California Court of Appeals, Second District, Second Division
LA MIRADA AVENUE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION OF HOLLYWOOD et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents,
CITY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Defendants and Appellants TARGET CORPORATION, Real Party in Interest and Appellant.
FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION [*]
from orders of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County Nos.
BS140889, BS140930. Richard L. Fruin, Jr., Judge. Affirmed.
Michael N. Feuer, City Attorney, Terry Kaufman Macias,
Assistant City Attorney, Kenneth Tom Fong and Kimberly Ai-Hua
Huangfu, Deputy City Attorneys; Burke, Williams &
Sorensen and Anna Corinne Shimko for Defendants and
Appellants City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles City Council.
Morrison & Foerster, Miriam A. Vogel; Shoreline Law
Corporation, Andrew S. Pauly and Damon A. Thayer for Real
Party in Interest and Appellant Target Corporation.
Silverstein Law Firm, Robert P. Silverstein and David E.
Wright for Plaintiff and Respondent La Mirada Avenue
Neighborhood Association of Hollywood.
Law Offices of David Lawrence Bell and David Bell for
Plaintiff and Respondent Citizens Coalition Los Angeles.
Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5,  a trial court may
award attorney's fees to the “successful
party” in a lawsuit that “has resulted in the
enforcement of an important right affecting the public
interest” if, among other things, the lawsuit confers
“a significant benefit” upon “the general
public or a large class of persons.” If a party is
“successful” and has conferred a
“significant benefit” by prevailing at trial and
obtaining a judgment that a construction project violates the
zoning laws in existence at the time, is that party precluded
from obtaining attorney's fees under section 1021.5
because the losing party gets the zoning laws changed and the
project's validity under the changed law has yet to be
finally determined? We conclude that the answer is
“no.” Consequently, and because we conclude that
the trial court did not abuse its discretion in fixing the
amount of attorney's fees, we affirm the awards of
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
party in interest Target Corporation (Target) wants to build
a retail store on the corner of Western Avenue and Sunset
Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
purposes of zoning, that location is subject to the Los
Angeles Municipal Code as well as to a more specific Station
Neighborhood Area Plan (SNAP), which for this location is the
Vermont/Western Transit Oriented District Specific Plan.
Within the geographic area covered by the SNAP, the location
falls within Subarea C. Under the law in effect at the time,
commercial buildings in Subarea C (other than hospitals and
“mixed use” buildings (that is, part commercial
and part residential)) (1) could not exceed 35 feet in
height, (2) were required to incorporate certain aesthetic
design elements aimed at avoiding the look of a “big
box” store, (3) could not have more than 390 parking
spaces, (4) were required to limit the hours during which
they accept deliveries, and (5) if the square footage exceeds
40, 000 square feet, were required to offer free delivery to
submitted two plans to defendant the City Council of the City
of Los Angeles (the City or City Council). Initially, Target
sought to build a retail store that complied with the above
stated requirements of the Municipal Code and the SNAP.
Subsequently, however, Target submitted a new proposal to
build a Super Target retail store. The Super Target store
would be nearly 75 feet in height, complete with a transit
plaza, an above ground parking lot with 458 parking spaces,
and 163, 862 square feet of retail space (the Project).
the Project did not comply with the SNAP, the City Council
granted eight variances (called “exceptions”)
from the SNAP pursuant to Los Angeles Municipal Code section
11.5.7.F.2. These variances excepted the Project from the
SNAP's height restrictions, many of its design element
requirements, its parking space limit, its delivery time
restrictions, and its free delivery requirements.
La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association of Hollywood (La
Mirada) and Citizens Coalition Los Angeles (Citizens)
(collectively, plaintiffs), both of which are
“community association[s]” that “advocate
for residential quality of life issues, ” filed
separate petitions for a writ of mandate against the City
(and naming Target as the real party in interest). In their
operative first amended petitions, plaintiffs generally
alleged “a substantial interest in ensuring that the
City's decisions are in conformity with the requirements
of the law.” More specifically, one or both of those
petitions alleged: (1) the Project violated the California
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code, §
21000et seq.) because the Project's environmental impact
report was deficient; (2) the Project violated the Los
Angeles Municipal Code because the eight variances from the
SNAP were not supported by substantial evidence; (3) the City
Council denied plaintiffs a fair hearing; and (4) the City
did not comply with the laws governing open meetings. With
respect to the alleged violation of the Municipal Code,
plaintiffs sought (1) “to vacate and set aside the
actions approving the [SNAP] exceptions for the Project, and
[to have] the Court invalidate the exceptions”; (2) to
“enjoin the City... from granting any authority,
permits or entitlements... pursuant to the [SNAP]
exceptions”; and (3) to “enjoin... any activities
or construction pursuant to the [SNAP] exceptions.”
Trial Court's Partial Grant of the Writ
full briefing, the trial court issued a 28-page order partly
granting and partly denying plaintiffs' writ petitions.
The court denied the writs insofar as they alleged violations
of CEQA and the denial of a fair hearing. And plaintiffs had
by that time already abandoned their claim that the City
Council had violated the open meeting laws. However, the
court concluded that six of the eight SNAP variances violated
the Los Angeles Municipal Code because they were not
supported by substantial evidence; of the variances alleged
to be invalid, the court only upheld the variance for the
number of parking spaces and the waiver of the home delivery
requirement. In July 2014, the trial court entered judgment
for plaintiffs on the writs invalidating six of the eight
Municipal Code variances, enjoining any actions “in
furtherance of” those variances, and
“immediately... restrain[ing]... all construction
activities.” The judgment also authorized plaintiffs to
seek attorney's fees.
Appeals of Writ Petitions (La Mirada I)
Target and La Mirada appealed the judgment.
the appeals were pending, and at Target's urging, the
City Council amended the SNAP to create a new Subarea F, to
delineate Subarea F's geographical boundaries to include
the Project, and to define Subarea ...