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La Mesa Wins Appeals Court Ruling in Briercrest Lawsuit

The judgement allows the city to collect attorney fees in development lawsuit.

Patch file photo by Doug Williams.
Patch file photo by Doug Williams.
A higher court ruling has cleared the way for La Mesa to recover attorney fees in a lawsuit over a failed development at Briercrest Park.

The judgement in favor of the city was issued Dec. 16 by the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeals. The lawsuit was filed in March 2010 by Briercrest Development LP for breach of contract after the city terminated its agreement with the company to develop and operate housing facilities for older adults in La Mesa on property located west of Briercrest Park on Wakarusa Drive.

A series of developer delays, including being unable to secure funding for the project that initially was to create senior residential rental units but was later changed to an assisted living residential care and a skilled nursing facility, resulted in the city terminating the five-year-old agreement in 2009.

According to the city, the amended agreement outlined that the developer needed to satisfy conditions within a set performance schedule with agreed upon extensions, or La Mesa would contractually terminate the agreement. The conditions included financing, beginning construction, and receiving governmental entitlements and permits.

City Manager David E. Witt said the developer sought financing for senior residential rental units, then requested a modification to the ground lease to allow the development of senior condominiums, and finally unsuccessfully tried to secure funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for an assisted living residential care and a skilled nursing facility. 

A bench trial court ruled in favor of the city's case in 2011, and awarded attorney fees which Briercrest Development appealed. The issue of what to do with the property now goes back to the city council.

“It is a great relief to finally regain control of the city's property," Witt said. "The concept of this development area was to create a park that promoted healing and surround the park with compatible uses. This decision will allow the city to move forward to put this property to a productive use for the community.”

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