Court Victory for Building a Better Redondo

Angel Law is pleased to announce that on July 28, 2010, the Los Angeles County Superior Court (Hon. Robert H. O’Brien, Judge Presiding) handed Angel Law clients Building a Better Redondo and Jim Light (collectively BBR) a decisive victory in their lawsuit against the City Council of Redondo Beach, following the city council’s refusal to place its 400,000 square foot upzoning of the King Harbor and Pier area (known as “Area 2” of the city’s coastal zone) on the ballot, in violation of Measure DD. Measure DD (sponsored by BBR), a local initiative measure overwhelmingly passed by the Redondo Beach voters at the November 2008 general election, took effect on December 16, 2008. It requires major land use changes such the Area 2 upzoning to be ratified or rejected by the city’s voters.

Noting that the people of Redondo Beach passed Measure DD, in part, because the city’s existing development approval procedures do not carefully or accurately consider the adverse impacts to the local environment and quality of life caused by increased density and congestion resulting from major land use changes, the court granted BBR’s petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory relief “in its entirety.” As a result, “The City must submit the entire Area 2 LCP [local coastal program] Amendment to popular vote,” wrote Judge O’Brien who had heard oral argument from the parties on July 15, 2010.

“I am ecstatic with the judge’s decision,” said Jim Light, BBR’s president and co-plaintiff. “Now the residents of Redondo will finally get the vote we have fought so hard for since 2006. This is a great victory for all the voters of Redondo.”

BBR filed suit in May seeking a writ of mandate ordering the city council to put on the November 2 ballot the entire Area 2 LCP Amendment (comprised of a coastal land use plan amendment and a coastal zoning ordinance amendment), to allow the voters of Redondo Beach to determine the fate of their city’s waterfront. BBR also requested a judicial declaration that the city council’s excuse for avoiding the public vote was wrong. The council and their city attorney maintained that zoning amendments for Area 2 which the council had enacted in August 2005 and May 2008, prior to the passage of Measure DD, were effective before Measure DD itself took effect. The council was wrong, BBR argued, because under the California Coastal Act and the city’s own Coastal Commission-certified coastal zoning ordinance, LCP amendments cannot take effect unless they are first certified by the Coastal Commission. The Coastal Commission conditionally certified the city’s Area 2 LCP Amendment on July 9, 2009, which was after Measure DD took effect.

Rejecting the city council’s excuses for violating the Coastal Act and Measure DD (now article XXVII of the city’s charter), Judge O’Brien stated in no uncertain terms: “There are no magical words that could change the fact that the Coastal Commission had to certify the ordinances. While the ordinances might say that they became effective 30 days after enactment [in August 2005, and May 2008, respectively], the fact is they didn’t. The city had to wait for the Coastal Commission to act.” (Original emphasis.)

The City and City Council of Redondo Beach were represented by Margaret M. Sohagi and Philip A. Seymour of the Sohagi Law Group, and Deborah J. Fox of Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson.

A copy of Judge O’Brien’s decision is available below: