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class of persons.” However, the trial court continued, a “key requirement” of such an award is, in the statutory language, that “the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement . . . are such as to make the award appropriate.” (§ 1021.5, subd. (b).) The court then cited two decisions to the effect that, under this prong of the statutory test, an “award is appropriate when the need to pursue the lawsuit is out of proportion to [the individual litigant’s] individual stake in the matter.” (See Beach Colony II v. California Coastal Com. (1985) 166 Cal.App.3d 106, 112-115 (Beach Colony II); Schwartz, supra, 155 Cal.App.3d at pp. 558-560.)

The trial court then noted that, while appellant’s actions had conferred a “benefit” on his “neighborhood, and arguably City residents in general,” he also had a “large personal stake in the matter in preventing construction of a structure which was incompatible with the Victorian character of his neighborhood.” As a consequence, the court ruled, that the ultimate result of requiring the City to comply with its own Planning Code “while admirable, was incidental to [appellant’s] desire not to have the unsightly structure in his view.”

The context of this ruling is important; it can best be appreciated via a quotation from one of the two cases relied upon by the trial court, Schwartz, supra, 155 Cal.App.3d 547, 555: “Our Supreme Court’s decision in Woodland Hills Residents Assn., Inc. v. City Council (1979) 23 Cal.3d 917 (Woodland Hills), set forth the three requirements which must be met in order for a plaintiff to recover attorneys fees pursuant to section 1021.5. The private attorney general theory, as codified in this section, authorizes an award of attorneys fees when: (1) the action has resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest, (2) a significant benefit, whether pecuniary or nonpecuniary, has been conferred on the general public or a large class of persons; and (3) the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement are such as to make the award appropriate. (Woodland Hills, supra, 23 Cal.3d at pp. 934-935.) The trial court, ‘utilizing its traditional equitable discretion (now codified in § 1021.5) must realistically assess the litigation and determine, from a practical perspective, whether or not the action served to


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