran my $2M business (all of it) by myself...including the payroll...today I have had to hire two office people to help me...not because of my age but because of work overload...from the government. The amount of money I was losing from fines, taxes, permits, haz-mat, DMV and the likes nearly put me under after 30 years. That would have meant laying off 15 people...I would like to know where my bail-out was when I needed it?

  • Steve Schmidt posted at 4:50 am on Tue, Feb 28, 2012.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2672

    I am so happy to see that the LNS has stopped referring to Hansen as a satirist.


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