In August, the Menlo Park City Council approved a request by street residents that the city turn over to adjoining homeowners an approximately 53-by-60-foot tangle of greenery in the public right-of-way — a process called abandonment.
The agreement included clauses preserving pedestrian access, preventing future homeowners from building on the space and indemnifying the city against any potential lawsuit, leaving the neighbors responsible for any legal costs and damages — a point several council members emphasized upon casting their vote.
Developer Sam Sinnott and investment partner Mircea Voskerician, who bought a property at 1825 Santa Cruz Ave. for redevelopment, had been fighting for permission to create a paved driveway that exited on Louise Street. The exit would have partially crossed over public right-of-way. A previous owner had gotten a permit in 1984 to install a driveway but never followed through, according to city records.
City staff initially authorized Mr. Sinnott's driveway. But the council, in the face of protests from Louise Street residents, revoked the approval, allowing the abandonment process to go forward after an attempt at compromise collapsed.
Now Mr. Sinnott is suing the city, the council, the public works director, four Louise Street property owners and other parties. The suit, filed on Nov. 14 in San Mateo County Superior Court, claims that the council had no right to revoke the driveway permit and that the city's, as well as the residents', interpretation of who has legal vehicular access to Louise Street is wrong.
Not allowing the driveway diminishes the value of his investment by more than $500,000, according to the lawsuit.
A case management conference has been scheduled for March 5, 2014.