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Half Moon Bay grapples with $36.8 million judgment against it
San Francisco Chronicle ^ | 12/18/7 | John Coté

Posted on 12/18/2007 8:00:35 AM PST by SmithL

Half Moon Bay is wrestling with unpleasant options for responding to a court ruling that officials say threatens the "very existence of our city government" - a $36.8 million judgment against the city for turning a proposed housing development site into wetlands.

Under the worst-case scenario, officials say, Half Moon Bay would become the first Bay Area city forced to dissolve, and the coastal town's land would become an unincorporated part of San Mateo County.

Members of the City Council say that's unlikely, and they plan to vote at a public meeting tonight to retain an appellate law firm and a financial consultant to advise them on how to tackle a court judgment that is more than three times Half Moon Bay's $10 million annual budget.

Appealing U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's Nov. 28 ruling could be a stretch for the city of 12,300, however. A court might require Half Moon Bay to put up a multimillion-dollar security bond just to fight the decision.

Funding such a bond would mean "significant budget cuts across the board," the City Council said in a joint statement last week. "Everything will be affected - parks, streets, libraries, repairs - every municipal function will face cuts."

Paying the judgment outright appears to be out of the question. The City Council said: "The very existence of our city government is threatened."

The dilemma arose from a long-running dispute over a 24-acre parcel just east of Highway 1 that is flanked by housing developments, spotted with trees and choked by 6-foot-tall weeds.

The property, known as Beachwood, is owned in trust by Palo Alto developer Charles "Chop" Keenan, whose trustee bought it in 1993 for $1 million in a foreclosure sale and planned to build an 83-unit residential subdivision.

(Excerpt) Read more at sfgate.com ...


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Editorial; Government; US: California
KEYWORDS: halfmoonbay; propertyrights; taking

The Beachwood property, the judge ruled, became a wetlands after the city did work in the area.

1 posted on 12/18/2007 8:00:39 AM PST by SmithL
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follow-up to $36.8 million award for undevelopable land 'devastating to city'
2 posted on 12/18/2007 8:01:28 AM PST by SmithL (...and Happy Holy Days to you!)
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To: SmithL
"Walker ruled that the city had created the wetlands - and damaged the property - by botching a storm drain project and by allowing dirt to be removed for a nearby housing development. Its wetlands status meant the plot could not be developed under state coastal regulations.
...
Half Moon Bay, like 30 other Bay Area cities, is insured through the Association of Bay Area Governments. That insurance pays up to $20 million for an approved claim. But it doesn't cover the Half Moon Bay case, in which the city was found to have seized private property without paying just compensation."

Just too bad for the city. Let them be a lesson for others.

3 posted on 12/18/2007 8:05:35 AM PST by sionnsar (trad-anglican.faithweb.com |Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: SmithL
Paying the judgment outright appears to be out of the question. The City Council said: "The very existence of our city government is threatened."

I doubt if the City Council is ever too concern when their anti-growth policies threaten the livelihood of its citizens.

4 posted on 12/18/2007 8:07:08 AM PST by Always Right
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To: SmithL

In six months we begin construction.....of DELTA CITY!


5 posted on 12/18/2007 8:07:15 AM PST by domenad (In all things, in all ways, at all times, let honor guide me.)
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To: domenad

Don’t a bunch of Dean Koontz novels happen here?


6 posted on 12/18/2007 8:10:44 AM PST by massgopguy (I owe everything to George Bailey)
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To: SmithL

could they make payments ? a million a year for 37 years ?
( or more years, taking the juice into consideration)
it would be 10% of the budget, which they should be able to absorb by cutting out waste/fraud.


7 posted on 12/18/2007 8:14:10 AM PST by stylin19a
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To: SmithL
"A court might require Half Moon Bay to put up a multimillion-dollar security bond just to fight the decision."

And who in their right mind would write a $36 million appeal bond for an entity that probably can't scratch together $5 mill in current assets and is threatening to just disband if they lose on appeal?

8 posted on 12/18/2007 8:15:37 AM PST by joebuck
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To: stylin19a

hahaha thats funny
Pay for their mistakes, haha
Maybe in a alternate universe.


9 posted on 12/18/2007 8:17:20 AM PST by winodog ( It really is all about the benjamins)
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To: SmithL
A slow-growth bloc had won a majority on the City Council in 1996
10 posted on 12/18/2007 8:19:29 AM PST by Free State Four
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To: SmithL
Has the city considered undoing what it did to make the property a wetland and appealing its wetland designation? It seems like that would be far cheaper than paying for the land they destroyed.
11 posted on 12/18/2007 8:22:58 AM PST by KarlInOhio (Government is the hired help - not the boss. When politicians forget that they must be fired.)
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To: sionnsar
Dealing with small-town local governments is such a PITA! My Dad found it much easier, and cheaper, to just bribe them!
I know someone who had a similar problem to this. Her house was on the banks of the Cuyahoga in a small town. So, technically, a wetland. But her side yard was always dry, and that’s where the swingset and sandbox were. The small town re-graded the street, and the water ran into her yard and pooled. She added fill dirt to make it a dry area for her kids again. The city got an injunction against her, and she had to remove the fill. Now, for most of the year, she has a bug infested swamp for a yard!
12 posted on 12/18/2007 8:25:10 AM PST by Dr. Bogus Pachysandra ("Don't touch that thing")
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To: Dr. Bogus Pachysandra

“She added fill dirt to make it a dry area for her kids again. The city got an injunction against her, and she had to remove the fill. Now, for most of the year, she has a bug infested swamp for a yard!”

Insanity....


13 posted on 12/18/2007 8:30:22 AM PST by HereInTheHeartland ("We have to drain the swamp" George Bush, September 2001)
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To: HereInTheHeartland

One of my favorite “bribery” stories. My father was building a development serviced by the City of Cleveland Water Dept. The City wouldn’t respond to request for hookups, until they discovered that my Dad was putting a bottle of Jim Beam at every location where he needed a water connection. From then on, they responded immediately, and did as many as a dozen a day!


14 posted on 12/18/2007 8:38:29 AM PST by Dr. Bogus Pachysandra ("Don't touch that thing")
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To: Dr. Bogus Pachysandra

Ummm... how was the quality of the hookups done later in the day? *\;-)


15 posted on 12/18/2007 8:48:04 AM PST by sionnsar (trad-anglican.faithweb.com |Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: SmithL

Will the city have to post an appeal bond?

I hope the developer begins forclosure proceedings.

Then again there IS a provision for municipal bankrupcies under the new bankrupcy code.


16 posted on 12/18/2007 8:48:49 AM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: Dr. Bogus Pachysandra

according to this your friend can sue for an illegal taking.

This is not really new law, this is just evidence that city governments believed they can push people around because they have deeper pockers.


17 posted on 12/18/2007 8:52:44 AM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: SmithL

The owner of the property was blackmailed into giving the city $1 million dollars for a waste treatment facility, then denied the use of his property.

He also had a hotel that was nearing completion in Half Moon Bay destroyed by arson.

Then the city wants to take his property by declaring them wetlands.

This guy should bankrupt the city just on principle.


18 posted on 12/18/2007 8:54:26 AM PST by VeniVidiVici (No buy China!!)
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To: VeniVidiVici

bet the city is reaaaaly going to love that municipal bankrupcy law. The debt is not so easy to evade just by dissolution. Otherwise cities would be dissolving and reforming every time they lost a suit.


19 posted on 12/18/2007 9:09:39 AM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: SmithL
The property, known as Beachwood, is owned in trust by Palo Alto developer Charles "Chop" Keenan, whose trustee bought it in 1993 for $1 million in a foreclosure sale and planned to build an 83-unit residential subdivision.

24 ACRES..on PCH for $1 million..!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

20 posted on 12/18/2007 9:12:13 AM PST by Osage Orange (Molon Labe)
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To: SmithL

Privatize the city government along with its right to tax, and give it to the plaintiff. Bet the rest of the city governments around the country become much humbler.


21 posted on 12/18/2007 9:21:29 AM PST by antinomian (Show me a robber baron and I'll show you a pocket full of senators.)
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To: SmithL

I have been following this case and have read the entire judges report. The City was acting in incredibly bad faith and had been for years. They already bankrupted a previous owner of the land and were trying to bankrupt this one. The City and everyone in it deserve this.


22 posted on 12/18/2007 9:22:42 AM PST by jim_trent
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To: jim_trent
BUMP for lots of comments later...

Some city and County governments are indistinguishable from the mafia, or drug lords, and they have been getting away with it in California, for decades!

The RICO statutes should apply, and the perps made personally responsible.

From the chamber of commerce:
Residential development and tourism development caters to the executive lifestyle. The median priced home is in the $700,000, with most newer and golf course homes in the $900,000 - $1,500,000 range.

And this statement defines all too clearly the strategy of the perps, who have a total ignorance of Constitutional restraints, or a complete indifference to them:

A slow-growth bloc had won a majority on the City Council in 1996

23 posted on 12/18/2007 9:58:24 AM PST by Publius6961 (MSM: Israelis are killed by rockets; Lebanese are killed by Israelis.)
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To: SmithL
This is long and possibly tedious, but the wealth of history, prior decisions and discussions on the concept of "private property" is priceless, and worth the few hours' worth of time to study it carefully:

Yamagiwa vs Half Moon Bay Decision

24 posted on 12/18/2007 10:32:17 AM PST by Publius6961 (MSM: Israelis are killed by rockets; Lebanese are killed by Israelis.)
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To: stylin19a

A million a year wouldn’t even cover interest on the judgment, so the debt would just get larger.


25 posted on 12/18/2007 10:39:18 AM PST by Young Scholar
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To: SmithL
They can ask Sacramento for the money.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus

26 posted on 12/18/2007 11:45:25 AM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: jim_trent
The City was acting in incredibly bad faith and had been for years.

I can't agree more. It is simply jaw dropping to experience the attitudes in that area - enforced scarcity that is a blatant attempt to keep land prices high.

27 posted on 12/18/2007 3:41:08 PM PST by glorgau
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To: SmithL
A few more judgments like this and perhaps a few more cities will offer a little more respect to private property rights. For many the city council’s whims are the law with little or no recourse. Screw'em.
28 posted on 12/18/2007 5:06:06 PM PST by DB
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Comment #29 Removed by Moderator

To: SmithL
Paying the judgment outright appears to be out of the question. The City Council said: "The very existence of our city government is threatened."

Good riddance to a bunch of leftist thieves. Find honest jobs.

30 posted on 12/18/2007 9:24:02 PM PST by FormerACLUmember (When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.)
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To: Publius6961
When it comes to property rights in Coastal Kalifornia -basically there are none. You are at the mercy of the Coastal Commission who makes rules with very little public comment and are not elected by the public. They suck big time. They make the air and water boards look like pikers.
31 posted on 12/19/2007 9:29:14 AM PST by mad_as_he$$ ("Has there been a code nine? Have you heard from the Doctor?")
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