Homeowner so far refusing to sell land that would allow repairs to be completed on project

By Julia Scott

LA HONDA — San Mateo County attorneys have begun eminent domain proceedings against a La Honda landowner who has so far refused to sell his property to the county for an urgent local land repair project.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 12, names both landowner Jeffrey Kremer and the Cuesta La Honda Guild, the local homeowner’s association. Kremer’s half-acre property occupies a “crucial” location at a sharp bend in Lower Scenic Drive in which contractors plan to erect a row of water drains and a heavy retaining wall that will stop the road from sliding any farther this winter and destroying the houses across the street, according to Chief Deputy County Counsel Penny Bennett.

Kremer’s property is, ironically, the only one the county has needed to purchase in its $6.1 million effort to stop the dangerous slide of Scenic Drive, which has moved at least 35 feet since 1995.

The project to stabilize the slide plain under Scenic Drive began in late spring when La Honda voters approved a new assessment district to split the cost with the county and hopefully preserve their property values. The county has been granted construction easements on a number of other properties near the slide without needing to purchase them outright.

One big slide in 1998 destroyed several houses below Scenic Drive and others had to be condemned. The most recent slide, in 2005, ripped apart Lower Scenic Drive.

Bennett said the county decided to file suit when Kremer, a contractor, did not immediately agree to sell his vacant property and officials looked at the calendar and realized time was running out for the project to wrap up before the first rains began.

“So far we’ve been able to accommodate lack of access to this property — they started repairs at Upper Scenic instead of Lower Scenic,” said Bennett. “But the more time goes by, the closer we get to the winter season.”

The Cuesta La Honda Guild was named in the lawsuit because it has a lien against Kremer’s property. According to the lawsuit, he has not paid his Guild assessments since 2005.

Kremer’s attorney, David Byers, said his client would have no problem selling the county his land — if the price is right. He said the county had offered Kremer $25,000 for his land when a fairer offer would have been closer to $275,000, based on what he said were comparable market prices in the area.

“A real property has a price — that’s the only issue,” Byers said. “The last thing Mr. Kremer is interested in is holding up a project for his neighbors.”

San Mateo County Times: http://www.insidebayarea.com