An assessment district will be created in a North Laguna neighborhood
after it barely received the necessary 50% approval from residents.
The assessment will pay to put the the existing overhead utilities for
electric, telephone and cable television in the High Drive, Virginia Way,
Ocean Vista Drive and Hillcrest Drive neighborhood underground, also know
as the High Drive District.
The city has been trying to create a special assessment district in
the neighborhood since 1997 but lost a lawsuit in December 2002 to some
property owners who said the assessment was configured illegally.
Five property owners voted against the imposition of the assessment
and submitted their complaints in writing because they felt that the city
did not meet the necessary criteria.
According to state law, in order for a special assessment to be
levied, there needs to be substantial evidence, which demonstrates that
the properties subject to the assessment receive a special benefit over
and above the public at large. Otherwise it is seen as a general
The judge ruled that the formula used by the city to assess the
individual properties within the district was arbitrary and not in
proportion to the benefits derived by each property.
The engineers report proposed an assessment be imposed upon each
parcel in the district according to the three special benefits to each
parcel: safety, neighborhood aesthetics and modernization and view
“If everyone is taxed the same for neighborhood aesthetics and for
safety then it is not special, it is a generality and it is not allowed
by proposition 218,” said Jay Glass plaintiff in last year’s lawsuit and
High Drive property owner.
The Orange County Superior Court judge stated, “The utilization of
this formula has resulted in a substantial injustice to many, and the
city abused its discretion in failing to properly take the issue of
proportional benefit to individual properties.”
The City Council’s amended proposal was voted on by residents in the
neighborhood. The results were tallied on Tuesday night with an extremely
close margin for approval.
Because of the close vote, a recount was done on Wednesday with the
same results announced Wednesday night at the City Council’s budget
“It won’t keep everybody happy. You can’t. But we’re trying to bring
the inequities to a level the assessment district favors,” Frank said.