APPELLATE COURT UPHOLDS COUNTY HILLSIDE REGULATIONS
On March 8, 2007 the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, issued a unanimous decision upholding the Santa Monica Mountains Grading and Significant Ridgeline Ordinance enacted by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2004. The “Ridgeline Ordinance,” as it is sometimes known, imposes special permit requirements on grading projects in the Santa Monica Mountains. It was adopted to provide additional protection to the Santa Monica Mountains after a spate of unregulated grading projects caused significant environmental damage.
The Court of Appeal decision, Land Use Preservation Defense Fund v. County of Los Angeles, No. B190846, puts an end to efforts by objecting landowners to overturn the ordinance on legal grounds. The plaintiffs specifically contended that the Ridgeline Ordinance conflicts with a so-called “Grandfather Clause” in the County’s Santa Monica Mountains North Area Plan, a section of the County’s general plan. According to the plaintiffs, the “Grandfather Clause” exempted all existing legal lots in the mountains from new regulations such as the Ridgeline Ordinance. The Court of Appeal found the plaintiffs’ interpretation of the Grandfather Clause “unreasonable,” noting that plaintiffs’ interpretation would effectively nullify many policies in the North Area Plan calling for more stringent regulation of grading and ridgeline development. The Court of Appeal also rejected arguments that the intent of the Grandfather Clause could be distilled from an ambiguous conversation between several supervisors at the time of enactment, rather than by reading the clause in the overall context of the Plan.
The Court of Appeal also rejected the plaintiffs’ claims that the County should have prepared a new or supplemental environmental impact report rather than rely on a previous EIR certified at the time the North Area Plan was adopted. The Court found that substantial evidence supported the County’s conclusion that the Ridgeline Ordinance would not have any environmental impacts that had not already been fully evaluated in the previous EIR.
Attorney Deborah Fox of Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson is optimistic that the appellate decision will end the litigation saga that began in 2005.ShareThis