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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Western Malibu Parcel Is Pulled from Housing Element Update

• Trancas Field Has Been Clouded by Litigation for Years

BY BILL KOENEKER

Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin announced this week at a city council meeting, existing litigation that was discussed at a closed door session before the council meeting, currently known as Trancas-PCH, LLC vs. City of Malibu, will be going before the public for discussion.
Hogin, who said the lawsuits related to the property make for the longest running litigation in the city’s history. “It is the sixth lawsuit since 1993. We call it Trancas Six,” she said.
“No matter what happens in this lawsuit, it won’t be over,” said the city attorney, who added that is why she talked to the council about a different approach towards the property and its litigation.
“The council agreed to pull what we call Trancas Field out of the proposed housing element update and hold a special meeting to initiate public discussion to best address development on that piece of land,” Hogin said.
The special council meeting is scheduled for July 6 at City Hall.
The council made no comment about the decision, and the city attorney offered little else in the way of explanation at the meeting.
An informal press conference with local media took place after the meeting when Hogin was queried for further explanation.
The city attorney was asked, “Why now?” as far as reviewing the case. She said that there is a June court date for a status conference and, given that the city is moving closer, it was time to talk to the council about it.
“The discovery process is expensive,” Hogin said, by way of explaining trying another approach.
When the city attorney was asked if she would tell the court at the status hearing that the city will pursue a settlement, she said, “No, I’m telling the court we are going to trial.”
The story started in 1985 when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave tentative map approval to Trancas Town Ltd. for a proposed development on 35 acres and imposed conditions long before the site was called Trancas Field or the city was incorporated.
The municipality, which was incorporated in 1991, denied the approval of those county-approved maps in 1993, stating the tentative maps had expired.
A trial court disagreed and ordered the city to review the Trancas Town maps. An appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision in 1995.
After more litigation, the council approved the final subdivision map in 1997.
The Trancas Property Owners Association got involved and filed an action against the California Coastal Commission and then became deeply embroiled in subsequent litigation.
More litigation ensued for the next decade, with one of the most scandalous episodes being when the city and the Trancas Owners Association entered into what the court called a “confidential agreement with the Trancas Owners Association that obligated the city to refrain from entering a new settlement with Trancas-PCH. The terms of the confidential agreement were not made public.
The court also scolded some council members for what appeared to be violations of the Brown Act.
More lawsuits were filed and by 2006 Trancas-PCH filed a petition for review with the California Supreme Court, which was denied by the high court.
The lawsuits never stopped. There were demurrers, collateral estoppels and even a remititur.
On Aug. 8, 2006 the trial court issued a writ of mandate commanding the council to set aside the April 30, 2003 settlement.
In September 2006 the council adopted a resolution rescinding approval of the April 2003 settlement.
Trancas-PCH filed subsequent legal action. The litigation continues to this day.

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