Community activists taking legal action to stop a development of single-family homes from being built on vacant property once used as a Boy Scout camp in North Long Beach plan to appeal a judge’s ruling that their case be dismissed, an attorney for the group told the Business Journal.
Last year, a group called Citizens About Responsible Planning (CARP) filed a lawsuit against the city, challenging the city’s environmental impact report (EIR) on the project proposed at 4747 Daisy Ave., previously known as the Will J. Reid Scout Camp owned by the Boy Scouts of America.
Newport Beach-based developer Integral Communities plans to build a gated community to be called “Riverwalk,” with 131 two- and three-story single-family homes on a vacant 10.5-acre site (approximate site shown in red from a March 2016 Business Journal photograph) However, the project is currently being held up in litigation.
Newport Beach-based developer Integral Communities plans to build a gated community to be called “Riverwalk,” with 131 two- and three-story single-family homes on a vacant 10.5-acre site bounded by the Virginia Country Club, the Dominguez Wetlands, a Pacific Union railroad track, the Los Angeles River and residential neighborhoods.
While some residents have spoken in favor of the development, stating that it would raise property values, generate city revenue and upgrade public infrastructure, others have voiced concerns, stating that it would be out of character with the surrounding neighborhood and may add traffic and environmental impacts. Nearly 200 people have signed a petition opposing the plans as well.
The group of community activists argues that the project’s EIR, which was unanimously approved by the city council on November 10, includes erroneous findings and fails to mitigate traffic and other environmental impacts associated with the proposed dense residential development.
The group also asserts that the city’s decision to change zoning of the site from “open space/parks” to “townhomes” while creating a planned use development ordinance to accommodate the project is considered “spot zoning” and violates state planning and zoning laws.
Last month, however, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin, Jr. ordered that the group’s case be dismissed since the petitioners hadn’t met a statute of limitations deadline for filing the lawsuit.
Under the law, opponents of a city-approved project have 30 days from the time an official Notice of Determination (NOD) is filed by the city to appeal a project’s approval, according to the judge’s ruling.
Two members of CARP requested a NOD document on the project’s EIR from the city attorney’s office and planning department last year, and in both instances the group was given a document dated November 18, subsequently filed with the Los Angeles County Clerk, the judge’s ruling states.
Although CARP filed its lawsuit against the city on December 18, Judge Fruin ruled that the group should have been aware of another NOD document filed on November 12 that dictated the lawsuit should have been filed by December 14. According to the judge, the petitioners should have asked whether an earlier NOD for the project had been filed.
“The fact that the city a week later took further action on the same project and that further action is noticed in a subsequent NOD does not establish a new period within which a judicial challenge may be filed,” the judge’s ruling states.
Jamie Hall, an attorney representing CARP, told the Business Journal in a phone interview that the group will appeal the judge’s decision, which he called “an unjust ruling.” He added that the statute of limitations argument should be discounted since city officials provided the wrong documents.
“My clients were extremely disappointed,” Hall said regarding the judge’s ruling.
“They spent a lot of time, money and energy working on this and are most determined to appeal [the ruling] . . . This isn’t over by any means.”
Assistant City Attorney Michael Mais told the Business Journal that attorneys for the city and the developer agreed that the case should be dismissed since the petitioners failed to file the lawsuit in a timely manor. Regarding the project EIR, he said the city followed all necessary requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The petitioners have 60 days from the time an official judgment is issued to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals, where three judges will determine whether the case should move forward, Hall said. He added that a request by the developer to seek $10,000 in sanctions on grounds the lawsuit is “frivolous” has been denied.