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November 24, 2021

Scotts Valley Agrees to Pay $600K Legal Settlement

The city of Scotts Valley has agreed to settle a lawsuit, over damage caused by stormwater drainage, for $600,000.

According to Frederick H. Ebey, of Watsonville-based Grunsky Law Firm, the City has agreed to pay his client, Scott Beam, $450,000, for erosion at his Bean Creek Road property, and will give co-defendant, Janet Gulch, $150,000, for related issues.

Back in 2014, surface water in the northern area of Scotts Valley had begun to flow along Cadillac Drive—and related streets—down toward Beam’s property, per the suit.

In July that year, Scott Hamby, then the City’s public works director, inspected Beam’s property and agreed water coming from a storm drain on Hacienda Drive was a problem that the City would fix, according to documents filed in Santa Cruz County Superior Court.

But when the City renovated the drain pipe in November that year, it only made things worse, according to the court papers.

“The water was rerouted so it came down the hill,” Ebey said. “Instead of doing it properly they did it the cheapest way.”

Then, in February 2015, Beam met with Soquel-based civil engineers Bowman & Williams, and the company promised to set up a meeting with the City and Santa Cruz County officials, a complaint document states.

In July that year, Hamby told Beam the City had retained Santa Cruz-based Mesiti-Miller Engineering, Inc., a civil engineering firm, and that it would move the drainage away from Gulch’s property at 6 Country Lane, rerouting it to the storm drain at the top of Casa Way, according to the plaintiffs.

But by March 2016, this project still hadn’t been completed, the suit states.

“The liability issue was that the City improperly diverted surface water drainage from streets and caused them to flow in a concentrated manner,” Ebey said. “They caused a significant amount of erosion.”

On Beam’s 1540 Bean Creek Road property, that resulted in damage to trees, a wall and a driveway, Ebey said, adding the City claimed the original issue had to do with suburban development in the neighborhood.

“At one point in time they said some of the adjacent private property owners had increased the amount of asphalt on the roadway and the adjacent property owners had blocked the water from flowing the way it had normally,” Ebey said, adding he wishes the City hadn’t fought his client for years in court. “I thought the whole thing was unfortunate that it dragged on as long as it did.”

A woman who answered an intercom at the property declined to comment about the lawsuit.

The renovation was finally completed between June 2016 and August 2017, according to the complaint.

Beam filed his original governmental claim the following January.

The City did not respond to a request for comment by 5pm Wednesday.

Ebey says his client feels the resolution is “reasonable.” It’s contingent on approval by Scotts Valley City Council.

“It’s just too bad it took eight long years for it finally to take place,” he said. “To me, the most significant part of the lawsuit was getting the City to correctly reroute its water and stop the improper drainage system that was going on,” he said, calling their original response a band-aid solution. “They acknowledge the problem that existed.”

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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