Settlement offer seeks to save Half Moon Bay budget

After months of legal wrangling and negotiation, Half Moon Bay City Council members announced Friday afternoon that they have authorized a settlement in a land-use lawsuit many feared would bankrupt the city.

Council members voted to settle in a closed-session meeting Thursday night, Mayor Bonnie McClung said.

The details of the agreement have not been made public, and the settlement is pending approval by property owner Joyce Yamagiwa, who has been in settlement discussions with city officials.

“We’ve proposed a settlement, and now it’s in Yamagiwa’s hands,” McClung said. “We’re waiting, but I think it’s safe to say we want to work this out in the best way that’s possible for the city.”

The settlement comes two days after the city filed an appeal of the $36.8 million judgment against it. On Nov. 28, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the city was responsible for creating delicate wetlands on Yamagiwa’s property by adding storm drain improvements.

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

Last month, the city suffered another legal setback when a federal judge denied its motions for new findings of facts in the case, or to amend the multimillion-dollar judgment. Keenan, who could not be reached for comment Friday, has not yet approved the settlement but has said previously that he is open to various settlement options.

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

Many Half Moon Bay residents expressed fear that if no settlement was reached and the city went forward with its appeal, the required bond would mean significant budget cuts to parks, streets, library and other city services.

tbarak@examiner.com

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