A judge has decided in favor of the town of Atherton in its lawsuit alleging that the home at 67 Redwood Way was a "drug house."
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Joseph Scott on July 16 ordered the homeowner, James Kristofferson, to pay a $25,000 penalty as well as $26,223 in legal fees and abatement costs to the town. The ruling bars Mr. Kristofferson from any use of the property, including putting it up for sale or rent, until next April, a year from the time he was first ordered to move out in a preliminary ruling on the case.
Atherton City Attorney Bill Conners said the term "drug house" is defined in the Health and Safety Code as "a place where illegal drugs are sold, served, manufactured, stored, used, kept, distributed, or given away."
The drug house abatement laws are "designed to deter illegal conduct and to abate the nuisances that inevitably flow from such illegal drug uses," Mr. Conners said.
Mr. Conners said Mr. Kristofferson has indicated he will appeal the ruling.
The civil lawsuit, cataloging more than 120 police calls to the address and describing unsafe living conditions, was originally filed against Mr. Kristofferson in San Mateo County Superior Court in April. He and a number of others living in the house were first ordered to move out in a preliminary ruling on April 25.
The lawsuit says that between January 2011 and April 2014, the Atherton Police Department responded to the address "in excess of 120 times due to calls for service, including, but not limited to, complaints of multiple disturbances of the peace, service of arrest warrants, reports of parole violations, allegations of assault and battery (with) some resulting in arrest, dog fights, loud noise, suspicious vehicles, illegal parking, suspicious persons and complaints of suspected drug activity."
The house was inspected by the town and red-tagged for numerous violations on March 26, the lawsuit says. The town's building official "cited numerous incidents of structures and equipment in various stages of construction without valid permits," the lawsuit says. "Among the more dangerous conditions were electricity improperly being sourced from a running car in the yard, altered electrical panels and sub-panels, violations of the fire code, and an empty un-fenced pool in the yard. The official also noted a lack of heat, ventilation, plumbing, and electrical," according to the lawsuit.
"The neighborhood had been seriously impacted from nuisances attributed to this drug house," Mr. Conners told the Almanac. It was, Mr. Conners said, "a serious drain on scarce police resources dealing with all of these problems."
In March, the lawsuit says, the house was searched after a confidential informant told police he had purchased drugs from someone living in the Redwood Way home on three occasions. Only the final purchase occurred on the Atherton property, the lawsuit says.
According to the lawsuit: "Controlled substances, illegal drugs, and drug paraphernalia were found. Defendant was arrested and charged with Possession for Sales - Methamphetamine, Possession of Paraphernalia, Possession of Concentrated Marijuana, and Maintaining a House for Narcotics Use. Three other persons, found on the premises and claiming to reside at the house, were also arrested on similar charges."
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Mr. Kristofferson was ultimately charged with three misdemeanors for alleged possession of methamphetamine, concentrated cannabis and drug use paraphernalia. "The evidence was not sufficient to prove for Kristofferson or any of the other three defendants that the drug possession was for sale rather than for personal use," Mr. Wagstaffe said.
Trial is set for Sept. 15 and Mr. Kristofferson is out of custody on supervised own recognizance, meaning, Mr. Wagstaffe said, that he did not have to post bail but must contact the probation department twice a week and abstain from drugs and alcohol as well as submit to random drug tests.
Three others were also arrested at the home: Lauren Weil and Robin Vaka, charged with felony possession counts, and Yvette Marie Simmons, charged with misdemeanor possession counts. All four have court-appointed attorneys, Mr. Wagstaffe said.
In his response to the lawsuit, acting as his own attorney, Mr. Kristofferson said he had owned the Atherton home for 10 years, with no problems for the first seven. He complained of "three years of Atherton Police Department's harassment" as well as" the continued practice of falsifying police reports."
Mr. Kristofferson said that the drugs he was charged with possessing belonged to others living his home. He said he "has never nor will he ever allow drugs on his property."
In his response to the lawsuit, Mr. Kristofferson said he got a building permit from the town after his home was red-tagged and in March, when he filed his response, he had completed 80 to 90 percent of the required work.
Mr. Conners said neighbors of the house now "report a new quiet enjoyment that they have not experienced for some time."
"At the present time, the owner remains barred from entry onto the premises and the neighborhood is free of nuisances attributed to this site for the first time in several years," Mr. Conners said.
Mr. Conners said town officials "do not believe Atherton has an extensive drug house problem, but we are committed to provide relief to neighbors whenever we find such a situation in the future."
Zillow, the online real estate website, estimates the home at 67 Redwood Way is worth close to $2.4 million.