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).

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.


Court of Appeal Denies Rehearing of Parkland Appeal

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 filed a Petition for Rehearing asking the same three appellate justices who decided the case to change their mind. Today that request for a rehearing was denied. In addition, the Court of Appeal strengthened its earlier decision by adding the following footnote to the opinion on the validity of the deeds:

The Association argues that it had the right to transfer the parkland to the Luglianis because this original declaration was never properly amended. But, the Chairman of the Association’s board expressly consented to the terms of the 1940 deed. By expressly agreeing to those terms, the Association cannot now argue that Bank of America had no power to include them.


Court of Appeal Finds Deed Restrictions Apply and are Enforceable in Palos Verdes Estates

Today the Court of Appeal issued its decision in the long simmering dispute over the City of Palos Verdes Estates’ sale of parkland. A copy of the decision can be read here. In sum, the Court of Appeal agreed that summary judgment should have been granted as to the Palos Verdes Homes Association (“Homes Association”) and the Luglianis. Their actions violated deed restrictions. The Court of Appeal, however, found that the relief fashioned in the judgment should be limited solely to the Panorama Parkland and not impact all 800 acres of parkland in the City. The Court of Appeal has ordered the trial court to issue a more narrow judgment against the Homes Association and the Luglianis. The Court of Appeal found that neither my clients nor the City were entitled to summary judgment and instead the matter should proceed to trial against the City.

I am grateful that the Court of Appeal today confirmed the essence of what my clients have been saying since 2012: “that the deed restrictions mean what they say—Parcel A is intended to be parkland for the community.” (Opinion, p. 14). The parkland case is now over as to the Homes Association and the Luglianis. The Court of the Appeal has affirmed the grant of summary judgment as to the Homes Association and the Luglianis finding there was no question of fact to be tried regarding the Homes Association and the Luglianis’ actions. Per the Court of Appeal:  “We do not agree with the Association and the Luglianis that their actions were proper; the transfer of property from the Association to the Luglianis violated certain deed restrictions.” (Opinion, p. 3). The case will now be remanded to discuss the proper form of the judgment to be entered against the Homes Association and the Luglianis.

As for the City, the case will move forward to trial. The Court of Appeal ruled that neither the City nor my clients were entitled to receive summary judgment due to the existence of fact questions about the City’s intentions in conveying parkland. It remains to be seen what the City will do. Will the City continue to fight in court for the “right” for the City to liquidate the City’s 800 acres of parkland? I hope for the community’s sake that the City does not waste more legal fees to fight for a right that no residents want the City to assert. The City should take no solace in the fact that the summary judgment was reversed as to the City. The Court of Appeal observed: “While the City may have had the right to transfer Parcel A to the Association, it may not have had the right to do so if it knew that the Association was going to transfer Parcel A to the Luglianis.” (Opinion, p. 10). That is precisely the intent of the MOU – to get a public park into the hands of the Luglianis. I am confident that if this matter proceeds to trial against the City that the court will conclude that the City’s objective — to get the Panorama Parkland into the hands of the Luglianis will be found to be improper.

On a personal note, having represented the plaintiffs and respondents pro bono since 2013, I was gratified that the Court of Appeal concluded by finding that “the public did benefit from this litigation—namely through the protection of a public park.” (Opinion, p. 19).

PV Homes Fails to Get Quorum for Board Election, Jeff Lewis to Return to Court

The Daily Breeze reports here on the going legal dispute over the quorum for board elections for the Palos Verdes Homes Association:

The next hearing is set for Feb. 15, where Jeff Lewis, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he will ask the judge to lower the threshold for a quorum. A quorum hasn’t been reached since 2009. In 2017’s election, just 1,589 votes were cast.

PV Parents Call on School Board to Resolve Threat of Murder Suspect Attending PV High School

The Daily Breeze reports on a parent group upset that PV High allowed a suspect in a gang murder to continue attending PV High. From the article:

On Monday, attorney Jeffrey Lewis said about a dozen parents forming the group Residents Against Gangs at School sent a letter to the Palos Verdes Peninsula school board asking for Terrell to be removed from campus and home-schooled, or transferred to a continuation school. He said the district was “needlessly exposing itself to moral and financial liability should any harm befall any student due to Terrell’s continued attendance at school.”

“The Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District has been silent about what steps are being taken to protect Palos Verdes children from Terrell and his accomplices,” the letter said. “While Terrell does enjoy the presumption of innocence in a court of law, there are serious safety concerns raised by Terrell’s continued attendance at school. At best, Terrell is a distraction to teachers, staff and other students. At worst, most law enforcement officers would say that allowing an 18-year old gang member suspected of a felony to attend a high school presents a clear and present danger to other students.”