Sep 21 2010

Opinion: Legal Costs of Blair Park by Rick Schiller

The following expresses the personal opinions of the author.  All statements made therein are the opinion of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

Opinion by Rick Schiller,  Piedmont resident

Regardless of which way the Piedmont City Council eventually votes on the proposed Blair Park project, the issue of litigation costs must be addressed now. The City of Piedmont has received letters from an attorney retained by Friends of Moraga Canyon. A respected expert, Richard Grassetti, has provided a scathing report on the Moraga Canyon Sports Fields Project Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The homeowners around Coaches Field have a signed agreement from the 1992 Piedmont City Council that there will be no lights installed; evidently this agreement is to be violated. Among other deficiencies, the  Moraga Canyon EIR does not satisfy CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act of 1970] as no need has been determined. Both Jean Quan and Don Perata have come out publicly and forcefully against both this project and the process. There will be litigation.

Because of approximately$3,000,000 concerning undergrounding costs having been paid by Piedmont taxpayers, Piedmont is now in a deficit. The Kurtin lawsuit has cost Piedmont taxpayers $535,000. Had the Hills Sea View Undergrounding District gone to construction, Piedmont could have easily spent several million more dollars. In hindsight, the Kurtin litigation may be fortuitous. That litigation has been described by some members of the City Council as being one minor cause of action, yet that single action has cost Piedmont taxpayers more than half a million dollars. That sum will be a pittance compared to the Blair Park legal costs. The potential is that many families will join in bringing legal action against this EIR and the project. This will be a complex, lengthy and commensurately expensive legal action.

I ask the Piedmont City Council to indemnify Piedmont taxpayers against Blair Park litigation expense. An unequivocal guarantee must be required of the proponents of this project concerning legal fees. The direct benefits of the Moraga Canyon  sports complex will not be shared equally by all Piedmonters. Let those who directly benefit, the sports clubs, accept the cost of litigation. Further, legal costs as part of a large development are always borne by the developers, yet we have heard nothing from the proponents of this project concerning this. Piedmont City Council must insist that the well organized and well financed proponents of the Moraga Canyon Sports Field complex include litigation cost in their projected budget.

Presented to the Piedmont City Council on 8/2/2010 and published in the Piedmonter.

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