Almanac

News - August 6, 2014

Atherton homeowner fined, barred from use of home

by Barbara Wood

A judge has decided in favor of the town of Atherton in its lawsuit alleging that the home at 67 Redwood Way was a "drug house."

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Joseph Scott on July 16 ordered the homeowner, James Kristofferson, to pay a $25,000 penalty as well as $26,223 in legal fees and abatement costs to the town. The ruling bars Mr. Kristofferson from any use of the property, including putting it up for sale or rent, until next April, a year from the time he was first ordered to move out in a preliminary ruling on the case.

Atherton City Attorney Bill Conners said the term "drug house" is defined in the Health and Safety Code as "a place where illegal drugs are sold, served, manufactured, stored, used, kept, distributed, or given away."

The drug house abatement laws are "designed to deter illegal conduct and to abate the nuisances that inevitably flow from such illegal drug uses," Mr. Conners said.

Mr. Conners said Mr. Kristofferson has indicated he will appeal the ruling.

The civil lawsuit, cataloging more than 120 police calls to the address and describing unsafe living conditions, was originally filed against Mr. Kristofferson in San Mateo County Superior Court in April. He and a number of others living in the house were first ordered to move out in a preliminary ruling on April 25.

The lawsuit says that between January 2011 and April 2014, the Atherton Police Department responded to the address "in excess of 120 times due to calls for service, including, but not limited to, complaints of multiple disturbances of the peace, service of arrest warrants, reports of parole violations, allegations of assault and battery (with) some resulting in arrest, dog fights, loud noise, suspicious vehicles, illegal parking, suspicious persons and complaints of suspected drug activity."

The house was inspected by the town and red-tagged for numerous violations on March 26, the lawsuit says. The town's building official "cited numerous incidents of structures and equipment in various stages of construction without valid permits," the lawsuit says. "Among the more dangerous conditions were electricity improperly being sourced from a running car in the yard, altered electrical panels and sub-panels, violations of the fire code, and an empty un-fenced pool in the yard. The official also noted a lack of heat, ventilation, plumbing, and electrical," according to the lawsuit.

"The neighborhood had been seriously impacted from nuisances attributed to this drug house," Mr. Conners told the Almanac It was, Mr. Conners said, "a serious drain on scarce police resources dealing with all of these problems."

In March, the lawsuit says, the house was searched after a confidential informant told police he had purchased drugs from someone living in the Redwood Way home on three occasions. Only the final purchase occurred on the Atherton property, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit: "Controlled substances, illegal drugs, and drug paraphernalia were found. Defendant was arrested and charged with Possession for Sales - Methamphetamine, Possession of Paraphernalia, Possession of Concentrated Marijuana, and Maintaining a House for Narcotics Use. Three other persons, found on the premises and claiming to reside at the house, were also arrested on similar charges."

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Mr. Kristofferson was charged with three misdemeanors for alleged possession of methamphetamine, concentrated cannabis and drug use paraphernalia. "The evidence was not sufficient to prove for Kristofferson or any of the other three defendants that the drug possession was for sale rather than for personal use," Mr. Wagstaffe said. Trial is set for Sept. 15 and he is out of custody on supervised own recognizance, he said.

Three others were also arrested at the home: Lauren Weil and Robin Vaka, charged with felony possession counts, and Yvette Marie Simmons, charged with misdemeanor possession counts. All four have court-appointed attorneys, Mr. Wagstaffe said.

In his response to the lawsuit, acting as his own attorney, Mr. Kristofferson said he had owned the Atherton home for 10 years, with no problems for the first seven. He complained of "three years of Atherton Police Department's harassment" as well as" the continued practice of falsifying police reports."

Mr. Kristofferson said that the drugs he was charged with possessing belonged to others living his home. He said he "has never nor will he ever allow drugs on his property."

In his response to the lawsuit, Mr. Kristofferson said he got a building permit from the town after his home was red-tagged and in March, when he filed his response, he had completed 80 to 90 percent of the required work.

Mr. Conners said neighbors of the house now "report a new quiet enjoyment that they have not experienced for some time."

"At the present time, the owner remains barred from entry onto the premises and the neighborhood is free of nuisances attributed to this site for the first time in several years," Mr. Conners said.

Mr. Conners said town officials "do not believe Atherton has an extensive drug house problem, but we are committed to provide relief to neighbors whenever we find such a situation in the future."

Zillow, the online real estate website, estimates the home at 67 Redwood Way is worth close to $2.4 million.

Comments

Posted by Yvette Simmons, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Aug 25, 2014 at 10:36 am

Where is the proof? what exactly did they find? why didn't they say what they found? They had no problem making allegations against the defendants, why not post the proof as well?

Because there isn't any!

The Good ol boys strike again! just like they did with Buckheit, Bothun and now Kristofferson.

Karma comes in strange ways!

Post that!


Posted by reading for fun and profit, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Aug 25, 2014 at 10:52 am

Yvette - did you read the article?



Posted by Take the high road, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm

I usually think of drug dealers showing up in court with Johnnie Cochran or F. Lee Bailey, not a court appointed attorney. Especially if they're living in Atherton! It sounds like there was a lot of trouble coming from this house, but it's not clear that it was a "drug house," which is bolstered by Wagstaffe's comment that he can't prosecute for drug dealing. So, it seems the town was able to do something creative to deal with the trouble, and this probably explains the outrage coming from the occupants.

It seems to me that the right thing to do is for the town to try to come to an agreement with the homeowner to let him return to his home, subject to some preagreed conditions that, if violated, could lead to another eviction.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Mr. Kristofferson informed me last week that he has lost this home.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 25, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Michael:

what do you mean "lost his home?"

Has he been foreclosed on?


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Menlo,

Yes that is my understanding.


Posted by Pat, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Aug 25, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Three misdemeanors and he's barred from his house? I understand that he's been a problem neighbor and doesn't 'fit' with the image of Atherton, but it is extreme to forbid him to rent or sell his house until April next year based on 3 misdemeanors. I'd have thought the neighbors would be glad if he sold the property. To me this smells a bit of string-pulling rather than well founded and proven guilt to get rid of an obnoxious person. In that respect, this decision sets a dangerous precedent.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

I remember getting a phone call from a concerned citizen who informed me that there were 10 Law Enforcement cars at Mr. Bothun residence. K-9, Sheriff, Probation, Atherton, everybody there.

I said I'll be there in 20 minutes. I got there in 19 minutes, Everybody was gone.

We went to the house looking for Brian, we found him, I asked him where did everybody go in such a hurry, he said he didn't know just out of the blue they were ordered out. It was reported in the papers that they received an important call. I checked the police call records for that night and time……..nothing


Posted by Yvette, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Aug 31, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Reading for fun and profit,
Yes I read the article. I was also there. My bf owns the home. We did nothing wrong except rent to the wrong person, who btw, went to work everyday. We did not socialize with her nor did we want to babysit her. She lived in a completely seperate bldg.
Our neighbors know we're not bad people. In fact, Mr. Kristofferson built the house across the street from him, put the power and cable underground for all the neighbors and one neighbor is his business partner (along with 5 cops and a Judge)

So why did we get kicked out?
We had already moved the renter out.
We did everything they wanted us to do.


Posted by colleen Anderson, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 31, 2014 at 10:19 pm

My husband had a buyer all cash for the home. We made a public records request to find out what our client would be getting into. I was never given the documents from the city. This was soon after it was red tagged. I did contact the city wondering about the documents, and told them we may have a buyer. This was all around the time of this happening. I just gave up. The house didn't have to be foreclosed on. He would have walked away with $$$$ in his pocket. Our buyer was all cash.


Posted by reading for fun and profit, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Sep 1, 2014 at 11:54 am

"They had no problem making allegations against the defendants"

120 police calls and a judge ruling "ordered the homeowner, James Kristofferson, to pay a $25,000 penalty as well as $26,223 in legal fees and abatement costs to the town."

120 calls?

Wonder what Buckheit and Bothun think about being lumped into a house with 120 police calls?

[Portion removed; off topic.]


Posted by Yvette, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Sep 1, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Reading for fun n profit.

I know it sounds bad. And with 120 calls....wow!I see your point.

But what you read is not always correct. I luckily requested a call log from Athertons police dept.prior to the article coming out (this was for another matter altogether) and there was nothing close to that many calls. But there were quite a few calls made by a tenant who is a childhood friend of James and he lost it mentally. And because he was such a dear friend and we knew his family history of mental illness, it was very hard to watch this man progressively get worse. He Lived with us until we could no longer live Safely as he was getting violent. We had to get a restraining order which he violated on several occasions.
With that said, the police did nothing to stop the violence and in turn empowered him since there were no repercussions for his actions. That's why there were so many calls.

Now, about that judge. Tell me, when I showed up to court with my attorney and the judge tells us to go out and discuss the matter n come to an agreement on dates and we returned with one and then were dismissed until then. Is it right that the opposing attorney returns and gives a testimony and the judge gives a ruling to permanently ban us from our home. I see that as very very wrong.
Please tell me what you think.
I would appreciate an objective opinion and since you seem to challenge ne on most Of what I say, I Want your opinion.


Posted by record of the southland, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Sep 8, 2014 at 10:13 am

Yvette... 120 calls dies sound bad, you sre correct. A number of them did not invlove the tenants, in fact the other thread listed the 3 drug charges, not to the tenants but to the owner's gf.

Any comment?


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 9, 2014 at 7:01 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Yvette:

Here's how one of your neighbors describes things:

Posted by Redwood Way Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 6, 2014 at 10:18 am

I am a longtime resident of Redwood Way, and familiar with 67 Redwood Way and the problems surrounding it.

The article focuses on the problems of the resident, and vaguely implies some impropriety on the part of APD and the district attorney's office. I'm not equipped to comment on the legal aspects of declaring a house a nuisance or "drug house", or what evidence is required for serious drug charges. However, I can comment on the environment on the street created by the presence of the house.

Over the past 5 to 7 years --the problem is not new-- I have witnessed:

-the visible nuisance of broken down cars and trash in the front yard
-suspicious cars and people coming at all hours of the day and night
-people passing items to and from residents through the gate, or via the mailbox, at all hours
-cars and motorcycles visiting the house and driving unsafely up and down the cul de sac
-at various times, multiple pit bulls, sometimes running freely in the street
--residents and visitors from the house going through and stealing items placed outside our house for charitable organizations
--loud screaming and arguments, often late at night
--visitors to the house passed out in cars in front of the house
--countless visits to the house by APD and San Mateo County Sherriff officers

I am generally of the mind that what goes on behind closed doors is the business of those involved. I also have sympathy for those harmed by the downturn in the economy. However, this house has created a public nuisance for years and has at times caused my children to fear for their safety.

The police calls should be well documented. This very paper has noted the house often in the "police blotter", detailing arrests for drug possession, parole violations, assault, and the list goes on.

APD has known about the house for years, and spent countless man hours and public funds visiting and conducting surveillance on the house. The only question might be, not what did the authorities do wrong, but what took them so long?

Is this person just making things up?


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 9, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Yvette?


Posted by Take the high road, a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 9, 2014 at 10:30 pm

While I sympathize with the neighbors who pay high home prices and taxes to live in Atherton, and deserve peace and quiet, I am still troubled with the ejection from the home. If crimes were being committed on the property, arrest and charge and convict the residents. That would certainly solve the problem. I just can't get my arms around telling someone they cannot live in their own home unless they are to be incarcerated.


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