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Schwartz v. At Cove Management Corp.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 5, 2013

PETER N. G. SCHWARTZ, Plaintiff,
v.
AT THE COVE MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, also known as

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE [Dkt. No. 20]

GONZALO P. CURIEL, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is Defendants At the Cove Management Corporation, Reza Paydar, Lory Baker, Anders Dale's (collectively "Defendants") Special Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Complaint or Causes of Action. (ECF No. 20.) Defendants seek to strike Plaintiff Peter N. G. Schwartz' complaint on the basis that Plaintiff's allegations arise out of activities protected under California's anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation ("anti-SLAPP") statute. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16. Having considered the parties' submissions and for the reasons set forth below, the Court hereby DENIES Defendants' Special Motion to Strike as to all causes of action.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Peter N.G. Schwartz ("Mr. Schwartz") has owned a three-level unit at At the Cove, 1205 Coast Boulevard, Unit B, La Jolla, California since 1992. (Compl. ¶ 15.) The garage in Mr. Schwartz's unit has a man door which allows pedestrian access without opening the garage door. (Id.) Mr. Schwartz uses the first level of his unit, the garage space, as a living area. (Id. ¶ 17) In 2003, Mr. Schwartz commenced an extensive renovation of his unit, which was permitted by the City of San Diego ("City") and included substantial improvements to the first level of Mr. Schwartz's unit. (Id.) At the Cove Management Corporation (a/k/a "At the Cove Homeowners' Association) ("Association"), the governing body for the At the Cove condominium property, filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California challenging Mr. Schwartz' renovation. (Id.)

On July 27, 2005, after considering Mr. Schwartz' entire renovation, the superior court issued a permanent injunction mandating that Mr. Schwartz comply with the following: (1) replace the garage wall with a garage door similar to the door that previously existed (which included a man door); (2) remove a garage window; and (3) return the area where the window was located to its previous condition. (Id. Ex. A, J. & Permanent Inj.) Mr. Schwartz complied with the Court's order, the City performed a final inspection and issued a Certificate of Occupancy in 2005. (Id. ¶ 20.)

In 2008, the Association sought to assess several hundreds of dollars from each condominium owner to pay for extensive exterior renovations. (Id. ¶ 21.) In response to the Association's ballot seeking a vote on the contemplated renovation, Mr. Schwartz provided approval, subject to the conditions that the Association's renovation not interfere with his use of the garage as a living area, his own renovation, and his ability to park in the driveway of his unit. (Id. ¶ 22.) On September 2, 2008, counsel for the Association's Board of Directors wrote to Mr. Schwartz's counsel assuring Mr. Schwartz that the renovation would not affect the use of his garage as a living space and that he could "keep his existing garage door with the understanding that the exterior would be updated to remain consistent with the remainder of the units." (Id. Ex. B, Letter to Frank Tobin, Esq.)

In January 2010, near the completion of the Association's exterior renovation, Mr. Schwartz contacted Reza Paydar, an Association Board Member, to confirm that his man door would not be affected when new garage doors would be installed to all At the Cove units. Over the course of the next six months, the Association and Mr. Schwartz negotiated a solution for a new garage facing to be installed to his unit such that the exterior of all units would appear "consistent" while allowing Mr. Schwartz to keep his man door. (Id. Ex. C.) This plan was never executed.

Later in 2010, the Board authorized Kim Campbell, the project manager for the Association's renovation, to contact the City of San Diego Neighborhood Code Compliance department regarding Mr. Schwartz's alleged noncompliance with the Superior Court's 2005 Judgment. (ECF No. 20-1, Decl. Reza Paydar ¶ 10.) On September 9, 2011, the City wrote to Mr. Schwartz confirming that Mr. Schwartz's renovation project "received a final inspection approval on September 13, 2005... [and that] the current construction complies with the approved Project and no further action is required by [Mr. Schwartz]." (Compl. ¶ 28.) In October 2010, Mr. Schwartz informed the Association of the City's conclusion and his willingness to put the matter behind him despite incurring $20, 000 defending against the City's complaint so long as the garage door pursuant to the plan agreed upon in 2010 was installed. (Id. ¶ 29.) The Association did not respond to Mr. Schwartz's letter. (Id. ¶ 31.)

In 2012, the Association again reported to the City potential light and ventilation code violations relating to Mr. Schwartz's renovation. (Decl. Reza Paydar ¶ 13.) On March 29, 2012, the City concluded in response to the second complaint that Mr. Schwartz's garage level is in compliance with the light and ventilation requirements, the Neighborhood Code Compliance has no basis to reopen its investigation, and no further enforcement action will be taken regarding the "garage conversion" at issue. (Id. Ex. D, City's Email to Mr. Frank Tobin, Esq.)

In April 2012, Mr. Schwartz sent a letter through his counsel to the Association's counsel informing him of the City's conclusion regarding the City's second complaint. Mr. Schwartz further requested that the man door that had been there for years be installed pursuant to the agreement reached with the Association in 2010. Mr. Schwartz also demanded mediation to address these issues. (Compl. ¶ 34.) He did not receive a response from the Association. (Id. ¶ 35.) On September 5, 2012, Mr. Schwartz wrote to the homeowners that he expended approximately $50, 000 as a result of the Association's complaints to the City. (Id.) He also explained that if a new garage door pursuant to the June 2010 agreement with the Association was not installed in 90 days, he would take action against the Association's Board for maliciously misusing their powers to diminish quiet enjoyment of his unit. (Id.)

On December 12, 2012, Mr. Schwartz' counsel received a letter from the Association's counsel stating that "the Board has determined that the garage door must be consistent with all the other garage doors in the community, " and that although two other units had pedestrian doors prior to the reconstruction, only Mr. Schwartz's door now remained inconsistent with the others. (Id. ¶ 36.) The letter further advised that the Association intended to perform the work no later than 45 days from December 12, 2012 or January 26, 2013. (Id.)

On December 28, 2012, Mr. Schwartz filed a complaint alleging breach of fiduciary duty and breach of the Association's Declaration of Restrictions. Specifically, Mr. Schwartz alleges that Defendants have breached their fiduciary duties and obligations under the Declaration of Restrictions by, inter alia, providing false assurances in 2008 that his garage level unit would not be interfered with as a result of the exterior renovation, reneging on the agreement to update the exterior of Mr. Schwartz's garage level as agreed and reflected in the June 2010 agreement, and making two baseless complaints to the City causing Mr. Schwartz to incur significant damages. (Id. ¶ 52 & Ex. 10; see ECF No. 39, Opp'n Resp. Ex. 18-19.) Mr. Schwartz requests declaratory relief affirming that (1) he is allowed to have a man door at his garage level as he has had for years; (2) the agreement between Mr. Schwartz and the Association in June 2010 regarding the upgrade to the exterior of Mr. Schwartz's garage door is enforceable; and (3) Mr. Schwartz's renovation on all three levels as modified by the Superior Court's July 2005 Judgment shall remain intact and not be interfered with by the ...


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