fairytale farm
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Former Councilmember Feuds with Neighbors Over Unit

Micah Posner’s plan to build a second unit in his backyard meets resistance from his co-owners, who fear the unit will block access to a community garden.

When Riverside Avenue resident Debora Wade bought into the property next door to her 10 years ago, she and her husband Karsten were doing it partly to preserve it as a single-family home in an increasingly dense neighborhood, she says.

Wade—who has Crohn’s disease, routinely struggling with long periods of severe illness—had her third surgery last year. In times of darkness, she’s looked for solace in her garden on the section of property that she shares with former Councilmember Micah Posner and his family, who live in a home at the front of the parcel.

“This was the place that I come to when all my drugs fail, and I’ve had fevers for six months straight, and I’m emaciated,” she says, of her garden. “I, at least, can go out to the garden and plant seeds. It’s what kept me alive.”

Wade has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to stop Posner—who ignited controversy for an illegal unit on the property while on the council—from adding a second unit to the property. The unit would be in between the house and the garden, known as Fairytale Farm.

Posner hopes that building the new unit will reinforce his apology.

“The garden is great, people love it,” Posner says. “Some people say, ‘Don’t build the unit, we have to save the garden,’ But they don’t understand that we’re not going to build the unit on the garden. I don’t see any way it could affect her at all.”

Wade concedes that she and Karsten did give the Posners the green light to build the previous unpermitted unit before he was elected to the council. Looking back, she says she was touched that, at the time, Posner’s wife, Akiko, had wanted to have enough income to be a stay-at-home mom—something she was fortunate enough to do herself.

“When he had a tenant living next to us, it wasn’t as peaceful. When you hear people having sex, when you hear people listening to music, I don’t like it,” Wade says. “You don’t want to be out there.”

Posner came over and talked to Wade as she recovered from her surgery—so often that she filed a temporary restraining order against him, although a judge later threw it out, requiring Wade to pay Posner’s legal fees. It’s an uncomfortable fallout for two formerly friendly neighbors. The Wades hosted Posner’s City Council campaign kickoff at their backyard farm nearly five years ago, and they were business partners in Santa Cruz Pedicabs.

The Zoning Board approved plans for the unit—technically a duplex under zoning laws—on Jan. 18, and Posner hopes to begin building after getting an architect’s appraisal, although Wade says she’ll appeal the decision to the Planning Commission. Posner hopes to enter either mediation or arbitration, which could provide the final ruling. He hopes to resolve these issues as soon as possible, but in the meantime, will continue going through with the permit process to have the unit built as soon as possible.

It’s in the contract that the families have to arbitrate, but the two sides have unsuccessfully held mediation sessions with different mediators—one of which consisted of four meetings, he says.

“Debora never voiced her concerns about the previous tenants. We are determined to be good neighbors and we would have addressed the concern,” Posner says.

Wade tried to set up an appointment with the Posners with the lawyer who drafted the document in San Francisco, but they told her that they couldn’t travel that far. Wade says it’s difficult to find an expert locally.

It’s true that, at least in Santa Cruz, the situation is anything but routine, according to Mike Ferry, a planner with the city. This is the first tenancy-in-common agreement he has dealt with, and he says it’s been unusual to have a tenancy-in-common agreement in Debora and Posner’s situation.


Update 2/23/17: This article was updated to say that the temporary restraining order Wade filed against Posner was thrown out, and Wade was forced to pay Posner’s legal fees.

Update 2/23/17: The reference to the unit as a ‘duplex’ was changed to ‘secondary unit’.

Update 2/23/17: Photo updated.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Louise Drummond

    February 23, 2017 at 4:27 am

    I am Micah Posner’s step-mother and I have been aware of the relations between he and the Wades for years. The false statements in this article are shocking to me. Deborah Wade is prone to venomous untruths that are truly scurrilous. She didn’t get her restraining order because the judge didn’t think that she had a case. The unit Michah is building is the addition of a room, on the opposite side of his property from her, in a place that is now a large shed. Has she heard sex on her property? Maybe it has originated in the unit she rents, illegally.

  2. Louise Drummond

    February 23, 2017 at 4:18 am

    The false statements in your article are shocking to me. I am Micah Posner’s step-mother. I have been at the house and been aware of the goings on for years. Deborah Wade and her husband have so much personal animosity that everything that they say is suspect. She didn’t get the restraining order because the judge did not see a case, only emotion. The addition is not a duplex, only a room, in place of a large shed that will be in the spot where a large shed already exists. Please get your facts right before you libel people.

  3. Karsten Wade

    February 9, 2017 at 2:43 am

    It would be great if you could make “Fairy Tale Farm” (actually “Fairytale Farm”) a link to the urban farm website: http://www.fairy-talefarm.com (The “-” is because the other domain name was already taken.)

    It’s telling to me that the two quotes from Micah Posner dance around the truth.

    It seems quite difficult that Micah could not “see any way (a permanent unit) could affect her at all” after so many emails, discussions, meetings, and mediations that included that exact topic. He might not agree with it having an effect, but it’s disingenuous to claim no understanding of affect at all. Where was he during all those discussions? If he claims to now understand that he would have been a “good neighbor” in addressing concerns about the illegal shed unit, that is an admission to having more understanding than none “at all.”

    Debora “voiced her concern about the previous tenants” once the illegal shed unit was vacated and the contrast was evident. It’s one of the many reasons we have in not wanting a unit in the same part of our co-owned yard. How can trying to put a new, larger, permanent unit there be the action of “good neighbors”? Wouldn’t a good co-owner’s response be to listen, understand, and drop the duplex project in the face of warranted opposition to the idea? How is pursuing this project being a “good neighbor” and “reinforcing his apology” by overriding the wishes of his co-owners, neighbors, and people he claims to care about?

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