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Save Westwood Village v. Luskin

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Second Division

December 22, 2014

SAVE WESTWOOD VILLAGE et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
MEYER LUSKIN et al., Defendants and Respondents.

APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. BS142388. James C. Chalfant, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Law Offices of Noel Weiss and Noel W. Weiss for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

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Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson, Amrit S. Kulkarni, Julia L. Bond, Shiraz D. Tangri, and Mary C. Tsai for Defendants and Respondents.

OPINION

CHAVEZ, J.

Petitioners and appellants Save Westwood Village, Sandy Brown, and Harald Hahn (collectively, appellants) appeal from the trial court’s order granting a special motion to strike, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (anti-SLAPP motion), [1] all of the causes of action asserted against respondents Meyer Luskin, Renee Luskin (the Luskins), and the UCLA Foundation (the Foundation)[2] in this action concerning a proposed 25, 000 square foot conference center and a 294, 000 square foot, 250-room guest center to be constructed on the UCLA campus (the conference center). We affirm the trial court’s order.

BACKGROUND

The parties

Save Westwood Village is a California non-profit corporation formed in 1997. Sandy Brown and Harald Hahn are taxpayers, registered voters, and residents of the City of Los Angeles.

The Foundation is a California non-profit corporation with its principal place of business located within the County of Los Angeles. Its purpose is to act as a conduit through which individuals can make tax exempt gifts to benefit UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles).

Meyer Luskin is a director of the Foundation. He and Renee Luskin pledged $40 million to the Foundation to support the construction of the conference center.

Appellants’ petition

Appellants commenced this action on April 3, 2013, by filing a verified petition for writ of mandate seeking to rescind the Luskins’ donation toward construction of the conference center and to require the Regents of the University of California (Regents) to pay the City of Los Angeles (City) certain taxes allegedly owing in connection with the conference center and

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other UCLA visitor accommodations.[3] Appellants allege that on December 23, 2010, the Luskins made a written grant to the Foundation of $40 million to be used to support construction of the conference center and that the Foundation in turn pledged those funds to UCLA for that purpose. Thereafter, appellants allege, the conference center project “‘morphed’ into the development of a commercial hotel, ” in violation of University of California policies prohibiting the use of tax-exempt financing for non-exempt activities. In March 2012, while approval of the conference center project was still pending, the Regents requested additional information and analysis regarding less costly alternatives. The Regents’s request prompted the Luskins to write a letter in support of the project in July 2012 “‘clarifying’ their initial ‘vision’” for the conference center.

Appellants further allege that the Foundation is “mandated by its by-laws and incorporation documents to exclusively fund charitable undertakings, ” that this limitation “applies to the financing of the construction of buildings for exempt purposes, ” and that the Luskins’ $40 million grant was improperly and unlawfully applied toward activities that exceed the Foundation’s powers.

Appellants’ petition asserts causes of action for (1) injunctive relief under section 526a[4] against the Regents to pay taxes allegedly owing to the City as the result of UCLA’s existing hotel operations; (2) injunctive relief under section 526a against the Regents, the Luskins, and the Foundation to set aside the Regents’s approval of the conference center, to rescind the Foundation’s $40 million pledge toward construction of the conference center, and to rescind the condition imposed by the Luskins on their $40 million gift to the Foundation that the funds be used only for construction of the conference center; (3) writ of mandate against the City to collect all taxes owed on account of the Regents’s operation of UCLA visitor accommodations; and (4) declaratory relief against respondents, the Regents, and the City.

Respondents’ anti-SLAPP motion and dismissal from the action

Repondents filed a demurrer and an anti-SLAPP motion to strike the claims asserted against them. In response, appellants filed a first amended petition that eliminated all claims against respondents but that still named respondents as parties. Respondents then filed a ...


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