Sinnott files lawsuit over driveway


The battle over a Louise Street driveway in Menlo Park has now moved to the courtroom.

In August, the Menlo Park City Council approved a request by street residents that the city turn over to adjoining homeowners an approximately 53-by-60-foot tangle of greenery in the public right-of-way -- a process called abandonment.

The agreement included clauses preserving pedestrian access, preventing future homeowners from building on the space and indemnifying the city against any potential lawsuit, leaving the neighbors responsible for any legal costs and damages a point several council members emphasized upon casting their vote.

Developer Sam Sinnott and investment partner Mircea Voskerician, who bought a property at 1825 Santa Cruz Ave. for redevelopment, had been fighting for permission to create a paved driveway that exited on Louise Street. The exit would have partially crossed over public right-of-way. A previous owner had gotten a permit in 1984 to install a driveway but never followed through, according to city records.

City staff initially authorized Mr. Sinnott's driveway. But the council, in the face of protests from Louise Street residents, revoked the approval, allowing the abandonment process to go forward after an attempt at compromise collapsed.

Now Mr. Sinnott is suing the city, the council, the public works director, four Louise Street property owners and other parties. The suit, filed on Nov. 14 in San Mateo County Superior Court, claims that the council had no right to revoke the driveway permit and that the city's, as well as the residents', interpretation of who has legal vehicular access to Louise Street is wrong.

Not allowing the driveway diminishes the value of his investment by more than $500,000, according to the lawsuit.

A case management conference has been scheduled for March 5, 2014.

— Sandy Brundage


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Posted by Mr. Anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Did Sinnott receive the permit before buying the investment property? I assume one must own the property first, which to me means that he has no claim to losing $500K in value.

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Posted by Sam Sinnott
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 22, 2013 at 3:28 pm

A quick clarification for anonymous - the vehicular access to Louise has always existed. A dirt driveway from my property over the unpaved portion to the paved portion of Louise existed for most of the history of Louise Street. I purchased the property with that access. We have used the access and not been sighted. That use included vehicles driving through the double driveway gates that probably date back to the 1930's. The previous owner of my property has submitted a sworn affidavit that he too used the driveway before it was blocked by the neighbors installation of their private parking without any required permits. They have since been forced to remove the parking.

The encroachment permit was needed only to pave the driveway, not to establish its existence. A similar permit was granted in 1984. These permits are never subject to a public hearing.

By proceeding with the abandonment the City is attempting to eliminate a vehicular access that exists. This taking without compensation is part of the basis for the $500,000 claim.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm

This lawsuit was as predictable as the sunrise.

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Posted by Long time MP resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 23, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Good luck Sam. It is great that the neighbors have agreed to indemnify the city. If they want to eliminate your right to a driveway, then they can pay you the $500,000 plus your legal fees. I think one of the neighbors just gave/sold their lot to their children. I hope the parents are indemnifying their children.

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Posted by lame
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 23, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Developer needs should always trump individual property rights. What are the neighbors smoking?

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Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 24, 2013 at 9:21 am

There must be a hidden connection here to John Woodell, Chuck Bernstein and Virginia Kiraly. Or maybe not so hidden, just the perpetual embarrassment machine that is Menlo Park. Btw, Sam means to write 'cited', as in 'citation,' not 'sighted'.

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Posted by Development = Greed
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 3, 2014 at 7:42 am

Were you at the last City Council meeting on the topic? I was terrible - nearly every council member fell over themselves to essentially remind Sinnott to sue the city because the City had been indemnified. As you indicate - yet another pathetic showing for the elected officials in Menlo Park. [Portion removed; stay on topic and keep it civil.]

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Posted by pathetic
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:26 pm

[Post removed; personal attacks violate terms of use.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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