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By Eric Heinz 

San Clemente City Council voted to petition the California Supreme Court regarding the Beach Parking Fund case during the closed session portion of the Tuesday night’s meeting.

The civil case in Orange County Superior Court, Walker V. San Clemente, was first decided in favor of the plaintiffs, who filed a lawsuit against the city for not tracking  money properly that is intended to be spent on beach parking and that the funds should be returned to the property owners.

Last month, the Court of Appeal panel of judges upheld the lower court’s decision.

“California’s Mitigation Fee Act requires periodic accounting and reporting of the spend-down of mitigation fees collected,” a press release from the city stated. “The Court of Appeal found that the city’s 2009 report and accompanying budget documents did not adequately explain why those beach parking impact fees (BPIFs) had not been spent, or how they would be spent in the future.”

The court has ordered the city to dissolve the funds and return about $10 million that was collected over the course of more than 20 years. The city wants to be able to provide evidence of the 2009 report rather than completely dissolve the fund.

California state law allows for governments to vote on matters of existing or pending litigation, provided any action taken is reported afterward during the open meeting.

The arguments the city makes against the decisions can be found in the press release, which was disbursed earlier this afternoon, and can be read by clicking here: 9-17-15 City to seek CA Supreme Court Review of Walker v San Clemente

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comments (3)

  • You have to be kidding me? The City, and City Council, handily lose two cases because the law is extremely clear and the City (including the City Council) has violated the law.

    How can the absurdity of this be explained? During the first trial one could argue that they just want the money, badly. But given their persistent actions and lack of regards to legal fees, I believe there is something far more beyond this. The situation reeks of [extreme] corruption.

    There is the question of what are they hiding? Why are they so quick to spend so much on legal fees?

    I think it is now time to get more involved and have this investigated further.

  • Playing devil’s advocate here. Was there bad faith intended by the City Council, or had the opportunity to use the money not presented itself yet? Did the person who filed the lawsuit have completely altruistic reasons, or was there a benefit to that person?

  • As one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit there are details that need clarifying. 1) The city did more than fail to “track” the money appropriately. 2) The city failed to comply with certain “technical” requirements of the law that were put into the law as a reform measure to ensure that cities expend mitigation fee moneys for the purpose intended in a timely manner. 3) The city collected the money under the pretense of solving a “projected” beach parking shortage to be created by the development of 6000 homes and subsequently proceeded to give away existing beach parking to other non-beach uses based on studies that claimed and projected “no beach parking shortage” existed. 4) The city illegally expended $700,000 of the funds on unrelated purposes. 5) The city also loaned beach parking funds to the golf course.

    Based on the record it is apparent that the city in essence morphed the fund into a developer slush fund to replace existing beach parking that it had or intended on giving away. And, was planning to use the funds as a means of subsidizing the Playa Del Norte project with free land paid for by the fund and the replacement of existing parking, to be destroyed by the project, with the funds.

    Please ask yourself a simply question. Does it really take a quarter of century to plan and build a parking lot if that is your intent. A last bit of irony. The current city attorney law firm just retained by the city advised me in a different city over a period of eleven years that if I did not expend mitigation fee funds within five years of their collection there was a very good chance I would have to repay those funds to the properties from whence they were collected. To this end, we would age funds as collected and ensure that they were spent on appropriate projects in a timely manner. Must be different laws for different clients.

comments (3)

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