Under Water and Under Fire
Another wave of homeowners sues Creekbridge, even though the company dissolved.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Lists of alleged construction defects leave no brick unturned. From faulty soil compaction to plumbing and electrical flaws to damaged stucco, a complaint against Creekbridge Homes maps out a blueprint of shoddy construction from the ground up to the roof.
A new lawsuit, filed on Aug. 17 in Monterey County Superior Court, seeks at least $50,000 in damages for each of 24 King City homes. The complaint comes about eight months after a settlement was reached with 75 Salinas homeowners who sued over similar concerns in 2009.
The hitch: Creekbridge mostly no longer exists. Eleven of the company’s 14 LLCs dissolved last year, according to California Secretary of State records. The former developer built thousands of homes in Salinas, Greenfield and King City.
Creekbridge property values have plummeted along with depressed housing prices statewide. Some of the homes that sold for more than $500,000 in 2005, at the height of the housing bubble, are now back to mid-’90s values. Creekbridge homes along Constitution and Independence boulevards in Salinas are now valued at about $180,000, according to County Assessor Steve Vagnini.
“When they first came on the market, they were [worth] about what they are now,” Vagnini says. “That’s typical of values in Salinas. They dropped 13 years later back to their 1995 values.”
As some homeowners look to dump their de-valued homes, they’re hoping the developer will cover the cost of needed repairs.
Brian and Lindsy Doan, plaintiffs in the new lawsuit, bought their King City row house new in 2007, just before the market imploded. “We’ve never really had an occupied house next to us in the over five years we’ve been here,” Brian says. “We’re the last of the original owners.”
Mark Arreguin, legal assistant at Santa Monica-based Milstein Adelman, representing homeowners, says they’re seeking monetary damages rather than repairs. “We believe the homeowners have a good idea of their homes, of their defects, and they know what to spend the money on,” he says.
After Salinas homeowners sued Creekbridge, the developer in turn sued some two dozen contractors, from roofers to shower-door makers. The terms of the 2011 settlement are confidential, but court documents show some subcontractors agreed to pay portions of the total sum. EZ Electric, for example, paid $5,000; and W.D. Nicholson Lath & Plastering agreed to pay $48,000.
Hugh Walker, now a vice president with Mountain View-based developer Thrust IV Inc., was not available for comment by the Weekly’s deadline. Walker signed off as project manager on a number of of subcontractor agreements included in the settlement case file.
On its company website, Thrust IV is described as “the original developer of the 500-acre planned development at Creekbridge in Salinas.”
Compared to neighbors with cracked ceilings and plaster, the Doans have had only minor problems: warped wooden fence posts and a problematic guide for the sliding glass door.
Brian says he signed on to the lawsuit when he got a letter from Milstein Adelman, but he doesn’t expect much, or at least not anytime soon, considering the Salinas case took more than two years to resolve.
“I just wouldn’t get my hopes up in the short term,” he says. “But we’re sticking it out as long as we can. We’re not trying to sell. It’s one of those waiting games – are we going to stick around to try to fight this?”