Client Successes May 2, 2018

Appellate Court Rejects Challenges to Residential Development in Montebello

BB&K Defends City from CEQA, Brown Act and Planning and Zoning Law Claims

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In a decision that allows progress on development of new housing in a time of great need in California, a California appellate court upheld a trial court ruling that had rejected several legal challenges to a residential master plan project in the City of Montebello. Representing the City, Best Best & Krieger LLP attorneys Michelle Ouellette, Alisha Winterswyk and Andrew Skanchy convinced the court to find for the City on all the issues — including claims raised under the California Environmental Quality, the Brown Act and the Planning and Zoning Law.
 
The project at issue is the proposed transformation of approximately 488 acres of privately owned land in the City that was long restricted to oil and gas production into a residential development. The development will, among other things, include up to 1,200 dwelling units, more than 16 acres of parks and trails and more than 314 acres of open space.
 
The City conducted extensive environmental review of the project and prepared and certified an environmental impact report and approved a General Plan Amendment, Specific Plan, Zone Change and Vesting Tentative Tract Map for the project. In July 2015, Citizens for Open and Public Participation filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, challenging the certification of the EIR and approval of the project on multiple grounds. Following trial, Judge John A. Torribio denied the entirety of COPP’s petition. After an appeal by COPP, the Second District Court of Appeal upheld the trial court and ruled in the City’s favor on all grounds. A subsequent request by COPP for review by the California Supreme Court was denied.
 
In upholding the lower court’s decision, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court had authority to strike portions of COPP’s opening brief (which included numerous CEQA-related issues that were not raised in the operative pleading), that COPP failed to demonstrate that any alleged Brown Act violation was prejudicial, and that the City fully complied with the Planning and Zoning Law. Further, although the trial court agreed with CEQA procedural defenses raised by the City, the appellate court found it unnecessary to address them because all CEQA claims were properly stricken from COPP’s brief by the trial court.
 
The victory by the City and BB&K’s attorneys allows for redevelopment of the oil fields to move forward after decades of extensive planning, design and environmental review.
 
The case is Citizens for Open and Public Participation v. City of Montebello, B277060
 

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