Property Lines

Ruby Falls developer Bob Faulis says once the litigation and other hurdles are overcome, everything else is in place for a project on this Cannery Row lot: “We’re just ready to flip the light switch on in the process.”

On Feb. 21, a notice of trustee’s sale was published in the Monterey Herald that spanned three pages in the classified section, and included legal descriptions of 29 parcels contained in a 3.5-acre blighted property on Cannery Row. The notice announced a foreclosure on the property owned by Ruby Falls, LLC – which bought it in July 2017 – and a March 7 auction scheduled at the county administration building.

The property in question is the site of the proposed Ocean View Plaza project, which Monterey City Council approved in 2004 and includes 87,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, condos, a community park and history center, and 377 parking spaces.

But before you show up on March 7 ready to buy the place, here’s the weird part: Bob Faulis, a developer with Ruby Falls, says the company that posted the notice, Best Alliance Foreclosure and Lien Services Corp., did so in error. Faulis refers questions about the matter to Sid Richman at Best Alliance.

Richman did not respond to a request for comment, but Faulis forwarded an email to the Weeklythat he received from Richman Feb. 26.

“We, Best Alliance, did not publish this notice of sale,” Richman’s email reads. “I have checked with our title and publishing company and no notice of sale has been recorded or published or posted, to our knowledge on the Monterey properties…

“I have no idea where this notice came from, or how it is in any newspaper,” Richman’s email continues. “Again, we have not recorded, published or posted any notice of sale on any of the Monterey properties.”

Yet Monterey County Recorder Steve Vagnini says Best Alliance filed the notice on Nov. 13, 2018 and, like the notice in the paper, it shows an unpaid balance of $1.68 million on the property.

Monterey planner Elizabeth Caraker, who’s been working on the project for years for the city, says, “That’s the nature of this project – everything is odd.”

What’s more, it’s still not entirely resolved whether Ruby Falls even owns the property. The company remains locked in litigation with Aqualegacy, LLC, a former owner of the property that contends it was improperly foreclosed on in 2014. (Ruby Falls bought the property in 2017 from CanRow Owner, LLC; CanRow purchased it in a 2014 foreclosure sale.)

The next hearing for the case is March 12.

Meanwhile, amid the property dispute, the project proposal is moving forward. An environmental impact report for the project was approved in 2004, and subsequent state law requires the developer – whoever it ends up being – to do further analysis of how sea level rise could impact the development.

Faulis says the analysis has been done (though Caraker says it has not yet been submitted to the city), and maintains the project won’t be impacted.

“Our road is 21 feet above the mean tideline,” Faulis says, adding that “the rest of Monterey will be underwater” and that people “will have to visit us by gondola.”

The project’s entitlements – which are attached to the land, not the owner – expire April 10. Faulis says Ruby Falls is asking the California Coastal Commission to get them extended.

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