The Sacramento City Council is looking at a $500,000 legal bill to defend a lawsuit filed by Curtis Park Village developer Paul Petrovich.
The council will vote Tuesday on whether to spend up to that amount to pay outside law firm Meyers Nave Riback Silver & Wilson.
Supervising Deputy City Attorney Brett Witter said the figure will cover legal costs through a trial and, if necessary, an appeal. The case will likely drag on for months: the city is still compiling its records and no hearing dates have been scheduled.
Meanwhile, very little development has occurred within the key 72-acre site, a former railyard between the century-old Curtis Park neighborhood and Sacramento City College.
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According to city planners, 42 single-family homes have been built out of an anticipated 250 houses. All the newly built homes are on the east side of Crocker Drive. No single-family homes have been constructed on the west side of Crocker Drive, where the vast majority of land in the development is located. The nearly milelong stretch of brown grass and soil holds only roads, utility cables, a retention pond and a recently built apartment complex for seniors.
The shopping center planned by Petrovich has not moved forward since he sued the city.
Petrovich filed his lawsuit in February after the City Council rejected his request for a conditional use permit to allow Safeway to build a 16-pump gas station at a proposed store in Curtis Park Village.
Residents of the bordering Curtis Park neighborhood had objected to the gas station, saying it didn’t belong in a neighborhood planned as pedestrian and bike friendly, with easy access to public transit including light rail. Council members agreed.
The lawsuit alleges that the city wrongfully denied the permit and violated the developer’s right of due process. Petrovich wants a judge to overturn the city’s decision.
City officials have denied Petrovich’s charges, saying the council decision came after a lengthy debate and “a clear basis for council action to deny the conditional use permit.”
According to a city staff report, Petrovich’s lawsuit also charges that the city “did not adequately respond to a request for records pursuant to the California Public Records Act.”
In a move met with alarm by some neighbors, Petrovich’s lawyers last month subpoenaed 38 Curtis Park residents asking for records of their email and other communications with city officials about Curtis Park Village.
The subpoenas were put on hold late last month under an agreement between the attorneys for both sides. But the idea that Petrovich would come after private citizens as part of his lawsuit has left neighbors, with whom Petrovich has frequently feuded over the development, feeling especially upset.
“This is really just harassment, an attempt to harass private citizens exercising their right to petition their government,” said Patrick Soluri, an attorney for the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association. “There’s a laundry list of 38 individuals he was trying to serve. It’s his way of trying to exact some kind of petty revenge against residents.”
Petrovich did not return a phone call and emails seeking comment. His lawyer, David Lanferman, of the Palo Alto law firm Rutan & Tucker, was not immediately available on Friday afternoon.