Edgewater Park

City of Lakewood responds to inaccurate information about Edgewater Park land acquisition

March 29, 2024

Earlier this week a King 5 news story about the work the city is doing to improve Edgewater Park highlighted the city’s legal acquisition of a piece of private property to improve the park for public use.

Specifically, the focus was on a court ruling allowing the City of Lakewood to use eminent domain to acquire private property.  

Unfortunately, information shared with the news station about the legal dispute between the property owner and the city was not correct.

Below is more information about the City of Lakewood’s efforts to improve Edgewater Park and why the city ultimately had to go to court to resolve a dispute with the property owner.

How did we get here?

Several years ago, city officials learned public property on Lake Steilacoom was occupied by Dr. Ebrahim Mirjalili.

A land surveyor hired by the city to survey the area for a road improvement project confirmed Dr. Mirjalili was using public land for personal use. Around the same time, Dr. Mirjalili inquired with the city about building a fence between his property and the public waterfront park.

The city then conducted another land survey to determine the boundaries of publicly owned right-of-way and city owned park property. That survey showed additional encroachments and that public waterfront land was being used by Dr. Mirjalili as private property.

Most of what Dr. Mirjalili believed was his property is public property and has been for decades, predating Lakewood incorporation.

Once the city learned of this encroachment, it was required to act. City officials contacted Dr. Mirjalili to reach a resolution.

By law, the city can’t give away publicly owned land. That means the city cannot give Dr. Mirjalili the land, regardless of how long he used the public property, including lake frontage, as his private property.

Is the market value of the property over $1 million?

Reports of the property being valued over $1 million does not consider the fact that much of what Dr. Mirjalili has been occupying is publicly owned land. Both the surveyor hired by the City of Lakewood and multiple surveyors hired by Dr. Mirjalili and his title insurance company confirmed this.

According to land surveys, approximately one-third of the home structure on the property is built on public land. The home does not meet code requirements due to non-permitted additions and renovations. In its current condition, the home is likely not marketable.

Title insurance company settles dispute

According to property records, Dr. Mirjalili purchased the property from a bank in 2008 out of foreclosure. The purchase price was $441,000. After the encroachment issues were identified, and after being unable to reach a resolution with his title company over the issue, the city understands the title company paid Dr. Mirjalili to settle his claim.

Why eminent domain?

Historically, the City of Lakewood does not use eminent domain to acquire property. Instead, in the rare situation when the city may need to purchase private property for public improvements, efforts are made to work with the owners to acquire property with mutual agreement.

After several years of trying to reach an agreement without success, it was finally determined the city had to go to court to move forward with its plans to improve Edgewater Park for public use.

Court ruling

In January 2024 Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff ruled in the city’s favor. Later, Dr. Mirjalili reached an agreement with the city that allows the city to take possession of the property on July 1, 2024.

The only remaining issue is how much the city will pay Dr. Mirjalili for the property.

The city can only pay for the private property, not the public land it already owns.  

The city and Dr. Mirjalili are scheduled for mediation at the end of April to reach final agreement on purchase price.

Improving Edgewater Park

Edgewater Park has received minimal improvement since incorporation in 1996. As part of the City of Lakewood’s Parks Legacy Plan, improvements to the park are identified to meet the needs of Lakewood residents.

Some of those improvements include plans to increase access to Lake Steilacoom. More parking is also needed, so visitors don’t park on residential side streets.

The city has involved the neighborhood and held public meetings to gain resident feedback on the proposed improvements. The city’s volunteer-led Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recently reviewed the proposals and listened to public input. It will send its recommendation to the Lakewood City Council for review and consideration in April.

Having an updated master plan for the park allows the city to request grant funding to pay for the identified improvements in the plan.

Ultimately the goal for Edgewater Park is to create an improved park experience for visitors with adequate parking, improved boat launch access and the opportunity for residents, including those that launch their boats, and visitors to enjoy the beauty of Lake Steilacoom.