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vindicate an important right so as to justify an attorney fee award under a private attorney general theory.’ (Id. at p. 938.).”

The trial court’s holding in the case before us pertains--and pertains only--to the third of these three “requirements.” It interpreted authority dealing with that third requirement to mean that an award was appropriate where the public benefit, i.e., the “need to pursue the lawsuit is out of proportion to his individual stake in the matter.”

Appellant attacks the trial court’s reasoning, noting that (a) many of his neighbors vigorously supported him before the Planning Commission and the Board, (b) other interested public groups, including one State Senator, provided declarations to the trial court regarding the “public benefit” aspect of what had been accomplished via the Statement of Decision and Judgment in the writ proceeding, and (c) the ultimate outcome had the effective result of requiring the Board (and not just the Planning Commission) to pay greater attention to the City’s “Guidelines” than it had theretofore done. But appellant particularly focuses on the trial court’s conclusion that, inasmuch as he had a “large personal stake” in the outcome of the litigation, this particular prong of the section 1021.5 test was not satisfied. He notes that “[t]he Court’s Order does not specify the basis of its findings of a ‘large personal stake’” and goes on to argue that, in fact, he had no such stake because the record established that the new proposed structure would not diminish his own property’s value, and thus he had no “pecuniary interest in the outcome of the litigation.” Appellant’s argues that, under this test, his “stake” or “interest” in the litigation was nil because it was not “economic” or “pecuniary.”

The Court of Appeal in Schwartz accurately framed this issue by, again, reverting to our Supreme Court’s holding in Woodland Hills: “In discussing the third requirement of necessity and financial burden of private enforcement, Woodland Hills relied in part on the Court of Appeal decision in County of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles (1978) 78 Cal.App.3d 82, 89, and quoted the following language from that decision: ‘“‘An award on the “private attorney general” theory is appropriate when the cost of the claimant’s legal victory transcends his personal interest, that is, when the necessity for pursuing the


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