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Meyers Nave Successfully Defends Land Use Regulation Challenge

Oakland, CA – Meyers Nave principal Deborah Fox successfully defends County of Los Angeles land use regulation in a recent unanimous decision by the California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District.

The Court upheld the Santa Monica Mountains Grading and Significant Ridgeline Ordinance (“Ridgeline Protection Ordinance”), which imposes special permit requirements on grading projects in the Santa Monica Mountains. Ms. Fox stated that the decision is a sweet victory for Los Angeles County, and more importantly, for the environmental preservation of the Santa Monica Mountains.

The Ridgeline Protection Ordinance was enacted by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2004 following an increasing influx of unregulated grading projects which caused significant environmental damage. Objecting landowners and developers contended that the Ridgeline Protection Ordinance conflicts with a “Grandfather Clause” in the County’s Santa Monica Mountains North Area Plan, a section of the County’s General Plan, which exempts all existing legal lots in the mountains from new regulations such as the Ridgeline Protection Ordinance.

The Court found the landowners’ interpretation of the “Grandfather Clause” to be “unreasonable”, noting that such an interpretation would nullify many policies which enact more stringent regulations on grading and ridgeline development in the North Area Plan. The Court also rejected the plaintiff’s claims that the County should have prepared a new or supplemental environmental impact report (“EIR”) rather than rely on the previous certified EIR used at the time of adoption of the North Area Plan. Substantial evidence was found to support the County’s conclusion that the Ridgeline Protection Ordinance would not have any environmental impacts previously unreported in the initial EIR. Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky called the ruling “a clear vote of confidence in the County’s ongoing effort to protect the Santa Monica Mountains from the wrong kind of development.”