Prominent developers battle in court over SLO housing project

March 27, 2020

A pair of prominent local developers have become entangled in a legal battle, as one has filed a lawsuit accusing the other of misappropriating more than $3 million and the defendant is vowing to file a countersuit. [Tribune]

The dispute pits Hamish Marshall against Taylor Judkins. Marshall and Judkins partnered on The YARD SLO housing complex, a recently constructed townhouse development off Victoria Avenue in San Luis Obispo that connects the industrial area of Broad Street to the Railroad District.

Development firms belonging to Judkins and Marshall each owned a 50 percent stake of The Yard SLO.

On March 17, Judkins sued Marshall, accusing him of misappropriating more than $3 million from The Yard SLO project and using the funds “as his own personal piggy bank.”

Judkins alleges, between Oct. 2016 and Feb. 2020, Marshall made unauthorized and improper disbursements of company funds through his project manager position. Judkins accuses Marshall of causing The Yard SLO to improperly pay for overhead and office expenses for Marshall’s firm, Azuco Development, and of refusing to provide accounting for the expenditures in question.

The returned balance of Marshall’s unauthorized disbursements totaled $327,7117, according to the lawsuit. The suit alleges breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud.

Judkins is seeking an unspecified amount of damages and restitution.

Marshall, however, accuses Judkins of failing to pay approximately $700,000 in construction costs for The Yard SLO project and of filing the suit after the payment was demanded. Marshall said he will file a cross-complaint against Judkins over the project.

The developer said Judkins’ lawsuit is a ploy to squeeze him out of his share of the business. Judkins has a history of filing lawsuits against business partners, Marshall said.

In 2015, Judkins forged a partnership with politically-connected San Luis Obispo developer John Belsher and his partner Ryan Petetit. The partnership they formed, Marsh-Higuera Mixed Use LLC, purchased buildings at 545 Higuera Street and 486 Marsh Street.

On Nov. 6, 2018, Don Judkins, Taylor Judkins’s partner and father, filed a suit accusing Belsher and Petetit of fraudulent conversion for taking rents without a property owner’s consent.

Don Judkins also partnered with Taylor Judkins on The Yard SLO project. Marshall accuses both Judkins of owing him money over The Yard SLO.

Marshall’s attorney, Roy Odgen, claims Taylor Judkins’ current suit is frivolous.

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Sounds like Judkins picks poor business partners. But then he has to, you have to play-to-pay at SLO City Hall, you have to know someone who has an in or your project is not going to move (they’re all so overworked ya know). Same with architects, don’t know s**t about architecture but get all the big jobs. We call them “cocktail-party architects”, and when the project goes south everybody is trying to charge everybody else for their collective incompetence. I saw The Yard twice a week shopping at the Coop. Didn’t look like anybody knew what they were doing and I guarantee you those expensive window wells are going to leak.

Developers are (in general) some of the sleaziest people you’ll ever meet. Full of pomp, shallowness, etc. (everything people loathe about “orange man bad”); however, many developers have to be this way, unfortunately, as that is what it seems to take to get anything done. They can be very effective leaders, but also sneaky back-stabbers. Which is which, I do not know. I have met Mr. Marshall, and he did have that developer aura, but he is partnered with a really stand-up guy in his SLO Brew / Rod & Hammer (distillery) business venture.

Marshall is one half of SLO Brew, including their wonderful distillery: Rod & Hammer (Hammer is Hamish’s nickname, Rod is the other partner). & (for a great take-out feast!)

(As an aside) I ordered their take-out family dinner of brisket the other night, and it was wonderful. Please, if you all can, to whatever level, support your local restaurants and businesses. Especially CAL COAST NEWS, obviously!

I wonder how Mr. Petit or whatever he calls himself now is enjoying his cell?