Developer says city bogged down project

A major housing developer has filed a claim against the city of Pacifica, alleging that officials neglected 88 acres of the developer’s land and allowed water to pool on the coastal property, creating the potential for sensitive wetlands.

The claim appearsto be a mirror image of one filed against Half Moon Bay, which led to developer Charles “Chop” Keenan suing the city for creating wetlands and thereby hindering his plans to develop on the property. Wetlands are sensitive habitats that provide shelter for animals and buffer the surrounding land from storms. Zoning permits are needed from the California Coastal Commission before any development moves forward.

The Peebles Corp. had been planning to develop a mix of retail and housing on the 88 acres of land that sits on the Pacifica Quarry between Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean, near Calera Creek. The firm claims the city did not properly fill and grade a part of his property as it was contracted to do in 1995.

Peebles Corp. sited the 1995 agreement made with the quarry’s previous owner, the Bottoms Family, that required the city to fill the low-lying land so water would not collect on the property.

“Bottoms sold the city a portion of the parcel to build a creek in the center and a water recycling plant, and in exchange they had to regrade the property and resolve any environmental conditions and leave two development pads,” said Daniel Grimm, vice-president of Peebles Corp., owned by Don Peebles. “The plant was built, but the grading work was not finished on the parcels. The claim asserts that the city has an unfulfilled obligation as required under the Bottoms agreement. If water doesn’t sheet flow to the creek, it can create environmental issues that would impact development.”

City Attorney Cecilia Quick said the city has six months to respond to the claim. Without a response, the firm can move forward with a lawsuit.

“I haven’t undertaken the research to see what exactly happened there,” she said. “In the meantime, I hope to sit down with them.”

Grimm explained that although the developer was aware of the agreement when the quarry was purchased in 2005, only recent engineering studies conducted by the developer revealed that water was pooling on the site because of alleged poor grading by the city.

Grimm said the developer has been working cooperatively with the city to resolve all the design and environmental issues facing the $90 million property.

“We’re not looking to sue them,” he said.

Quick could not estimate how much it would cost Pacifica to fix the quarry.

svasilyuk@sfexaminer.com

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