Jury Awards Homeowners $300,000 After City Abandons Road

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
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Although a Santa Barbara jury awarded two property owners a combined $311,000 last week because Santa Barbara City Hall had abandoned the road — Ealand Place — leading to their homes, the attorney representing the victorious parties said he was “very, very disappointed” with the verdict and has vowed to appeal. Attorney Joe Liebman said the jury ignored evidence that the loss of road access cost his clients $750,000 in diminished property value. “Imagine the road to your house has just disappeared over night and the closest you can get to your house is now 150 feet away down a very steep deteriorated dirt path,” Liebman said.

City attorney Steve Wiley said the council abandoned the road because the ground underneath was geologically unstable, like many properties near Conejo Road, and that it would cost City Hall $4.5 million to repair. Those repairs, he added, might last only two years given how fast the earth is sliding. He expressed great relief that verdict was not larger.

Liebman said the city’s expert witness provided no estimate as to loss of property value. The jury, he said, was incorrectly given permission by the judge to ignore his expert witness. Liebman said he will ask Judge Thomas Anderle to reconsider, after-the-fact, his instructions to the jurors allowing them to decide for themselves what the loss of value was. Should Anderle decline, Liebman said, he’d file an appeal.

Liebman’s clients have lived in the mudslide-prone area since well before the 1980s, when City Hall put property owners on notice the terrain was too unstable for further development.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

A little La Conchita in SB,,, How does it feel when Government tells you " sue me"?

oldtimer (anonymous profile)
April 17, 2013 at 4:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The city employs crooks..Bet your rear if it was them they would make sure they got a ton of cash..Theres more crooks working for the city then is out on the streets.

Byrd (anonymous profile)
April 17, 2013 at 5:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)


avolition (anonymous profile)
April 17, 2013 at 6:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Location, location, location. Should have done their homework, before buying there.

chilldrinfthenight (anonymous profile)
April 18, 2013 at 3:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Seriously, I do feel bad for these owners, BUT, this area has been known to be questionable before the 80's.....I lived on Conejo in the 70's and it was quite obvious the earth was moving then. WHY anyone would purchase a house there is anyone's guess and they should have heeded "Buyer Beware"

topcat (anonymous profile)
April 18, 2013 at 3:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

At 5 I as taught " The wise man builds his house upon a rock"

Mikemcq (anonymous profile)
April 18, 2013 at 7:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@topcat and @childrinfthenight:

It's worse than that: according to Welsh, the homeowners "lived in the mudslide-prone area since well before the 1980s..." According to local rumor and my hazy recollection, all of these residents were given fair warning and I believe some payout or financial accommodation to move from the City (and FEMA) because of the unstable soil conditions and the extensive work and support that had to be done after a number of rainy seasons -- this was at least 10 to 15 years ago if not longer.

So when the city would no longer invest in the slippery slope, they sued. I don't see the City as the bad guy here.

Chester_Arthur_Burnett (anonymous profile)
April 18, 2013 at 9:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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