A Concord-based developer is suing the City of Martinez over what the developer sees as unwarranted barriers to building a housing tract on a former golf course.
It’s the latest development in what has been more than seven years of legal and political back-and-forth centered on the future of the former Pine Meadow Golf Course land in south central Martinez.
The suit by DeNova Homes Inc. and affiliated entities Civic Martinez LLC and Meadow Creek Group LLC, filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court in November, contends the city has been denying issuance of a grading permit on part of the 26.9-acre property over concerns about proper drainage on the property, and that without the proper work, flooding would occur there in heavy storms.
DeNova said those concerns arose only after a July 2019 settlement agreement by DeNova, the city and Friends of Pine Meadow, a local citizens group, for DeNova to build 65 houses on that property. The settlement was to have allowed the permit approval process to proceed.
The lawsuit claims an Aug. 27, 2020 letter from the Contra Costa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District to a contract engineer working for the city refutes the city’s claim that the housing development, without further measures taken, would create flooding problems in that area.
“The letter provides clear and demonstrable proof that there are no drainage issues, which city staff has falsely claimed was the source of delaying the development,” according to a statement issued Thursday by Sam Singer, a spokesman for DeNova.
Singer also said the existence of that letter wasn’t discovered by DeNova officials until late December, and that the Martinez City Council also had not been made aware of the letter until that point.
Michael Colantuono, an attorney representing the City of Martinez, said that while the Aug. 27 letter from the flood control district suggests the housing project would have less damaging flooding impacts than previously believed, “It confirms that streets will flood after major storms and that the project will make that flooding last longer.”
Colantuono acknowledges, and regrets, the delay in making DeNova and elected city officials aware of the letter and its information sooner.
The drainage disagreement surfaced after the July 2019 settlement agreement was reached. DeNova officials went public the following January when two top company officials — CEO Dave Sanson and Dana Tsubota, DeNova’s executive vice president and general counsel — took the unusual step of speaking to the Martinez City Council during the open public comment period at the start of a regular council meeting.
Sanson told the council at that time, “This is the only way we can communicate with the council at this juncture. You can’t resolve things if you don’t talk about it.”
In a statement Thursday, Tsubota said, “The city’s violation of the settlement agreement has forced DeNova into the position filing a lawsuit to pursue its rights.”
Colantuono said on Thursday that the latest issues, including the disagreement over grading and drainage, can be resolved “when the developer is willing to sit down and talk with us as he claims to want to do.”
The DeNova lawsuit seeks $35 million in damages. Singer said in an email Thursday that the figure represents the cost of the land and for development, financing and other costs associated with the proposed development.