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Family challenges ruling in land dispute

Lawyer for the Huntington Beach family calls it 'a case of no good deed goes unpunished.'

June 27, 2012|By Mona Shadia

A Huntington Beach family is challenging a court ruling in favor of the city over a residential land dispute that began more than a decade ago.

An Orange County Superior Court judge this month tentatively ruled that Fidencio Alvarez and his family waived their right to challenge the city's demand for land to build a sidewalk and a travel lane because a lawsuit was not filed in a timely fashion.

But the family's lawyer, Michael Leifer, said the family was never required to give the city any land to begin with.

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Leifer said when the city issued a building permit to allow the family to renovate their home in 2003, a land transfer was not required nor completed because the family paid for future street improvements in exchange.

"What happened to Alvarez is fundamentally wrong from the start," Leifer said.

The city acknowledges that the family paid for improvements and that a building permit was, unusually, issued before the land was transferred to Huntington Beach, but contends that the dedication was still required.

The dispute began when the Alvarez family, which owns three parcels on Garfield Boulevard, filed for a permit in 2001 to renovate a home at 7802 Garfield Blvd. The remodeling plans doubled the size of the house and allocated eight feet for a street sidewalk, as required by city code, said Huntington Beach Assistant City Attorney Scott Field.

The planning blueprints also showed another open space area, about 12 feet, where a travel lane would be built, Field said.

However, the two sides disagreed on who should pick up the cost of street improvements.

City records show that the permit application was approved by the Fire Department and by building in 2001. But it was held up by public works until July 18, 2003, upon payment of $11,600 for future street improvements.

A receipt shows a payment of $11,600 was made by Alvarez for future street improvements and widening on the same day the permit was issued.

Though the sidewalk land normally would have been transferred to the city prior to issuance of the building permit, the city went ahead and issued the permit without it. Field said there was an understanding between the city and the family that the land would be transferred at some point during the process and before the final inspection.

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