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Environmental Impact Report (EIR) regarding a proposed landfill project on property bordering on its “Questhaven Retreat.” One of the chief concerns of the plaintiff regarding the project was the possible “obstruction of its panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean by the vertical expansion of the [l]andfill.” (Id. at p. 39.) The lower court found that the EIR had in fact directly addressed this issue, but nonetheless concluded that the EIR was deficient in other respects (principally its failure to address water quality issues). After the County prepared a supplemental EIR addressing water impacts and other similar issues, a final judgment was entered and the plaintiff then moved for an award of attorneys’ fees under section 1021.5 The trial court denied the motion noting (much as Judge Williamson observed here) that “while ‘it’s perhaps true that public interest is being vindicated by this writ,’ [the plaintiff’s] ‘private interests . . . with reference to the use of their property is the real basis for [the] action . . . .’” (Id. at p. 49.) The plaintiff appealed on this and other grounds. In affirming, the appellate court first noted the pertinent abuse of discretion standard of review and then stated: “we cannot quarrel with the reasonableness of the court’s assessment of Christward’s private interest in the litigation.” (Id. at p. 50.) Clearly, this decision stands for the proposition that the “private interest” being weighed against the “public interest” aspect of the litigation does not necessarily have to be purely economic; the interest there being asserted related, as here, purely to aesthetic considerations.

Similarly, Division One of this district affirmed the trial court’s denial of a request for attorneys’ fees by a property owner which had forced the City and County of San Francisco “to undertake a threshold environmental evaluation of the effect of” an ordinance regulating the conversion of residential hotel property. In so holding, it noted that the property owner’s “primary purpose in bringing suit was to pursue and protect its own property rights rather than to further a significant public interest.” (Terminal Plaza Corp. v. City and County of San Francisco (1986) 177 Cal.App.3d. 892, 913-914.)

grant of a writ of mandamus, the principal respondent here, the Board, did not in fact pay sufficient attention to these Guidelines one year after section 311(c) was adopted.


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