City of Walnut v. Mount San Antonio Community College District, 031519 CAAPP2, B287619

Docket Nº:B287619
Opinion Judge:KIM, J.
Party Name:CITY OF WALNUT, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. MOUNT SAN ANTONIO COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT, Defendant and Appellant.
Attorney:Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, Sean B. Absher and Shana Inspektor, for Defendant and Appellant. Leibold McClendon & Mann, John G. McClendon and Barbara Z. Leibold, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Judge Panel:We concur: RUBIN, P. J.MOOR, J.
Case Date:March 15, 2019
Court:California Court of Appeals
 
FREE EXCERPT

CITY OF WALNUT, Plaintiff and Respondent,

v.

MOUNT SAN ANTONIO COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT, Defendant and Appellant.

B287619

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fifth Division

March 15, 2019

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

Appeal from a postjudgment order of the Superior Court of the County No. BC576587 of Los Angeles, James C. Chalfant, Judge.

Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, Sean B. Absher and Shana Inspektor, for Defendant and Appellant.

Leibold McClendon & Mann, John G. McClendon and Barbara Z. Leibold, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

KIM, J.

I. INTRODUCTION

The City of Walnut (the City) petitioned the trial court for orders affirming and enforcing its stop work order issued against a construction project proposed by the Mount San Antonio Community College District (the District). Following the trial court's ruling granting, in part, the relief the City requested, the City successfully moved the trial court for an award of attorney fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 (section 1021.5).

On appeal, the District challenges the trial court's award of the full amount of the attorney fees sought by the City, without any reduction or allocation based on the City's partial success. According to the District, the trial court erroneously awarded fees to the City based on partially successful claims that did not confer a substantial benefit on the public as required under section 1021.5. The District also contends that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to reduce the fees awarded based on an equitable allocation between the claims on which the City succeeded and those on which it did not.

We hold that the District has failed to demonstrate that the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees to the City under section 1021.5. We further hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to allocate the fee award between successful and unsuccessful claims. We therefore affirm the order awarding attorney fees.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND [1]

A. Solar Project

The District proposed to construct a solar energy generation facility (the Solar Project) located on a 27.65 acre undeveloped hillside commonly known as the west parcel of the Mount San Antonio Community College2 campus. The Solar Project was designed as a 2.0 megawatt electrical output system facility with ground-mounted tracking solar panels and a small masonry structure to house equipment located on a 10.6 acre pad on the west parcel.

In February 2013, the District approved the Solar Project as part of the 2012 Master Plan Update and, as lead agency, cleared the project when its Board, on December 11, 2013, certified a 2012 environmental impact report (EIR).

In December 2015, the District issued a draft addendum to the 2012 environmental impact report, which described plans to extend construction truck hauling operations for the project. On January 13, 2016, based on concerns about the impact of the Solar Project's construction truck traffic on public safety, the City attended a meeting of the District's board and opposed the proposed addendum. The Board nonetheless approved the proposed addendum (Addendum).

The District commenced development of the Solar Project without obtaining from the City a conditional use permit, a building permit, or a grading permit. Instead, the District developed the project by obtaining approvals from state and federal agencies, such as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Army Corps of Engineers. After obtaining those approvals, the District planned to begin construction of the Solar Project on October 24, 2016. But, on October 20, 2016, the City issued a stop work order.

B. The Related Litigations3

1. The City's Petition/Complaint

On December 21, 2015, the City filed a petition for writ of mandate/complaint for declaratory relief and thereafter filed the operative first amended petition/complaint on March 24, 2016. In the first cause of action for writ of mandate, the City alleged that: the District violated CEQA by failing to carry out an adequate CEQA analysis in approving the Solar Project; the District violated state planning and zoning law by failing to submit the Solar Project to the City for a finding that it was consistent with the City's general plan; and the District violated the City's municipal code by failing to submit grading, hauling route, or other plans to the City for approval.

In the second cause of action for declaratory relief, the City sought a declaration as to whether: the District's approval of the Addendum was proper; Government Code sections 53091 and 53094 exempted the Solar Project from the City's land use police powers and regulatory authority; and CEQA and CEQA guidelines required or permitted the City to take over from the District the lead agency role for the Solar Project.

2. The District's Cross-Complaint/Petition

On November 18, 2016, the District filed a cross-complaint/cross-petition for writ of mandate against the City. On December 30, 2016, the District filed the operative second amended cross-complaint/cross-petition for writ of mandate, alleging that it had received all necessary regulatory and permitted approvals for the Solar Project and that it was not required to obtain a conditional use permit (CUP) or approvals for grading, hauling, or construction of the Solar Project because it was exempt from local zoning and building controls pursuant to Government Code section 53091, subdivisions (d) and (e). According to the District, the City exceeded its local police powers and authority when it issued its stop work order.

The first cause of action for writ of mandate against the City to prevent it from stopping work on the Solar Project alleged that the project was exempt from the City's grading controls, local zoning ordinances, and building codes. The second cause of action for declaratory and injunctive relief sought a declaration that the Solar Project was exempt from the City's grading ordinances under Government Code section 53091 or, in the...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP