Kb-bakewell Project Stopped
Judge halts Seaside Highlands subdivision; considers claim that sale was a "giveaway of public property."
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Attorneys arguing that the Seaside Highlands project on Fort Ord was not a fair deal for the taxpayers of Seaside prevailed in a court hearing in Monterey on Aug. 7, effectively stalling the development.
Superior Court Judge Kay Kingsley issued an injunction that prevents the city from approving the official subdivision map for the growing 380-home housing project on the north end of the city. By preventing the map''s passage, the land remains in one parcel, and lots cannot subdivided and sold individually.
"This is a huge victory. This is a huge victory for the citizens of Seaside and for all the Peninsula," says Heidi Whilden, an attorney for the plaintiff and a Seaside resident.
Whilden and fellow attorney Jay Renneisen of Walnut Creek represent a Seaside citizen named Benjamin Kaatz who had entered the lottery to purchase a Seaside Highlands home. Kaatz is no longer interested in making the purchase.
In May, Whilden and Renneisen sued the city of Seaside on behalf of Kaatz, arguing that the exchange of land from the city of Seaside to the developers KB Home and Bakewell Home was not proper. Whilden and Renneisen argue that the exchange violated a government code prohibiting selling public land at a cost below fair market value unless it''s to be used for affordable housing.
The other main point of their suit is that the land transfer violated provisions of the California Surplus Lands Act, which require such a land offering to be notified to affordable housing agencies first.
In court documents, the plaintiff''s attorneys call Seaside Highlands an "unlawful giveaway of public property."
The city sold the land to the developers KB Home and Bakewell Home for $6.8 million. The plaintiffs have had the land independently appraised and believe it''s worth anywhere from $94 million to $115 million.
The matter has garnered plenty of public attention due to regional pressures to provide affordably priced housing on the closed Army base.
Rep. Sam Farr filed a declaration in support of Kaatz''s suit, stating among other things that the project "...stands out as a failure of the goals and public benefit purposes of the Department of Defense''s Base Reorganization and Closure (BRAC) process."
Approval of the subdivision map was on the city council agenda for the Aug. 7 meeting but the judge''s order prohibited the city from proceeding.
On Friday, Aug. 8, the plaintiff lawyers were successful in having the developers added to the list of defendants. On Tuesday, Aug. 12, attorneys for the developers were expected to file a motion asking the judge to reconsider the injunction and the matter was expected to be put on the court schedule for Friday, Aug. 15.
The developers have already sold some 86 homes on site and plan to continue construction of permitted homes. According to a statement, they said: "we cannot deliver these homes to their buyers until the final map is approved."
City manager Dan Keen was not available for comment, but city attorney Don Freeman said Seaside will wait to re-examine the subdivision map until it gets the nod from the judge. "That''s what the court ruled and the city will abide."
Calls to KB Home were referred to the Monterey-based Armanasco Public Relations. Through Armanasco, Robert Freed, KB Homes'' regional manager for northern California said, "We are disappointed at this development [injunction]. Our first and foremost interest is how this affects the 86 families who are looking forward to moving into their new homes in Seaside, 80 percent of whom currently live in Monterey County."
On Saturday mornings, prospective Seaside Highlands homeowners are invited to the project site to select the parcel and home they want. However the home drawing planned at Seaside Highlands for Aug. 9 was postponed due to news of the injunction.