Client Successes Jun 02, 2016

CEQA, Brown Act and Planning and Zoning Law Challenges Overcome in Development Project

On Behalf of the City of Montebello, BB&K Attorneys Successful in Lawsuit

A team of Best Best & Krieger LLP attorneys successfully defeated environmental and other legal challenges to a master planned infill residential and habitat preservation project in the City of Montebello. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio denied a petition for a writ of mandate that claimed the project plan was inconsistent with the City’s General Plan and that the City violated open meeting laws during the approval process. In a decision issued May 23, Torribio found both those claims and others lacked merit.

The project is planned on a nearly 500-acre plot of undeveloped land in Montebello. The land is being used for oil production, and has been for a century. About 10 years ago, the plan to develop about 150 acres of the site into a residential community was proposed. The rest of the site will be dedicated to open space uses, with approximately 260 acres reserved for the California gnatcatcher, a species designated as threatened by the federal government. The development also includes trails and parks, allowing the public access to the space for the first time in recent history.

Following numerous public hearings before both the City Council and the Planning Commission, as well as several revisions to the environmental impact report based on feedback from the public and other public agencies, the plan was approved in June 2015. A month later, the lawsuit was filed.

The petitioner claimed the project should be halted because the City’s administrative process was flawed in that the wrong address for a public hearing was on the City’s website. However, noting that the correct address was on the properly noticed meeting agenda, Torribio, rejected the claim. He also rejected a claim that the plan was inconsistent with the City’s General Plan for not addressing low-income and special needs housing issues. Torribio noted that the proposed project need only be “compatible” with the General Plan and that they are, indeed, compatible in that they do not preclude affordable housing and programs to assist the elderly and the disabled elsewhere in the City. He also found that the petitioner did not properly follow procedure on other claims, and rejected those.

The case is Citizens for Open and Public Participation v. City of Montebello, BS156922.

If you have questions about this case, please contact Alisha Winterswyk.

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