Tea Fire Homeowners Owed $420,000

Judge Orders City to Pay Legal Costs and Consultants’ Fees

The City of Santa Barbara was ordered to pay $420,000 in legal costs and consultants’ fees to three Sycamore Canyon property owners who were denied the permits necessary to rebuild their homes in the wake of the Tea Fire four years ago. Judge Thomas Anderle ruled City Hall was on the hook for such expenses after finding in favor of the three property owners in an inverse condemnation lawsuit. In that case, the three property owners had been awarded $42,000 each in damages.

City Hall refused to issue the building permits for the homes near or on Conejo Road because a 1985 ordinance explicitly barred any further construction in the area due to landslides and unstable soils. City attorney Steve Wiley objected that one of the property owners purchased his home after that ordinance had been adopted and that the legal deadline for the other two to object had expired by 1990. Anderle sided with the property owners, who argued that the Tea Fire effectively extended the statute of limitations on the filing of such an objection. Wiley said he intends to appeal Anderle’s ruling, as well as the award of attorneys’ fees.

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