A law practice and psychologist office operating out of a home on Santa Helena, which neighbors said increased noise and traffic and caused safety concerns, were ordered to close by the City Council on Feb. 11.
The council unanimously ruled that Myra Fleischer, an attorney, and Robert Simon, a psychologist, violated several city codes for home-based businesses and revoked their business certificates immediately.
Professional and medical offices are prohibited in residential areas because they are not compatible, according to city codes.
Also, neither person lived in the home at the time, making the businesses the primary use of the property, not the secondary as required for a home occupation.
Only residents of the home plus one additional employee are allowed to participate in the business. Three part-time employees also worked out of the home.
"There is more than sufficient evidence here there is a gross violation," Councilmember Dave Roberts said. "It's not a bad business; it's not a business for a residential area."
Fleisher and Simon said they spoke with two city staff members prior to purchasing the home, fully disclosing their intentions to not live there and have several employees. They said they were advised to apply for a home business certificate.
"We acted with good faith and with complete transparency," Simon said.
However, when signing the application for such a certificate, applicants agree to abide by the rules for home-based businesses, which are clearly printed on the back of the application.
When Deputy Mayor Tom Campbell asked if either one of the applicants had read the document before signing it, both said they could not recall.
The quasi-judicial hearing carried a more heightened air of drama than most council meetings. Each person speaking before the council was sworn in by the city clerk to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Several neighbors requested the businesses cease and desist because increased traffic and noise were diminishing the quite enjoyment of their own homes. A petition to the same effect was submitted earlier in the day with 62 signatures.
Some parents expressed concerned about who was coming into the neighborhood because Fleischer's law practice specializes in divorce, custody, violence and abuse issues.
"The safety of my children are at risk," said Susan Rincon, who lives immediately next door. "I can't leave my 13-year-old at home to go get a carton of milk at the store."
Simon apologized for the "consternation" caused to the neighborhood, but asked that the certificates not be revoked until April 1, when he and Fleischer plan to move into a commercial space.
Roberts said it was the council's job to take the emotion out of the discussion and stick to the rules.
He said the city had met privately with the applicants three times but were unable to reach an agreement, and so moved forward with motion to revoke the business certificates immediately.