City settles Cranston lawsuit

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The city of Los Altos settled a lawsuit filed last year over the release of a memo regarding city-owned property at First and Main streets.

Downtown property owner Kim Cranston told the Town Crier that his attorney and the city successfully negotiated a settlement in mid-January. Cranston originally filed a lawsuit against the city last May after it refused to release an internal staff memo that discussed the potential sale of city-owned land at the corner of First and Main.

The city entered into a $3.1 million sale agreement for the 0.78-acre property with developer Jeffrey A. Morris in September 2010. Morris is slated to begin construction on a new two-story, mixed-use development on the site later this year.

According to Cranston, the settlement included $12,500 to cover his attorney’s fees and other expenses, as well as acknowledgment by the city that the memo is a public record.

“I’m glad (the city) released it and the legal proceedings are over with,” Cranston said.

He added that the city should “take a hard look” at its policies related to public land sales to “prevent this from happening again.”

Prior to his legal filing, the city declined Cranston’s public records request seeking release of the memo, noting that doing so would have a chilling effect on internal staff debates over city issues. Cranston countered that he wanted the memo released because he believed that other developers were interested in purchasing the property at a time when the city was negotiating a deal with Morris.

The city released the memo in question – written by former Economic Development Manager Anne Stedler to Assistant City Manager James Walgren and then-City Manager Doug Schmitz – in December, which led to the settlement.

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