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Coalition for a Sustainable Future in Yucaipa v. City of Yucaipa

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

June 8, 2015

COALITION FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE IN YUCAIPA, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
CITY OF YUCAIPA et al., Defendants and Respondents TARGET STORES, INC., Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

APPEAL from the Superior Court of San Bernardino County. No. CIVSS708513 Donald R. Alvarez, Judge.

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COUNSEL

Leibold McClendon & Mann and John G. McClendon for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Richards, Watson & Gershon, David M. Snow and Ginetta L. Giovinco for Defendants and Respondents.

Holland & Knight, Amanda J. Monchamp and Melaine Sengupta for Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

OPINION

RAMIREZ, P. J.

Coalition for a Sustainable Future in Yucaipa (Coalition) filed a petition for writ of mandate against the City of Yucaipa and its city council (collectively Yucaipa) challenging Yucaipa's approval of Oak Hills Marketplace (Project), a shopping center to be developed by Target Corporation (Target) on acreage owned by Palmer General Corporation (Palmer). That petition, filed pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA; Pub. Resources Code, § 21000 et seq.), was denied, and Coalition appealed that decision. That appeal became moot when Target abandoned the Project due to a contract dispute with Palmer. This court directed that the order denying mandate be reversed with directions to dismiss the action with prejudice due to mootness. Coalition then brought a motion for attorney fees in the trial court, asserting that its petition was the catalyst for Yucaipa's action to revoke the entitlements. The trial court denied the motion and Coalition appealed again.

Page 517

In this appeal, Coalition argues the denial of attorney fees was error because the mandamus petition was the catalyst motivating Yucaipa to revoke the entitlements, the relief Coalition had sought in the trial court. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

In May 2005, Target entered into a contract with Palmer, the owner of land in the City of Yucaipa to develop a shopping center. Under the agreement, Target agreed to purchase approximately 60 acres of the land owned by Palmer, for the Project.

Target applied for a preliminary development plan (PDP) and a general plan amendment for a regional shopping center totaling approximately 613,000 square feet of building space on the acreage. On October 8, 2007, at a meeting of the City Council of the City of Yucaipa (Council), the Council conditionally approved the PDP and general plan amendment to adopt the land use plan for the planned development district, following an environmental impact report (EIR). The Council's action required that the PDP incorporate certain signage standards and other conditions, and accepted the mitigation measures identified in the final EIR, as well as adoption of a statement of overriding considerations.

Target was unable to complete the purchase of the land because Palmer missed deadlines and failed to complete specified off-site improvements required for the processing of off-site improvement approvals. On October 29, 2007, Target sued Palmer for specific performance, breach of contract, and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Contract Action).

On November 8, 2007, Coalition filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging Yucaipa’s approval of entitlements, asserting they violated CEQA. Target funded and defended this CEQA action on behalf of Yucaipa, pursuant to a condition that it indemnify Yucaipa found in section 81.0150 of the City of Yucaipa’s Development Code, which was included in the conditional approval of the Project.

On October 30, 2008, the trial court issued its ruling on the petition for writ of mandate. The trial court granted both sides’ requests for judicial notice. This included the city council minutes for regular meeting of October 8, 2007, Yucaipa official land use districts map, dated April 24, 2008, general land use element, dated July 2004; City of Yucaipa general plan, housing element, City of Yucaipa General Plan, City of Yucaipa general plan table, II-2, official land use ...


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