Goleta has had its first mayor, its first city council and its first city manager. Now it’s facing a less pleasant milestone: its first multimillion-dollar major lawsuit.
The Oly Chadmar Sandpiper General Partnership filed the action in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Wednesday, Jan.15. Richard Monk, the attorney representing the partnership, said the $32 million suit was filed in response to the Goleta City Council’s unexpected disapproval of its plans for a 109-unit, 4.5-acre housing project at a Dec. 16 meeting. According to a statement from Monk, the suit seeks compensation for “the effective taking of the property,” plus attorney’s fees.
Monk said the rejection followed three and a half years of review and approval by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, leaving only a final map review that Monk called “wholly ministerial.”
“The city denied the project under a rarely used section,” he said. “Generally, if a map is in the safe harbor, the city has a duty to approve it.”
Monk said the rejection was especially inappropriate because the project had undergone significant development under the impression of impending approval.
“The city did not indicate [any plans to deny the project],” he said.
In a press release, Oly Chadmar head Chuck Lande said the lawsuit was his only resort following the denial of the project’s final map.
“It’s very frustrating to be forced into the courts, spending our money and the city’s money in an effort to provide desperately needed homes for local residents,” Lande said. “This is the first time in my 30-year career as a builder that I have been forced to take this step, but what it really comes down to is fairness to the property owner and Goleta residents wanting to buy a home … I am dedicated to seeing this lawsuit through to a successful conclusion.”
Monk said the suit would cover five months of processing the now-denied project, which cost the partnership about $1.9 million. Monk also said the suit was necessitated by the city’s desire to differentiate itself from the rest of Santa Barbara County by making an example of the Sandpiper project.
“When the city first became a city, it adopted all the codes of Santa Barbara County, wholesale. Now the city is trying to differentiate itself from the county, and it has chosen to use our project as a means of doing this,” he said. “And the city’s doing it at a great expense to the taxpayers … There’s a lot of politics being played in this.”
Numerous reasons for the alleged illegality of the city council’s decision were underscored in the suit as well.
Jack Hawxhurst, who became the mayor of Goleta when Margaret Connell’s term ended at the start of the year, could not be reached for comment.