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Property Line Dispute May Cost Bay Farm Island Couple Their Home

Does a good fence make for good neighbors? The back fence on the Khalaji property. (Action Alameda News)

Does a good fence make for good neighbors? The back fence on the Khalaji property. (Action Alameda News)

His voice cracking with emotion, Mohsen Khalaji explained, “I have not done anything wrong. I have lived her for forty years without a problem.” He and his wife are likely to lose their modest Bay Farm Island home, now that an Alameda County Superior Court judge has ruled against them in a property line dispute lawsuit initiated by their neighbor.

Khalaji, and his wife B.J., who live on Mecartney Road, received the bad news from their lawyer early last month – a court order to pay their back-fence neighbor $65,564 in damages, which is more than Khalaji earns in a year.

In 1974, he said, Khalaji bought his home from a retired Alameda police officer, and inspections were conducted at that time to affirm the property boundaries. Khalaji is quick to produce court documents, sales agreements, property tax receipts and income tax returns to illustrate his case and document his modest income.

The trouble started about three years ago when the property immediately behind Khalaji, over his back fence, on Maitland Drive, changed hands.

“We got along with everybody until then,” he asserts. “When this fence [in the picture accompanying this article] needed to be rebuilt, the previous owner and I split the cost fifty-fifty.”

The new owners on Maitland Drive filed a lawsuit against the Khalajis, asserting that land records falsely showed the property line to be 10 feet north of the fence line.

Khalaji says that if his neighbor is short ten feet on his property, it’s probably due to when Maitland Drive was widened some years ago.

Michael Brown, of Brown & Sullivan, the attorney for the Maitland Drive homeowners, did not respond to an e-mail request for comment for this article.

Khalaji’s attorney, Stewart Schwartz of Berkeley, mounted a simple defense – if there was any issue with the property line, it was irrelevant under the doctrine of adverse possession; things had been that way for so long, Khalaji was entitled to the disputed 10 foot by 50 foot stretch of property along the back fence.

Schwartz did not respond to a request for comment for this article either.

The court documents in this case, as presented by Khalaji, are starkly simple – one homeowner says the property line is in the wrong place, the other says its not.

B.J. told Action Alameda News, “I sold my diamond ring to pay for the attorney. We raised five children in this house.”

Khalaji believes his neighbor is trying to rip him off. “He wants money to pay for his new house,” he said, “but I don’t have any money to give him.”

After buying the Maitland Drive property, Khalaji’s neighbor built a new two-story home on the property, which rises above neighboring one-story homes that look like Khalaji’s. A picture of the home on Google Street View shows orange cones and construction debris in the front yard.

Khalaji pointed out that, by contrast, his home was built in 1922 and is not insulated. “I’ve tried to keep the vintage look of Alameda,” he said.

Now, with the deadline approaching to decide whether or not to appeal the court ruling, Khalaji and his wife are bewildered by what has happened to them. Their attorney has told them that their neighbor could put a lien on their house and force them to sell it to pay the judgment.

B.J. asks, “Where has California law gone? If this was happening in Turkey or Afghanistan, I could see it, but we are American, we have rights.”

Friends of the Khalajis are urging them to sue the City of Alameda and Alameda County in turn.

Khalaji told Action Alameda News that when he was served notice of the lawsuit, he took all of his records to the City of Alameda planning department, and spoke to staffers there who told him that everything was in order.

On June 2nd, Khalaji said, officials at Alameda City Hall promised him that City Manager John Russo would call him; as of press time Khalaji was still waiting for that telephone call.

The judge, Khalaji asserts, didn’t do a good job. He’s publicizing his situation in hopes that someone might rescue him. “I need the people of Alameda to help me,” he said.

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