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Window Showdown: The picketing at Clearwater Court has spurred a lawsuit for business interruption costs.


Ultimate Window Wrestling

Growing up in the valley, Rich McInnis says he used to escape to the Cruz on vacations and dream about one day owning a home here. That dream came true four years ago, when McInnis paid local developer Bill Brooks $550,000 for a town house in the Sea Beach complex on Beach Hill. But McInnis says the dream dissolved to nightmare when the rain fell.

No, it wasn't that valley boys can't handle wet, but that they can't handle wet inside their brand new luxury homes. McInnis, who was using his town home as a weekend retreat, says he came to discover that his windows--not to mention doors, roof and chimney--were leaking, causing mold and a musty smell.

Thirteen thousand (and counting) days later, McInnis, who is now president of the Sea Beach Homeowners Association, still has leaky windows--a situation which has him picketing Clearwater Court, Brooks' million-dollar home development on Portola Drive.

McInnis says he hopes the picket, which involves holding signs that read "If my Brooks home was a boat, it would sink" and handing prospective homeowners fliers about problems at Sea Beach, will get Brooks off the pot and onto fixing windows.

Instead, Brooks has slapped him with a restraining order and sent a letter to Sea Beach homeowners stating he's reached an impasse with McInnis for "handing out fliers claiming all my projects are bad and harassing my sales people."

Reached by phone, Brooks accused McInnis of manipulating the media into a mud-slinging campaign against him.

Then he asked why Nüz is interested in covering this story, since surely our paper needs real estate advertising dollars?

Reminding Brooks that a wall divides editorial and advertising (at least at newspapers worth their salt), Nüz cut to the chase and asked Brooks why the windows haven't been fixed after all this time.

"The problem was only discovered a year ago," said Brooks. "The real story is that there are other items that need to be done, but I'll only sign off on those items when the Homeowners Association comes up with their list. The windows are a separate issue; that needs to go through the legal system."

Brooks also accused McInnis of "waving this never-ending list of defects in front of the noses of Sea Beach owners who want to sell," speculating that "maybe he's trying to beat down the prices on all the units, so he can end up owning the whole complex."

Reached by cell, McInnis admitted he and his brother did buy another unit in the complex, but he says that was only because they believed that Clearwater Construction, which built the homes, was about to replace the windows--an offer that was withdrawn in October 2003, apparently because of McInnis' negative comments about the plan.

"This isn't Gilroy, but Santa Cruz, where no one builds by the beach anymore, so at the end of the day, we'll end up owning land in Beach Hill, even if we have to rip the complex down and build it over again," said McInnis, who claims that the "never-ending list of defects" is actually a full-disclosure statement to prevent the Homeowners Association from getting sued by new owners for not telling them about pre-existing problems.

"At the end of the day, I'd be happy to call off the picket at Clearwater Court, if I can get my windows fixed without having to sign a release on all the other defects in the units, " said McInnis, who claims his goal is to avoid a lawsuit. "But I feel Brooks is trying to wear us out financially and emotionally, while passing the statute of limitations on building defects."

Meanwhile, Brooks says the Homeowners Association has a legitimate complaint and he intends to fix the windows, but can't replace them until he has sued window manufacturer General Aluminium Of Texas.

With McInnis vowing to picket every weekend until his windows get fixed, Brooks' attorney is filing a lawsuit against the Sea Beach Association for the business interruption cost which amounts to approximately $2,400 each weekend.

Meanwhile, Dick Stubbendorf, chief building inspector for the city's Planning Department, says General Aluminum has a good track record, and that if the products were not installed according to manufacturer's instructions, as McInnis claims, they are the liability of the contractor who installed them.

That said, Stubbendorf would like to sit down with Brooks and McInnis and hear what both men have to say. Says Stubbendorf, "I think it might be a case of ultimate window wrestling."

Monkey Business

Caffe Pergolesi owners Karl and Nellie Heiman have gone bananas. Nüz says this because they're currently hosting a show called "Chango Loco," featuring 20 to 30 artists all focused on a monkey theme. As tattoo artist Klem, who has a tattoo on his biceps of a monkey thinking about, er, boobs and bananas, explains, "Monkeys are funny, monkeys kick ass--and it's the Chinese Year of the Monkey. You won't need an MFA to enjoy the art. It's very straightforward, not ambitious, but no berets or weird shoes allowed."

The show runs through Aug. 15 at Caffe Pergolesi.

$19.99 KART

"It's gonna be cool," says Santa Cruz Institute of Contemporary Arts co-director Chip, of the SCICA's upcoming "$19.99" show. "We've been looking at how galleries and other businesses succeed and the whole idea of commerce around art, and taking that to the extreme by having fun talking about art and money and trying to present great art in a silly way. Hopefully, the show will open the conversation about making and buying art and the perceived elitism of the high art world."

Yeah, with everything priced at $19.99 even Nüz should be able to afford some KART, and the exhibit promises be laid out "with multiple artworks from over 100 local artists and plenty of cheap signage available. There will be clearance and mark-up sections, shopping carts and art categorized aisles."

The month-long show opens Aug. 4 at the ? Gallery at Cathcart and Pacific in Santa Cruz, and is followed Aug. 6 by SCICA's First Friday gallery walk. Call 831.459.7970 or visit www.scica.org for more details.

Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

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From the July 28-August 4, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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