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Reynolds v. City of Calistoga

California Court of Appeal, First District, Fifth Division

February 3, 2014

Grant REYNOLDS, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
CITY OF CALISTOGA et al., Defendants and Respondents.

Superior Court of Napa County, No. 26-56480, Raymond A. Guadagni, Judge.

Page 866

COUNSEL

Grant Reynolds, in pro. per., for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Burke, Williams & Sorensen, Michelle Marchetta Kenyon and Matthew D. Visick, Oakland, for Defendants and Respondents City of Calistoga, Jack Gingles, Michael Dunsford, Chris Canning, Gary Kraus and Karen Slusser.

Minh C. Tran, County Counsel, and Robert C. Martin, Deputy County Counsel for Defendant and Respondent Napa County Flood Protection and Watershed Improvement Authority.

OPINION

Bruiniers, J.

Page 867

Grant Reynolds, proceeding pro se, brought a public trust action challenging operation of a reservoir by the City of Calistoga (City) insofar as that operation affected downstream fisheries (the Public Trust Suit). He then initiated a second action, the matter on appeal here, challenging the City's use of Napa County sales tax revenue (the Tax Suit). He purported to bring the Tax Suit in the public interest and sought to make the sales tax revenues available for purposes of settling the Public Trust Suit. Reynolds is

Page 868

neither a resident nor a taxpayer of the City or [167 Cal.Rptr.3d 594] Napa County, and he asserts no other personal interest in the City's use of the sales tax revenue. The trial court sustained the defendants' demurrer without leave to amend on the ground that Reynolds lacked standing to bring the Tax Suit. We agree that Reynolds lacks standing to pursue this action as a taxpayer, as a citizen suing in the public interest, or as a person suing to protect a public trust. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

In May 2010, the Napa County Superior Court found that Reynolds, a resident of San Diego, had standing to bring the Public Trust Suit based on allegations that the City failed to comply with state law requiring it, as the owner/operator of a dam creating the Kimball Reservoir, to allow sufficient water to bypass the dam to support downstream fisheries. (See National Audubon Society v. Superior Court (1983) 33 Cal.3d 419, 189 Cal.Rptr. 346, 658 P.2d 709; Fish & G.Code, ยง 5937.) In the summer of 2010, fishery and hydrology experts investigated the issue, and unsuccessful settlement talks followed in the fall. In May 2011, Reynolds filed a motion for summary adjudication of the public trust cause of action,[2] and one week later the City published a draft water bypass plan, which was adopted by the City Council in August 2011. Prior to a scheduled trial date, the court granted the City's motion to dismiss the public trust cause of action as moot in light of the adopted bypass plan and entered judgment for the City. That judgment is the subject of a related appeal ( Reynolds v. City of Calistoga (A134190, app. pending) [consolidated with A135501 on July 3, 2012] ).

Reynolds alleges that he urged the City to use funds raised by a Napa County sales tax (Measure A funds) to restore the Upper Napa River riparian environment as part of a settlement of the Public Trust Suit, but was told that all available funds had been expended on other projects. Reynolds concluded

Page 869

the City had used Measure A funds for a particular purpose (the Mount Washington Water Tank project, hereafter Water Tank Project) not permissible under the terms of the ...


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