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Houses along Lewis Street look out their back doors across an alley to the stalled Sycamore North building in Hercules, Calif., on Monday, June 24, 2013. Residents of the neighborhood are debating the best way to proceed with the project. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

HERCULES -- Some homeowners in the city's Bayside subdivision say their homeowners association is hurting their interests by standing in the way of a developer's effort to complete the adjacent Sycamore North/Town Centrale apartment complex.

UC-BNB Partners seeks easements from the Bayside Homeowners Association to use the association-owned alley behind the half-finished, four-story building to complete construction, and for future maintenance access and garbage removal.

UC-BNB also seeks a retroactive easement for some cornices that encroach on the alley's air space, a fact city officials say went unnoticed during the initial construction, which halted in the spring of 2011. In early 2012, UC-BNB agreed to take over the project from the city for $425,000 and a promise to finish it as upscale apartments with some ground-floor stores.

But according to a May 14 letter to the city that was referenced in a June 5 letter to Bayside residents from UC-BNB and attributed to the association board's attorney, Michael Hughes of Walnut Creek, the association will not discuss any proposed easements unless the top two floors are removed. That, says UC-BNB principal Mark Conroe, is "a non-starter."

The city and Hughes declined to provide a copy of the May 14 letter, citing attorney-client privilege.

Several residents, speaking at a community meeting last week ¿and in emails to the city over the past few weeks, urged prompt completion of the project, now clad in a weatherproofing wrap; some residents deemed it "an eyesore."


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"I do not agree with the Board's action, which gives me the impression our HOA is more interested in sabotaging Town Centrale than working towards a positive fruition," wrote resident Sandra Serrano.

Roy Sedano, who lives on Lewis Street, which runs parallel to the alley and is the street arguably most affected by whatever happens with Town Centrale, wrote:

"I am all for the easements being passed, and a lot of my neighbors I know on the same side of the street of me feel the same way."

Homeowners Association president Brent Marin did not respond to emails from this newspaper. Several telephone messages to the management company, VierraMoore in Concord, were not returned; most recently, the manager for Bayside, Marilyn Endlich, and her assistant, Desire' Cuevas, did not respond to voice-mail messages from this newspaper this week.

In the June 5 letter to Bayside residents, published on the local website WaterfrontWatch.org, UC-BNB said that in 2009-2010, the homeowners association and the city, as project developer, negotiated an agreement that was never signed, and that UC-BNB since offered to sign that agreement.

But Hughes said this week:

"There was never an agreement reached with the city or the redevelopment agency as to the terms of an easement agreement."

Moreover, Hughes said, after the HOA met with city officials in April, the city sent the association a proposed "brand-new easement agreement." He said the city has not replied to his May 14 letter.

Asked whether the demand to lop off two floors is negotiable, Hughes said, "That's a decision the board would have to make."

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or tlochner@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner