In the News

Insurance firm to pay Capitola $1.35 million to settle flooding lawsuit

By Jondi Gumz
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 4/26/13

CAPITOLA -- The city's insurance company, which had refused to pay for cleanup after a pipe broke and triggered flooding in the village in March 2011, has agreed to pay $1.35 million, City Attorney John Barisone announced at Thursday night's City Council meeting.

The money will cover a large portion of the damages paid out by the city, according to Lisa Murphy, the city's administrative services manager.

She said the city paid out about $1.5 million.

In addition, she said, the city lost about $150,000 in parking revenues and rent that was not paid by residents of the Pacific Cove Mobile Home Park who were forced out of their homes and lost two coaches, together valued at about $50,000.

The agreement with Lexington Insurance settles a lawsuit filed by Capitola to secure reimbursement.

In other business Thursday night:

A group of residents at Capitola Gardens, for many years home to senior citizens, appealed to the council for help. The residents are facing higher rents plus charges for water, sewer and trash pickup.

"What assistance or recourse do we have?" asked Ruth Seidel, 80.

City manager Jamie Goldstein suggested residents consult with Senior Legal Services or California Rural Legal Assistance.

The council approved plans for summer street improvements that will be paid out of the Measure O sales tax increase approved by voters last year.

City residents can look forward to voting on  a $115 million desalination plant proposed by the Soquel Creek Water District, which serves Capitola, to prevent saltwater from entering district wells, and the city of Santa Cruz to provide water in drought conditions.

"I can almost guarantee we will have an election," said Soquel Creek Water board member Bruce Daniels.

Asked by Mayor Stephanie Harlan if the vote would be advisory or binding, Daniels said, "That's something we have to discuss."

That discussion will take place this summer, according to water district manager Taj Dufour.

Daniels said the Soquel Creek Water District is mandating a 15 percent cutback in water use this summer because there has been so little rainfall for two years in a row.

"We will get zero recharge (of the aquifer) because of the reduction in precipitation," he said.

The water district has not considered building a reservoir.

"There's nothing to fill up a reservoir with," Daniels said. "Every drop in the creek has already been allocated. If you take water out of the stream, you are taking somebody's water rights."

He said he has installed "a little dry streambed" in front of his house to allow rainfall to percolate into the ground and recharge the aquifer rather than going out to Monterey Bay.

Harlan encouraged residents to recycle their laundry water for landscaping. A free greywater workshop is planned on May 18; a $150 rebate is available.

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