ABC Solar Files Lawsuit to Defend Solar Rights Act against City of Rolling Hills Estates

Today ABC Solar filed a complaint against the City of Rolling Hills Estates and its vendor Los Angeles County in the Los Angeles Superior Court. (Read the Complaint here). The action seeks to compel the City and County to comply with the letter and the spirit of the California Solar Rights Act and its associated laws. The State clearly legislates the importance of solar energy to California. The City of RHE has steadfastly passed-the-buck on clear violations of compliance with the Solar Permit Streamlining Act of 2014. 
ABC Solar is seeking declaratory relief to enforce the Solar Rights Act. The Solar Rights Act prohibits governments from imposing unreasonable restrictions on the permitting process for solar energy systems. The Legislature has declared that it is the express policy of the state of California to “promote and encourage the use of solar energy systems and to remove obstacles thereto.”
The City does not process solar permits itself. Rather, it purports to delegate that function to LA County. The practical effect of the City and County’s solar process is for applicants to be treated as human ping pong balls bouncing between City and County offices for multiple visits in a process that is neither “expedited” nor “streamlined” as envisioned by the Solar Rights Act. The City and County’s process in Rolling Hills Estates requires applicants to print out reams of paper and there is no electronic application process.

One of the examples described in the lawsuit is that on March 20, 2019 ABC was hired to install a solar system at Indian Valley Road, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275 (postbox is in the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, the property is in the City of Rolling Hills Estates). As of May 7, 2019, no permit has been issued for the Solar Project. ABC has made no fewer than three phone calls prior to two visits to the city of Rancho Palos Verdes and then the City. Phone calls to the City by ABC were greeted with “that address is in RPV, you have to go there.” The City of Rancho Palos Verdes approved the March 2019 Solar Project over-the-counter, but clerks then informed ABC of the need to go to the City. The City refused to issue the over-the counter permit as per the City’s own code which was passed by city council as required by the Solar Rights Act. 
Then the real hijinks always begin with the Los Angeles County Department of Building and Safety, literally the LA Department of BS. The City of RHE has impermissibly delegated compliance with the Solar Rights Act to the County and has turned a blind eye towards violations alleged by ABC. The City’s solar permitting practices has delayed the installation of solar systems within the City. By way of comparison, neighboring cities average same-day to 3 days between application submission and permit issuance. The City’s average – as to ABC – is 18 days. 
“The City of Rancho Palos Verdes is over-the-counter and is by far my favorite city to work in California. On the other hand the City of Rolling Hills Estates has always been slow and is known to ignore state mandates. Sadly, the City of Palos Verdes Estates is a hit-and-miss for solar because of the PV Art Jury.” Said Bradley Bartz, founder president of ABC Solar Inc. A same day permit means business moves fast and our team gets to work. ABC Solar is seeking a judicial determination that the City of RHE and LA County’s solar permit process violates the Solar Rights Act and an injunction compelling the City to adopt a compliant process.” As a licensed solar contractor, we strive to know and follow the law to design and install safe solar electric and solar thermal systems. We know that the Solar Rights Act has very limited “teeth”, other than that a judicial determination that the City and County’s process for issuing solar permits violates the Solar Rights Act will make the City and County ineligible to receive funds from state-sponsored grants or loans for solar energy.” Bartz continued with, “Really I am seeking an injunction compelling the City and County to adopt a compliant process.”

About ABC Solar
ABC Solar was founded in 2000 and holds a 5-star Yelp reputation and an outstanding reference base. The company focuses on using the best available equipment and loves a design challenge. Founder Bradley Bartz writes a book series called the Solar Bible. The Solar Bible 2020 edition features new state mandated “what is real about solar” disclosures that ABC Solar and Brad welcome the continued push for quality installations. 

About Jeff Lewis Law
Jeff Lewis Law is a law firm of land use and civil litigation attorneys headquartered in Palos Verdes, California. The firm advises high net worth individuals and businesses regarding land use and civil litigation matters in and around Palos Verdes.

Jeff Lewis prevails in Appeal Challenging Misuse of California’s Anti-Harassment Statute, Code of Civil Procedure, Section 527.6

California’s Civil Harassment Restraining statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 527.6 provides a framework for people truly victimized by stalkers to obtain an injunction against credible, actual threats of violence or true “harassment” (as legally, distinctly defined by Section 527.6) that reasonably, actually caused the victim “substantial emotional distress.” Jeff Lewis has been representing a party who until recently had been restrained unlawfully by such a Section 527.6 injunction issued illegally by California Superior Court Judge Gary Tanaka. On April 26, 2019, the California Second District Court of Appeal issued its decision dissolving the injunction, agreeing firmly with the Lewis Law firm’s insufficiency of evidence challenge. The Court of Appeal found “insufficient evidence the complained-of harassment actually caused substantial emotional distress.”

Importantly, the Court of Appeal accepted and acknowledged legally recorded audio evidence (submitted by Jeff Lewis’ illegally restrained client). Such audio recording disproved materially false statements and declarations, made under penalty of perjury, by Petitioner Dan Dunbar and his wife Cindy Dunbar. Such false statements presumably were made by Dan Dunbar and Cynthia Dunbar in order to butress Mr. Dunbar’s invalid petition for protection through issuance of an illegally granted restraining order. Due to this failure of evidence, the Court of Appeal did not need to address the Lewis firm’s First Amendment argument that the restraining order was an illegal prior restraint. Torrance Superior Court Judge Gary Tanaka explicitly sought to deprive Jeff Lewis’ client of his constitutional right to inform neighbors truthfully of his Palos Verdes Estates neighbor Cindy Dunbar’s drug related criminal record (including, for a period of time, a felony conviction), unserved jail sentence but served house arrest, and other related matters.

Following the unlawful issuance of the illegal restraining order, Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar attempted to leverage the restraining order against Mr. Lewis’ client by making false allegations to the police department and District Attorney that the order had been violated. However, following the District Attorney learning that the Los Angeles Superior Court issued the protective order illegally, the District Attorney dismissed all of the Dunbars’ allegations. Jeff Lewis’ client never spent one minute in a courtroom relating to the dismissed, false allegations. You can access the opening brief filed in this case here, the appellant’s reply brief here and the opinion here.

Supreme Court grants review in Ted Rall v. LA Times Case

Jeff Lewis has represented Ted Rall in a case against the LA Times. The Times prevailed at the trial court and obtained a dismissal on an anti-SLAPP motion. The Times also prevailed at the intermediate review step in the California Court of Appeal. Last week the Supreme Court granted Ted Rall’s petition to review the case. More details about the case here.

City of Palos Verdes Estates Agrees to Settlement of Parkland Lawsuit

A video of the City of Palos Verdes Estates Council Meeting to approve the settlement is available here.

            Today the lawsuit over the Panorama Parkland was resolved.  The Parties* found common ground on their mutual priority for preserving parkland. The lawsuit was originally filed by John Harbison and CEPC to unwind a sale of parkland property from the Homes Association to the Luglianis.  The property was conveyed by the City to the Homes Association as part of an agreement between the City, the Palos Verdes Unified School District and the Luglianis. The Court of Appeal held “the public did benefit from this litigation—namely through the protection of a public park.” Under the settlement, the Luglianis and the Homes Association will comply with the provisions of the CC&Rs that allow for re-designation of land use with the consent of the neighboring property owners. Harbison and CEPC support this re-designation in light of two facts: (1) the City is going to deed restrict the Bluff Cove properties (approx. 4 acres) along Palos Verdes Drive West (that are currently R1 Residential zoned) by imposing the same restrictions that are on all other City-owned open space.  As a result, the City of Palos Verdes Estates will enjoy a net increase in deed-restricted open space property.  (2) Unlike the original sale from the Homes Association to the Luglianis, under the agreement, the Homes Association will employ the proper mechanism under the CC&Rs including the explicit consent of the public within 300 feet of each property.  The Agreement will create a view easement and restore natural parkland for the public to enjoy.  All Parties affirm the continuing legal validity of the deed restrictions maintaining parkland.  In addition, the Parties are resolving the ROBE Quorum litigation creating a more democratic election process for the Homes Association.

            All Parties are pleased to have found a solution that increases parkland for the benefit of our residents.  The Luglianis agreed to restore the flat portion of the Panorama parkland properties (approx. 0.4 acres) and return that to city ownership for the residents to enjoy.  The Homes Association and Harbison were instrumental in identifying the portion of the property of most value to the community. The Homes Association is helping to fund the restoration.

            This settlement completely resolves the lawsuit over Panorama Parkland.

*Parties to the Agreement are Citizens for Enforcement Parkland Covenants (CEPC), John Harbison, Palos Verdes Homes Association (Homes Association), City of Palos Verdes Estates, Ried Schott, Residents for Open Board Elections (ROBE) and Robert and Dolores Lugliani (the Luglianis, property owners of 900 Via Panorama).

Jeff Lewis argues for Ted Rall In First Amendment battle Against LA Times

Ted Rall’s legal fight against the LA Times was argued before the Second District Court of Appeal earlier this month. Audio of the oral argument is posted here. Ted wrote an article about the appellate argument here. From that article:

It ought to be illegal for a police department to own a newspaper. But it’s not. In 2015 the LAPD pension fund was a major shareholder of Tribune Publishing, owner of the Times. Annoyed at my cartoons about him, then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck asked the Times then-publisher Austin Beutner, now LA schools superintendent, to fire me as a political favor. He did. Beck also wanted my reputation destroyed so I could never work again, in order to send a message to journalists: don’t mess with the LAPD. Beutner, Beck’s political ally and a man with ambitions to become mayor or governor, complied by ordering that the paper publish two libelous articles about me portraying me as a liar.

The second one was published after I proved I had told the truth.

I sued for defamation and wrongful termination in 2016.

Since thenTimes attorney Kelli Sager, who also represents theNational Enquirer in its smear of gay icon Richard Simmons, has waged a scorched-earth litigation campaign designed to intimidate, harass and delay my quest to clear my name. Sager filed the anti-SLAPP, a law designed to be used by individuals to defend themselves against powerful corporate entities, against me. She convinced the court to force me to pay $75,000 just to be able to continue my case for something called a “Section 1030”—a law whose intent is to discriminate against out-of-state plaintiffs (I live in New York.) Last week, during oral arguments in open court, she compared me to a “pedophile.”

You can read Ted Rall’s entire account of oral argument here.

Jeff Lewis calls for Recusal of RPV City Attorney in Investigation of Closed Session Leaks

For sometime, the City Attorney for Rancho Palos Verdes has been investigating leaks of closed session meetings. The City has taken the extraordinary act of issuing legislative subpoenas — an authorized but rarely used tool of city government — to compel residents to produce documents to the City. Jeff Lewis represents former Mayor Brian Campbell and has called on the City Attorney to recuse itself from the investigation of this issue.  From the letter requesting recusal:

I am writing this letter on behalf of former Mayor Campbell and other residents of the City who have concerns about the City’s transparency and handling of the current investigation into leaks of closed-door meetings. I would urge you to carefully review the entirety of the enclosed email exchange closely and make your own judgments about the implication of the statements made therein.

The email is disturbing for the following reasons: First, your subcommittee has been charged with investigating leaks from closed door session meetings of the City Council. On November 2, 2017, 12:14 p.m., Dave Aleshire disclosed to Ms. Berkowitz confidential information shared with the City Council in closed session. That is an unauthorized leak that the City should investigate. On October 31, 2017, 6:19 p.m. Mr. Aleshire disclosed to Sharon Loveys a costs summary shared with the City Council in closed session. That is also an unauthorized leak that the City should investigate.

A complete copy of the request for recusal letter is available here: 20181004 – Recusal Letter

Jeff Lewis files Opening Brief in First Amendment Appeal Challenging Misuse of California’s Anti-Harassment Statute, Code of Civil Procedure, Section 527.6

Jeff Lewis is representing a party restrained under California’s Civil Harassment Restraining statute, Code of Civil Procedure, section 527.6. The appeal is now pending against personal injury attorney Dan Dunbar in the second District Court of Appeal. Section 527.6 was intended to protect victims of violent stalking but in the case of Dan Dunbar, the law was misused to prevent the restrained party from speaking the truth about criminal drug convictions and a jail sentence imposed upon Palos Verdes Estates resident Cindy Dunbar. The order issued by Judge Gary Tanaka is an unlawful prior restraint in violation of the restrained party’s First Amendment rights because it purports to restrict him from speaking or writing truthfully about the drug convictions and nursing license surrender proceedings involving Dan Dunbar‘s wife, Cynthia Dunbar. Jeff Lewis agreed to represent the restrained party in this case because he has witnessed a trend of increased restraining orders issued not to prevent violence but instead to silence defendants or to improperly restrain persons who have not committed or threatened violence or harassment. You can access the brief filed in this case here.

It’s Over: California Supreme Court Denies Review of Palos Verdes Estates Parkland Sale

In January, the Second District Court of Appeal issued its opinion about the validity of the property deed restrictions and the propriety of the 2012 sale of parkland in Palos Verdes Estates. The Palos Verdes Homes Association — still convinced it has the absolute power to sell parkland — asked the California Supreme Court to weigh in and hear the case. On April 11, 2018, the Supreme Court declined. Thus, the 2015 ruling by the Superior Court and the January 30, 2018 Court of Appeal ruling are now the final word on whether the Palos Verdes Homes Association has the power to sell parkland.