Cypress Knolls sues Marina for cost of extending California Avenue.

Sustainable Showcase: Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado wants future development to “create an economic engine” for the city and maintain open space.

The senior housing developer Marina kicked to the curb is coming after the city for cash. Cypress Knolls LLC is suing Marina for more than $320,000, the amount the company fronted for a road construction project extending California Avenue.

In a lawsuit filed June 22, Cypress Knolls says it has been asking for reimbursement for more than a year. The city originally contended it was waiting on the Fort Ord Reuse Authority to cough up the dough. The developer’s lawyer, however, argues Marina is responsible for writing a check to Cypress Knolls.

“Cypress Knolls doesn’t believe the agreement was that they get paid when FORA gets around to paying it, which could be never,” says Cypress Knolls’ attorney Alan Smith.

City Manager Tony Altfeld says Marina will pay Cypress Knolls: “The obligation is there to reimburse the developer. It’s just a question of when and under what conditions.”

According to an agreement approved by the FORA Board in March, FORA will repay Marina with a share of the developer fee or tax rate for Preston Park apartments (another housing project on the former Fort Ord), but Altfeld says the city’s attorney is in discussions with Cypress Knolls to determine when Marina will pay the $321,285 plus interest to the developer.

While the legal battle looms, Marina moves forward, trying to attract a new developer for the senior living project, which dates back to the mid ’90s. In April 2008, the city cut ties with Cypress Knolls, which was led by Burbank-based developer Front Porch. The city terminated its exclusive negotiating agreement because Cypress Knolls missed the deadline to put together a development team. Marina didn’t think it would deliver on building senior housing.

A previous City Council agreed to put out a new request for proposals – but with several tweaks, including incorporating a full continuum of care facilities, removing the gate, maximizing green building and integrating affordable housing in the 712-home development. The city held off on soliciting proposals, however, with two new councilmembers elected in November 2008. On July 28 the city will host a public workshop for the 188-acre development site.

First-term Mayor Bruce Delgado wants to see smaller homes and denser neighborhoods in the city’s fourth major housing development. “I don’t know why a senior citizen would want to move into yet another big house in their later years,” he says.

Delgado would also like to maintain open space between Marina High School and Highway 1, and develop a showcase for sustainable building, incorporating businesses and possibly a conference center. “Can’t we create more of an economic engine there than just a splay of wall-to-wall homes, which is so much looking backwards?”

Councilman Dave McCall also likes the idea of adding mixed uses and sustainability but says he doesn’t want the project’s green elements to make the homes unaffordable.

McCall is also weary of letting the millions of dollars invested in planning and environmental studies go to waste.

“If we don’t change the design too much and we stay inside the blueprint then the city doesn’t lose out,” he says. “I want to push it right to the envelope but not go outside of the box.”

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