Thursday, September 6, 2001

City seeks to condemn
Tantalus home site

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Legislation to condemn a Round Top Drive property whose owner is being blamed for causing extensive damage to the scenic Tantalus road has made its way out of the City Council Parks and Public Works Committee.

The city was forced to block off a section of Round Top Drive for several weeks in August 2000 to repair a concrete wall that supports the road along the hillside.

City officials blamed property owner Jo Paul Rognstad for creating the traffic hazard by tearing down the wall as he built a house on his property at 2845 Round Top Dr.

City officials now say they do not just want to collect from Rognstad the $350,000 spent to fix the road, but now want to condemn the entire property to keep the area safe.

"There was a great deal of taxpayer dollars that went into restoring that retaining wall, restoring that roadway, providing for the safe passage of vehicles along that stretch of road, and what we want to do is make sure that future construction work does not compromise that," said Ross Sasamura, the city's director of facility maintenance.

Rognstad was in the midst of building a home on the property and ignored notices to stop work after being found in violation of his building permit.

The retaining wall's collapse was so severe, Sasamura said, the road was collapsed along the shoulder of Round Top Drive "to the point where it was inches away from the striping."

Sasamura said the plan is to re-vegetate the property, which has an assessed value of between $400,000 and $450,000.

Rognstad did not attend yesterday's meeting and could not be reached for comment.

City officials said several liens already have been filed against the property owner by, among others, state and federal taxing authorities.

But attorneys for the city said they believe a condemnation proceeding would take precedent.

Councilman Romy Cachola said the city should look at exploring other means of acquiring the property, possibly through working with the state on its tax lien action.

A final Council vote is scheduled for Oct. 17.

E-mail to City Desk

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