For Immediate Release
Redwood City Prevails in 2003 Lawsuit Challenging Downtown Retail-Cinema Project
Redwood City, CA - January 27, 2011 - On January 25, 2011, the Court of Appeal for the State of California ruled in favor of Redwood City and its Redevelopment Agency, and dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Downtown property owner challenging the approval and construction of the City’s Downtown retail-cinema project. The decision reverses a previous decision against the City by a lower trial court.
The plaintiff, local law firm Wilson & Wilson, had sued the City in 2003 challenging the validity of the project. In the suit, Wilson claimed the Redevelopment Agency’s agreement with the developer required the City to condemn his property (located on a block adjacent to the retail–cinema project) to provide parking. The City decided it did not need the Wilson property, never initiated condemnation proceedings, and accommodated the desired parking on City-owned property around Wilson’s property.
The suit went to trial in 2004, at which time construction on the project had already begun. After the trial, the court indicated it would rule in favor of Wilson. Post-trial hearings did not take place until mid-2007, by which time the project had already been completed. In mid-2008 the court entered its judgment against the City, but did not require the City to take any corrective action. The City subsequently appealed the lower court’s decision.
In its 30-page decision, the Court of Appeal rejected the trial court’s finding that the development had required the City or the Redevelopment Agency to condemn Wilson’s property for parking, noting that the City had not taken any steps to acquire it by the time the trial court had decided the case. The Court of Appeal said that the trial court’s decision “required the trial court to speculate” on the terms of a future parking agreement and whether the City would try to acquire the property. The Court of Appeal further found that the plaintiff’s case was moot because the City’s project was completed before the trial court filed its 2008 decision. The completion of the project meant that Wilson could not challenge the City’s approval of the project, or any agreements under which the project was carried out.
“The illogical aspect of this case is that we were sued because the City did not acquire his property, after we decided to scale down the project,” said Redwood City Mayor Jeff Ira. “I’m proud that the City Council stayed the course knowing that the law would not require the City to take property that it did not need, and knowing that the City would not be required to “unbuild” a project that was completed years ago.”
The retail-cinema complex, located at Middlefield Road and Jefferson Avenue, consists of 85,000 square-feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space, a 20-screen movie theatre, and an underground public parking garage.
The complex was developed pursuant to an agreement between the Redevelopment Agency and BHV Innisfree Ventures I, LLC, to help revitalize Redwood City’s downtown area. Under the agreement, as it was later amended, the developer paid $7.5 million for the right to build the private retail-cinema improvements over the public garage. The City and Redevelopment Agency paid for the costs of the garage.
The City and Redevelopment Agency were represented by Iris P. Yang and Kara Ueda of Best Best & Krieger at trial and additionally by James M. Wagstaffe and Maria Radwick of Kerr & Wagstaffe on appeal.
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