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October 25, 2021

Watsonville City Council deems stalled development public nuisance

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville City Council at its Tuesday meeting declared a stalled housing development off Ohlone Parkway a public nuisance, setting the stage for a public hearing on the item after its summer recess.

Pacific Sunshine Garden at 1773 Santa Victoria Ave. has for more than three years failed to make various corrections to faulty construction, according to hundreds of pages of city documents. 

As a result, city officials say that the majority of the 34 units currently under construction are “unsalvageable” and they must be demolished because they have become “offensive to the senses because it is a blight on the neighborhood and nearby homes.”

The item was included in the City Council’s consent agenda, where issues that are typically uncontroversial are often placed.

Along with the declaration, the City Council also scheduled a public hearing concerning the abatement for Aug. 24.

After that meeting, the City Council can empower staff to move forward with the demolition if the developer, Pacific Sunshine Development, LLC, does not do so themselves. The cost to the city for that work would be charged to the property owner.

Attorneys for the developer said in a letter to the City Council that the condition of the construction is a result of several stop-work orders imposed by the city’s building officials, and that many of the claims listed in the city’s report are untrue and “irresponsible” and do not constitute the declaration.

The $35 million, 87-unit development broke ground in 2016, and it was supposed to be completed by 2018.

The Chinese investor-backed project was lauded by city leaders as a shining example of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. That program, created by Congress in 1990, provides a path toward permanent residency for foreign nationals—and their immediate family—who invest cash to finance a business in the U.S.

But changes enacted in 2019 made it more difficult for interested foreign investors to pour money into projects in return for a ticket into the U.S. 

In an interview for a story in the Pajaronian in 2019, Sunshine Garden sales manager David Wang said the project had not taken “one cent” from the EB-5 program despite multiple media reports stating otherwise.

The City Council also passed a resolution allowing staff to seek bids for the construction of two bioretention ponds—drainage systems that filter rainwater runoff before it reaches the watershed—and an emergency access road for the ongoing construction projects off Ohlone Parkway.

The developer began the work, according to city documents, but has not completed it.

Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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