SANTA CLARA – The Santa Clara City Council lowered power impact fees, approved funds for an environmental assessment and heard an appeal from homeowners affected by the Truman Drive landslide at a regular meeting Wednesday.
Scott and Judy Larsen appeared at the City Council meeting to appeal an offer made by the city to purchase their home for $237,550.
The Larsen home is located at 1656 Cinnamon Circle and is one of three properties affected by the slide that the city is offering to buy as part of a hillside stabilization project.
The hillside near Truman Drive on the edge of Santa Clara Heights has been sliding for decades.
One home on Cinnamon Circle, next door to the Larsens, has been condemned and purchased by the city.
Several other properties are affected and more are at risk if the slide is not stopped.
A $1.2 million federal grant and $351,00 loan were approved in July; the funds will be used to stabilize the hillside and, hopefully, stop the slide permanently.
The Larsens are one of three homes Santa Clara City officials are offering to buy. The other two homeowners have accepted offers made by the city.
The Larsens, however, feel the city’s offer of $237,550 was too low and spoke at length to the City Council Wednesday about their home’s worth and asked for a higher offer.
The Larsen home sits on a half-acre and was completely remodeled after the couple purchased the home in 2002, Scott Larsen said. The home is over 4,000 square-feet and has a pickleball, basketball and volleyball court and is fully landscaped.
The Larsens are in their 70s, on fixed income and are concerned about being able to get a loan for a “comfortable” new home, Scott Larsen told the council.
The city’s offers were based on an appraisal which calculated a hypothetical value of $350,000, assuming the landslide never happened, and an as-is value of $52,500, city attorney Matt Ence said.
To get the final offer of $237,550, the city took the high appraised value of $350,000 and averaged it with the 2016 Washington County assessed value.
The offers for all three properties were about 66 percent of the high appraisal value, Rosenberg said.
City officials were sympathetic to the Larsens’ plight but said finding more money for them would be difficult. The federal loan and grant are capped and there is not a large contingency fund built into the project.
Officials discussed a number of options for finding more money which include using city workers and equipment to do more of the project work than is currently planned. This would likely delay other needed city projects, however.
Another option is to take money out of the city’s general fund, which would require a public hearing to reopen the budget.
In the end, the matter was postponed until January while the city rechecks their appraisal numbers and the Larsens decide whether or not to get their own appraisal.
Officials expressed concern about the Larsens’ safety during the delay over the purchase price.
The Larsens are monitoring movement in their home, and it hasn’t moved much recently, Scott Larsen said.
However, that is typical during a long dry spell and could change quickly, Rosenberg said.
“Be vigilant,” he said. “Don’t ignore anything.”
“Feel free to move out of the home,” Ence said.
After a public hearing, the City Council lowered power impact fees for most residential properties by nearly $1,000 and adjusted fees for other types of properties upward.
“Our impact fees went down,” councilman Herb Basso said. “Everybody says Santa Clara’s the highest, we’ve never been the highest and now we’re actually giving back … ”
Residential 200-amp fees – which include about 99 percent of new homes – was changed from $4,739 to $3,798, public works director Jack Taylor said.
Impact fees for homes over 200 amps are higher under the new rate structure, as are fees for commercial buildings.
Outdoor sports park
The City Council approved $23,000 for an environmental assessment of a 52-acre parcel in the South Hills which is currently owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
It is hoped that the land will be transferred to the city at no cost under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act; the environmental assessment is required for that process to proceed.
The new park is planned for an area south of Gates Lane and Clary Hills Drive, near the city water tanks and Cove Wash Trailhead.
The location offers access to several existing mountain biking trails, and more trails are planned for the area by the BLM. The park is being designed to host mountain biking and trail-running events such as the True Grit race.
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