Judge denies city’s motion against $41M judgement

A day after a federal judge refused to amend a $41 million judgment against Half Moon Bay, both sides in the dispute say they are continuing to search for solutions that will avoid bankrupting the city.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker denied a motion by the city’s attorneys seeking new findings of fact in the case or to amend the Nov. 28 judgment. Walker had previously ruled that the city was responsible for creating delicate wetlands on Joyce Yamagiwa’s property by adding storm drain improvements.

Yamagiwa, a trustee for Palo Alto developer Charles Keenan, purchased the property, known as Beachwood, for $1 million in 1993. The existence of wetlands created a series of permit problems that prevented Keenan’s plan to turn the 24 acres into an 83-unit subdivision.

The latest ruling means Walker’s original judgment is now finalized. The city will file an appeal within 30 days, said attorney John Knox, of the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, who has been retained by Half Moon Bay officials.

“I don’t think it was particularly a surprise.Obviously, we’re disappointed the court didn’t reconsider what we consider errors [in the original judgment], but that’s why we have an appeal system,” Knox said.

Meanwhile, both sides continue to negotiate possible settlement options. Both Knox and Keenan declined to discuss the specifics of any resolution.

“The bottom line is I’m not going away, but I’m always looking for solutions,” Keenan said Wednesday.

Any resolution reached at the negotiation table would be brought back to the Half Moon Bay City Council for a final decision.

If no settlement is reached and the city appeals, the required bond would mean significant budget cuts to parks, streets, libraries and other city services. City Council members say the dissolution of the city itself remains extremely unlikely.

tbarak@examiner.com

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