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Zone Created for Santa Ana Bail Bond Businesses

Council requires new companies to locate within 2,000 feet of police or jail facilities and more than 150 feet away from residences.

September 22, 2004|Jennifer Mena | Times Staff Writer

New bail bond companies in Santa Ana will be required to locate within 2,000 feet of the Police Department or the County Jail, and cannot be within 150 feet of residential areas, according to an ordinance adopted by the City Council.

The ordinance, approved Monday, is intended to prevent bail bond companies from encroaching into residential neighborhoods as their business proliferates.

The law does not require existing bail bond firms to move, but severely restricts their ability to relocate, and is expected to discourage new bail bond companies from coming into the city.

"It doesn't affect anyone who already has an office but it really makes it very difficult for anyone else to come into the city or move," said Bob Drake, president of the Orange County Bail Agents Assn. and president of a Santa Ana bail bond firm. "This is the first time that I know of in the state where the [bail bond] businesses have been restricted to a particular geographic area."

The new ordinance comes after the City Council, responding to residents' concerns, last year approved an emergency ordinance that barred bail bond companies from relocating or opening.

There are 36 bail bond operations in Santa Ana, according to the city; Drake says there are 17.

Bail bond businesses, regulated by the California Department of Insurance, offer a financial guarantee that a criminal defendant will appear in court when scheduled.

The defendant can personally post the entire bail, or pay 10% of the amount to a bond agent, who will post the entire sum on behalf of the customer.

Under the new law, the bail bond offices are not allowed to serve as living quarters with showers and kitchens, a limitation designed to discourage the offices from staying open all night.

A new bail bond operation would need five parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of office space, while current operations are required to have three for every 1,000 square feet.

New bail bond companies could circumvent the law by seeking a zoning variance, said Steve Harding, the city's executive director of planning and building.

John Schulte, a member of the Floral Park Neighborhood Assn., which was concerned about the possibility of a new bail bond business on 17th Street, said he was pleased with the new law.

"It's a better setup than we had before," he said. "At least we have some limitations."

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