When developer giant Seeno unveiled plans to build six homes on a vacant lot next to Gyger Court, residents realized that a long gravel strip of land that had been used for parking their cars was going to be part of the new subdivision. If that happens, many contend, the remaining street is not wide enough for cars or emergency vehicles.
In an effort to force Seeno to grant an easement on the property, residents filed a suit against the developers in Contra Costa Superior Court in March.
“We don’t want to be seen as cranky neighbors, but the fact is the street is too small if the development eats up the gravel strip,” says Kurt Leintz, one of the plaintiffs.
Property disputes like this are not uncommon, especially in housing-tight areas in the Bay Area. When Leintz and his neighbors brought the issue to the city planners, they were told to resolve it directly with the builders, Leintz says.
“We’re not litigation crazy, but this was the only way we could buy some time with the project,” he says.
Seeno representatives were asked to modify other aspects of the plan, and Leintz says he hopes that when the company comes before the city’s design review board on April 11, the new design will reflect the easement.
The suit lists property owner Sandra Zackaray and developer Jackie Seeno as defendants. Neither could be reached for comment.
Proper permits for the project will not be issued until all litigation is removed.
Leintz says he and some of his neighbors have other concerns about the project besides the easement. He says the plans call for six two-story homes, and that doesn’t fit in with the ranch-style houses surrounding the lot. The Design Review Board asked that some of the homes be scaled back to one-story.
Leintz has been living across from the disputed property since 2007, and was told by his realtor that his property line actually extended all the way to the fence separating the vacant lot. It was a surprise to him to learn that the gravel strip was not part of his property.
“I don’t know how garbage trucks or fire engines could make it down this street if we don’t get the easement. We’ll be in a real pinch.” If the fire district determines that the street is too narrow for emergency vehicles to use, they could designate it a fire lane, and prohibit all parking on the street, Leintz says.
Still, Leintz says he is not “anti-development” about the lot, knowing that it would be developed some day. “I just want to make sure it’s not at the expense of the existing homeowners.”
“I know it’s going to be a nice development, but it will have the biggest homes in the area,” he says, with some up to 3,400 square feet.
This isn’t the first time the neighbors have been displeased with Discovery Homes, said Leintz. In January, the developer destroyed a nest in the old windmill on the property that had been home to a family of barn owls for generations.
According to a Feb. 23 report in the Contra Costa Times, Seeno said there was no owl activity on the property. Neighbors said that was not true and eyewitnesses to the destruction saw two owls fly out as the nest came down.
Leintz and his neighbors have put up owl houses on their properties. The two displaced owls have moved into his neighbor’s house, but Leintz is still waiting for tenants for his.