Investor in city-approved housing project sues developer

Town Crier File Photo
An investor in the housing project at 5150 El Camino Real has filed a lawsuit against Dutchints, the Los Altos-based developer.

A local real estate developer who invested in a major, city-approved housing project at 5150 El Camino Real is suing Dutchints Development LLC – the owner of the property that is facing several other lawsuits alleging unpaid debts and breach of contract – along with its managing director, Vahe Tashjian.

Richard “Tod” Spieker, president of Spieker Companies, manages nearly 3,000 multifamily units in Silicon Valley. In a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara Superior Court Aug. 18, Spieker said a $2.5 million investment he and his wife, Catherine, made in the development at 5150 El Camino was instead used to pay Dutchints’ and Tashjian’s existing debts and operational expenses. Spieker also claimed that his investment was placed in an unrelated LLC that had no ownership interest in the property.

Spieker is a former All-American swimmer at UCLA, and his name is etched on the university’s aquatics center. He has been an active investor in the Bay Area since the 1970s, and a 2008 profile in Apartment Management Magazine describes him as someone who garners “instant recognition and respect.”

Through his attorneys, Spieker declined comment to the Town Crier. A Dutchints representative claimed in an email on Friday that the lawsuit was settled and “almost all other items resolved,” but didn’t elaborate and offered no proof prior to the Town Crier’s print deadline. An attorney for Spieker subsequently denied any settlement agreement.

Three weeks ago, the Town Crier published a report on Dutchints – a Los Altos-based real estate developer involved in several major projects in Los Altos and the greater Bay Area – that found the group was being sued by several construction companies and investors for millions of dollars. Dutchints’ development at 5150 El Camino was one of two projects recently approved by the Los Altos City Council, with a plan to turn a 3.8-acre lot into 196 housing units – 28 of which would be deemed “below market rate.” The development would help Los Altos, which is behind in reaching its state-mandated affordable housing targets, or Regional Housing Need Allocation figures.

Additionally, the Town Crier obtained records indicating that property owned by Dutchints adjacent to 5150 El Camino is in the process of being foreclosed. Under the conditions of the city’s approval for the developer’s project, Dutchints had agreed to turn that property into a public park.

In July, a Los Altos family – Irwin, Yakira and David Heyman – who invested in Dutchints’ projects filed a lawsuit against the developer alleging breach of fiduciary duties regarding a property located on Homestead Road. According to the family’s attorney, Harry Price, the Heymans are also minority investors in the project at 5150 El Camino. The Heymans declined an interview request through Price. The two parties reached a written settlement agreement, Price confirmed on Friday.

Spieker’s lawsuit is the first documented case of a disgruntled investor at 5150 El Camino, which Dutchints purchased in 2018 for $48 million.

The status of the project is uncertain. Dutchints’ website projects that it will break ground by the end of September.

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