Nader Agha Sues City of Soledad for $20 million, Alleges Discrimination
December 15, 2011
When the Weekly asked to interview Soledad city manager Adela Gonzalez about real estate mogul Nader Agha for this week's cover story, the response was surprisingly brief considering he's developed some 2,000 houses there. "Mr. Agha has been responsible for many fine projects in the City of Soledad and we look forward to working with Mr. Agha on other projects in the future," Gonzalez wrote.
But the long-rosy partnership was already tense: Agha was gearing up to sue the city and mayor Fred Ledesma last week. In a complaint filed Dec. 8 in Monterey County Superior Court, Agha and his limited partnership, HMBY, sued for breach of contract and discrimination, laying out out a recent history of his falling out with the city.
Agha had sold off some portions of land slated for housing developments, called Miravale, and planned to build apartments on his remaining parcels. Sewer and water systems needed upgrades to accommodate future Miravale residents, the complaint alleges, and Agha says he lent the city more than $750,000 to build the necessary infrastructure.
The loan was based on planned jurisdictional changes, according to the complaint, which says the city had committed to annexing the county land so Miravale would be within its boundaries. The city, however, hasn't moved forward. Gonzalez had no comment for the city.
Agha also contends that Ledesma tried to halt his project as retribution since Agha didn't support his mayoral campaign in 2009. According to the complaint, Soledad leadership disliked Agha not only for political reasons, but racial reasons; he attributes his stalled project to discrimination based on his Syrian heritage, as other projects moved forward over the past five years, since Agha made the sewer loan.
According to the complaint, Agha's spent an additional $1.3 million on consultants, document prep and meetings with elected officials to push this phase of the project, Miravale III, through to completion. He also says the construction delays add up; Agha's seeking damages in excess of $20 million, plus the $750,000 loan back.
The project called for 4,200 homes, an 18-hole golf course, a 120-room hotel, a retail center, three schools, a fire and police station as well as 75 acres of recreational open space.
The complaint appears to represent a sea change in Agha's relationship with the city of Soledad, where he got started with large projects after flipping a few smaller Salinas properties.
A hearing is scheduled for April 13.