YOLO SUN OPINION :
[Editor’s note: Further, detailed research into this very interesting matter has for a few days delayed Part Two of this column (originally set for May Day), but has resulted in the following (open) letter to Woodland City Council, regarding its impending (May 5) action on Spring Lake Specific Plan. Part Three of this column will soon be published, involving the procedural outcome of this key community development matter. Woodland City Council will be meeting about this item, Tuesday evening. Copies of this Open Letter to the Woodland City Council will be delivered to each Councilmember before Tuesday’s meeting. I encourage all interested citizens to attend this Council meeting and to speak if they wish.]
OPEN LETTER TO THE WOODLAND CITY COUNCIL
May 4, 2015
To: Members, Woodland City Council
Tom Stallard, Mayor
William L. Marble, Mayor Pro Tempore
On Tuesday, May 5th, you’re being asked to approve a new development plan for a pivotal 105 acre parcel within the larger Spring Lake Specific Plan. This revised plan has been requested by a new ownership group called Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P.
When you strip away all the legalize and boilerplate, the City Council is being asked to amend Woodland’s General Plan to increase Low Density Residential housing at the expense of Medium Density Residential housing, by expanding and concentrating High Density Residential housing.
For the first time within this key development, 128 R-4 homes would be built (four homes to the acre). Accommodating this major increase in home size and value, the number of R-5 and R-8 single family homes would be decreased by 196 units. The previously approved 171 multi-family residences in R-15 and R-20 zoning will be entirely eliminated; while adding, 232 very-high density apartments (R-25) directly adjacent to a quite adversely relocated park and commercial development (the latter, these new owners unsuccessfully attempted to eliminate from their plan).
So, what justifies this proposed change to Woodland’s General Plan, allowing this R-4 zoning? In its supporting documents to the Council, the Planning Commission merely repeats an assertion from the developers’ application. The exact language approved by the Planning Commission reads in its entirety as follows:
“General Plan Consistency Findings:
The project is consistent with the goals and policies of the General Plan
in that the proposed modification provides for a more economically
viable land use designation for single family residential densities that
the current housing market will more readily absorb and support.”
(See: City Council Agenda Attachment 6, Exhibit C, page 3)
That’s it. This is the only evidence being provided to the Council to support a request to amend Woodland’s General Plan. If the Council approves this amendment it will be endorsing the idea that only very large and expensive homes will sell and that there is no market for smaller, medium-priced homes, accessible to ordinary Woodlanders. If this view fits the Council’s vision for the future of Woodland, then you should approve it. If not, you should vote to return this development plan to the Planning Commission.
This proposed Spring Lake Specific Plan amendment is particularly disturbing as the City Council prepares to begin its legally-mandated process of reforming Woodland’s General Plan for the future. If this current proposal is all it takes to get the Council to so strongly endorse such large, expensive homes, which only few families can afford, at the sacrifice of more affordable homes, then it sends an unfortunate message regarding City Council vision of Woodland’s future (diverse demographic) growth.
This is not a decision which should be driven by developers from outside our city. Unfortunately, we’ve been down this path before, where remote developers promise one thing but deliver another. Gateway 1 started as an auto mall, but quickly morphed into what it is today—a gigantic parking lot surrounded by big box stores and restaurants, but no auto dealerships. Gateway 2 resurrected the promise of an auto mall plus more retail, but after City Council approval, state courts intervened to stop this project due to its grossly inadequate, environmental review process.
This week’s decision regarding Spring Lake Specific Plan’s key component is a clear opportunity for the City Council to, once and for all, stand up to the blandishments and skewed promises of developers whose interests do not necessarily align with those of Woodland.
Corollary to this situation, above, is another key question the Council needs to consider: Does the City of Woodland really know who are the new developers of this pivotal, 105 acre parcel in Spring Lake?
Initially, this pivotal parcel was sold (2005) for $30,000,000 to Reynen & Bardis Communities, a respected, legacy homebuilding firm from Sacramento. An initial Development Agreement was signed on March 15, 2007 between the City and Reynen& Bardis Communities.
Then came, the Great Recession, and in 2008 John D. Reynen and Christo Bardis found themselves financially overextended, both filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while owing about a billion dollars between them.
According to reliable press reports, this key parcel of land in Spring Lake was sold on May 10, 2012, within a foreclosure proceeding by OneWest Bank, to Village Properties — for a mere $3,000,000.
In 2012, Woodland Spring Lake Partners, L.P. was created (California Secretary of State File #201211400004) as successor in interest to Reynen & Bardis Communities. A new Development Plan was submitted to the City (2013), in the name of Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P, the (revised) Plan that the City Council is now being asked to approve.
However, if you look at the 2013 Application Form (See: City Council Agenda Attachment 9, page 4), the signature on the line for “Owner” is that of “Bardis.” It’s probably Christo Bardis’ signature , although the first name is an illegible scrawl—although it does clearly begin with a “C.”
Interestingly, the “Project Applicant” listed on the form is a person named Les Hock of HCM, Inc., which is described as a construction management firm. His current address and phone number, however, are identical to those used for years previous by Reynen& Bardis Communities and are still being used by Bardis family members who are engaged in housing development in Sacramento. This address is as follows:
10630 Mather Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95655
In 2011, John D. Reynen and Christo Bardis, having come through their bankruptcies, formed an entity called Artisan California to reengage in homebuilding. This firm also operates out of the above address.
The Project Applicant for the current owners, aforementioned Les Hock, has a somewhat blemished past. In 2008, he was successfully sued by several previous partners in a housing development partnership for breach of fiduciary duty and Mr. Hock was ordered to pay $500,000—a judgment that was subsequently upheld on appeal.
So who are the real owners of Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P. with whom the City is dealing? Despite the signature of Bardis as “Owner” on the Application, the name of the property owner on the Application is listed as follows:
Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P.
940 Emmett Ave., #200
Belmont, CA 95616
On the spaces for a phone number and email address, the notation “not available” is given.
In its initial filing with the Secretary of State, the name Robert Isackson is given as the Registered Agent for Woodland Spring Lakes Partnership, L.P. at the Belmont address. Mr. Isackson is elsewhere identified as Founder and President of Village Properties, a real estate development firm operating out of the same Belmont address, the organization which purchased this 105 acre parcel, once valued at $30,000,000 for only $3,000,000.
$3,000,000 amounts to about $30,000 / acre. Lot prices in Spring Lake are generally in the range of $40,000+, depending upon circumstances. Thus, huge profits to these speculative land developers are involved in this deal.
The actual owner of this Belmont address is one John Glikbarg, a Bay Area resident who is a senior partner in Village Properties aside Mr. Isackson. Mr. Glikbarg has also recently been involved in several other residential development projects within the Sacramento region.
I sincerely hope the City has been able to reliably sort out all of this odd and conflicting property ownership information.
Who’s really in charge of this key city development? Is it former owner Christo Bardis, who signed the Application as Owner; is it Robert Isackson as Registered Agent for Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P.; or, is it Les Hock, whose name appears as Applicant and to whom the City has been directed to send copies of all documents arising from the development plan process.
I can clearly identify here, several, relevant outside developers / investors from the Bay Area and beyond, as well as people still associated with the previous owner/developers, Reynen& Bardis Communities, very closely involved with this pivotal parcel, importantly related to Woodland’s future.
These aren’t just idle questions designed to stir up dust at the eleventh hour. They go to the crucial question of whether the people this city is now dealing with have the legal authority to meaningfully commit the real ownership group(s) behind Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P.
The City Council deserves to have clear and unambiguous answers to these ownership questions before it approves this new plan. Also, it needs to seriously consider the implications of amending Woodland’s General Plan for these developers’ objectives as presented.
If the City Council objects to transformation of residential densities within this proposed revision, or its adversely revised relocation of park and commercial areas, these are added reason to delay approval and send this vital matter back to the City’s Planning Commission for its improved review and action.
I thank the City Council for carefully considering this item.