Truth about the assault on Fairytale Farm

We are now hearing from multiple people that Akiko Minami and Micah Posner are saying some things about our situation as co-owners that are incorrect. We thought we’d clarify things.

What we’re hearing that Akiko and Micah are saying:

  1. “We don’t understand why they object to our wanting to build a little unit. We just want what they have.”
  2. “Our little unit isn’t going to impact Fairytale Farm at all. We care about Fairytale Farm, and we wouldn’t do anything to hurt it.”
  3. “This misunderstanding seems so big because we all care about each other so much. We’re so sad this is happening. We even raised our kids together.”

Although many people understand our objections and why we’re so upset about feeling defrauded, we thought we’d try to provide a simple explanation, in hopes that maybe someone can explain to Akiko and Micah and provide them some much-needed clue.

“We don’t understand why they object to our wanting to build a little unit. We just want what they have.”

We have invested nearly $300,000 in 732 Riverside Ave, the tenancy-in-common property with Akiko and Micah. Our primary and overwhelming reason for investing in this property with Akiko and Micah was stated up front — we want to keep it a single family house with significant open space in this neighborhood of increasing density.

We are literally paying so the property isn’t developed further.

That is our choice, we are happy with it, and have never asked for anything additional in return. However, in the future if our heirs don’t want to live here, they have an option to build 2 to 4 units and rent them out or sell. To annex the garden to 728 Riverside would render our considerable financial investment useless, as it would make the garden unable to be developed. We’re not naive about property values. One day our heirs will enjoy having two side by side properties in a medium density zone, paid off by their parents, to do with as they please.

We bought our house at 728 Riverside 15 years ago and it came with a rentable family room in the back. We don’t care if Akiko and Micah also rent a room in their house. But we do care about having an additional unit on our co-owned property. We invested specifically to prevent that from happening. Akiko and Micah are welcome to buy another home that they own outright and then build ADUs or duplexes. They can even do that to the house they own outright next door at 734 Riverside. We can add units to our house if we please. But they cannot do that to the house they own with us. We paid for the privilege of control. We were up front about that. We’ve been consistent about that the entire time.

Akiko and Micah were happy to take our money that allowed them to live a less expensive lifestyle in an expensive part of Santa Cruz. Part of staying on this property is accepting our up front conditions. They can change their minds, but they cannot change our contract unilaterally.

“Our little unit isn’t going to impact Fairytale Farm at all. We care about Fairytale Farm, and we wouldn’t do anything to hurt it.”

Their “little unit” would make the single family house into a duplex. This duplex impacts us in multiple ways.

We paid specifically to keep it a single family house. Because Akiko and Micah will not back down, we are forced to use everything at our disposal to fight them at an enormous emotional and financial cost. By claiming not to understand our motives, they can claim not to understand why we feel defrauded of our investment.¹

After we agreed to a temporary situation with their illegal shed unit so that Akiko could go back to school, we lived with that situation for a number of years. We truly understand what it would be like to have a unit in that middle 1/3 of the property, regardless of which part of the 1/3 it sits on — the illegal unit was a huge impact on our peace and quality of life in our garden and in our living space at 728. We felt that impact daily for many years. If Micah hadn’t been caught as a City Council member, we would eventually have had them remove the unit permanently. We never intended to allow them to have a permanent illegal ADU.²

We don’t see how they can claim to care about Fairytale Farm. Fairytale Farm is Debora’s sanctuary, her place to go to for peace and calm, a place to grow safe food, and her career for the last 7 years. She hosts interns and the public about 8 hours a week. The rest of the time, she enjoys the open space alone. Debora made it clear repeatedly in many meetings and communications that this situation over the last year was greatly affecting her health, and her ability to work and exist in her formerly peaceful sanctuary. Akiko and Micah don’t get to claim to care about the farm or us when they’ve worked so hard for nearly a year to subvert our will and try to drive a construction project through a perceived loophole in our contract.

And of course the impact on Fairytale Farm is not that Akiko and Micah are somehow going to pave over the garden. It’s a fallacy to claim that we are saying that. What is happening is more insidious — our finances have been drained so that Debora has had to start working outside of Fairytale Farm to cover our costs, legal fees, and ensure our children can go to college without incurring large debts of their own. She can no longer fully host the community of interns and other public events that she so loves. Our emotions and time have been drained to the point where not even gardening can lift our spirits. Our hearts are broken and guts are wrenched each time we are in the yard and hear Micah and Akiko. It just makes us want to go back inside.

“This misunderstanding seems so big because we all care about each other so much. We’re so sad this is happening. We even raised our kids together.”

It’s easier for Akiko and Micah to claim they don’t understand, or they’re just “so sad”, than to admit that they are railroading their co-owners’ desires in an attempt to “make right” on Micah’s public deception. How do you make something right by causing so much harm?

We approved a temporary shed-ADU, which we now realize was a mistake for many reasons. But we didn’t know at the time that Micah was lying to the government about his income. We didn’t know their patio cover built in 2009 was unpermitted and put us all at legal risk. We didn’t know that while Micah was apologizing and being censured for the ADU, he was hiding this unpermitted patio cover from us, the public, and the City inspectors. We didn’t know Akiko and Micah would eventually try every means possible to force an unwanted unit on us. The list goes on. We didn’t realize how deep the deception went when we supported Micah. We didn’t realize until later that our peace, Debora’s career, and our lives were intertwined with two people seemingly so deceitful and uncaring. And though we had never been sure we could trust Micah and Akiko, and certainly did not have a social relationship off of the property, how our family has been treated this last year certainly makes it clear that we were never friends. We no longer trust our children or our animals on their property. Our enemies treat us better.

The sad upshot is that Micah and Akiko can’t seem to come up with any other option in their financial or political goals than to ramrod this project down our throats. Despite draining our assets, negatively affecting our health, and destroying our community, they continue to claim ignorance as to why we are so against their project. They’ve threatened to buy us out multiple times, blew off our legal risks, all while claiming ignorance and no-harm. A final arbitration will ultimately rule on the matter of the discretionary work clause around building an entire new unit, but in the meantime, we hope this post makes it clear to everyone where we stand and why.

Footnotes

1. To clarify the alleged fraud in the situation, there are two possibilities happening here:

  1. One possible scenario is that Akiko and Micah knew all along that we didn’t want any additional units and that we were investing to keep it a single family property. They let us invest knowing they might want to build and would cross that bridge in the future. In that scenario, they took our money invested for a particular purpose with the intent of one day doing the opposite of that purpose.
  2. The other possible scenario is that Akiko and Micah truly did not understand that we were investing to keep the property from being developed further (despite it being our common story told many times over many years.) In that scenario, once we informed them and made our intention clear as we did throughout 2016 in many meetings, they had the legal and moral obligation to cease all attempts to force a duplex construction project on us.

By claiming not to understand at all, they can instead claim that our only intent investing in the property was to keep the garden in the back, and therefore seemingly try to avoid the appearance of defrauding us of an investment made specifically to prevent development of the property.

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2. They have also been saying that us allowing the temporary illegal ADU was tantamount to permission to build what they want. They are trying to justify building an entire duplex unit by combining that perceived permission with a claim that the discretionary work clause in our tenancy-in-common agreement gives them permission to build whatever they like (within the zoning laws.) By that logic, they could at their “discretion” tear down the house and put up four three-story units. Ludicrous.

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