Ed McVaney, who owns a couple of houses in Coronado, apparently doesn’t take no for an answer. So when a San Diego Superior Court ruling required him to restore his neighbors’ access to the frontage road he’d deconstructed, his lawyers appealed the ruling. And when the appellate court ruled the lower court got it right, he went to the state supreme court. When California’s top court indicated they weren’t interested in reviewing the ruling, McVaney already had a new argument lined up — one handed to him by the judge who ruled in favor of the neighbors.
In his remarks, judge Richard Strauss ordered the driveway be restored but said McVaney would have to get permits from the city for the extensive work of dismantling the installation of curbs and landscaping. “I wouldn’t order you to do anything illegal,” Strauss said, according to transcripts.
Days after the supreme court decided not to hear McVaney’s argument, McVaney returned to Strauss’s court. The City of Coronado wouldn’t let him restore the access road, he said in legal filings. And he was able to produce a letter from a city engineer that said the now-closed access would not meet the city’s code if it was restored to its former width of 16 feet.
To get a permit, it must be built to 20 feet, the letter says; therefore, it shouldn’t be done at all.
“Based on a field review, the former access was located between a utility pole and a street tree. The distance between these two obstacles is 13 feet. The former location as it is currently configured does not meet the city’s design standards for access and reinstallation would not be permitted,” the city engineer’s letter says.
The lawsuit returns to court on September 22, to see if McVaney can get the judgment dissolved based on the engineer’s letter.
“It would sure be nice if we didn’t have to back up all the way to the end of the block to get out of here,” said a neighbor who didn’t want to be identified. “As long as my family has been here, we all used that road without a problem.”
Harold DeNardi has lived a few doors down since 1993. He filed the “successful” lawsuit against McVaney, arguing that, like his neighbors to the east, the land’s deeds from 1949 forward had committed him to the easement. The frontage road on the easement had been in place from 1949 until June 2014, when McVaney’s workmen closed the driveway and made it private, added a curb and a fence, and landscaped the rest with trees and plants.
DeNardi and his neighbors miss the easy access, he said. But even more, they miss knowing that fire trucks and ambulances have easy access to the frontage road. “Now they can’t get in and out of the western end,” DeNardi said. “We’re all a little worried about that.”
McVaney’s and DeNardi’s houses are on First Street in a Coronado neighborhood called Bay View Estates. Set between First Street and the San Diego Bay, the lots are cut deep and wide. Some were split into parcels with two houses on them. Others seem to be set up as a single walled compounds with houses, pools, gardens, and a house at each end. The frontage road is just east and separated from First Street by a grassy median. It’s used by residents of a dozen or so lots and stretches perhaps a tenth of a mile, with two remaining paved exits to First Street. It got shorter – and the northernmost exit disappeared — after McVaney bought the house at the northern end of the frontage road.
The first owners of Lot 19, Herman and Blanche Miller, bought the property in 1949. On the grant deed they signed April 12 of that year, the easement for a 50-foot-wide strip to be used for access and for utilities is plainly described. It remained on the deed as the Millers sold it to James and Ruth Vernetti. But the deed from 2010, when it was purchased from the Vernetti estate by Ed and Carol McVaney’s limited-liability partnership TPL, no longer has the easement.
While he’s pursuing the suit on his own, DeNardi has the support of every neighbor I spoke with — all of whom said they can’t go on the record because they fear the wrath of Ed McVaney.
“He’s tight with the mayor — threw two fundraisers for [mayor Richard] Bailey,” one McVaney neighbor said. “McVaney bought a mansion to support one of the mayor’s pet charities,” he claimed.
Bailey said he did receive a $200 campaign contribution from McVaney — and similar amounts from other residents of First Street. He said he held a single meet-and-greet event “which was open to the public and other candidates to attend.” It was not a fundraising event, he said. He noted that neither he nor the city has any role in the civil lawsuit.
The Hansen mansion at 711 A Avenue was purchased by a limited-liability company named the 711 Hansen LLP in 2016. Though McVaney’s name appears nowhere on the transaction, the tax bill is being mailed to the Littleton, Colorado, address that is also the home of the McVaney Family Foundation, which recently changed its name to the TYL Foundation, with the listed purpose of “Funding primarily for Christian agencies and churches, human services, and education.”
Coronado residents are divided over what that pet charity — GenerateHope — plans to use the house for: a transition home for women who have escaped from sex trafficking and have completed at least a year of rehab and recovery. The historic mansion will be home to up to nine program graduates, with onsite house-mothering, while the women begin college or vocational training, get jobs, and prepare to fully reenter society. The mansion recently won historic status and is still in the process of being upgraded, according to Dan DeSaegher, GenerateHope’s executive director.