This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 06/03/2019 at 01:55:36 (UTC).

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE ET AL VS CITY OF L A ET

Case Summary

On 05/06/2016 ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE filed an Other - Writ Of Mandamus lawsuit against CITY OF L A ET. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are KEVIN C. BRAZILE, JOANNE O'DONNELL, TORRIBIO, JOHN A., YVETTE M. PALAZUELOS and SAMANTHA JESSNER. The case status is Disposed - Judgment Entered.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****2453

  • Filing Date:

    05/06/2016

  • Case Status:

    Disposed - Judgment Entered

  • Case Type:

    Other - Writ Of Mandamus

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

KEVIN C. BRAZILE

JOANNE O'DONNELL

TORRIBIO, JOHN A.

YVETTE M. PALAZUELOS

SAMANTHA JESSNER

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs and Petitioners

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE

FRIENDS OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD INTEGRITY IN-

Defendants and Respondents

DOES 1-20

LOS ANGELES CITY OF

LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL

Interested Parties

COLONY HOLDINGS LLC

HAKIM MICHAEL

ROES 1-20

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorney

LTL ATTORNEYS LLP

Respondent and Defendant Attorney

FEUER MICHAEL N. CITY ATTORNEY

Interested Party Attorney

HOLLAND & KNIGHT LLP

 

Court Documents

Minute Order

3/28/2018: Minute Order

NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL?CIVIL

5/17/2018: NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL?CIVIL

PROOF OF SERVICE-CIVIL

5/17/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE-CIVIL

RESPONDENTS CITY OF LOS ANGELES AND LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL'S OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL

6/15/2018: RESPONDENTS CITY OF LOS ANGELES AND LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL'S OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL

EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONSOLIDATE HEARING DATES ON MOTIONS TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL

6/19/2018: EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONSOLIDATE HEARING DATES ON MOTIONS TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL

Minute Order

6/19/2018: Minute Order

PROOF OF SERVICE

6/27/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE

PROOF OF SERVICE

6/27/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE

RESPONDENTS CITY OF LOS ANGELES' AND LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL'S RETURN TO WRIT

8/2/2018: RESPONDENTS CITY OF LOS ANGELES' AND LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL'S RETURN TO WRIT

ORDER GRANTING ATTORNEY'S MOTION TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL-CIVIL

8/13/2018: ORDER GRANTING ATTORNEY'S MOTION TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL-CIVIL

Minute Order

4/11/2019: Minute Order

PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

5/18/2016: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

Minute Order

7/28/2016: Minute Order

NOTICE OF TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE & ATTACHED ORDERS THEREON

7/28/2016: NOTICE OF TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE & ATTACHED ORDERS THEREON

NOTICE OF ASSOCIATION OF COUNSEL

8/26/2016: NOTICE OF ASSOCIATION OF COUNSEL

PROOF OF SERVICE

6/15/2017: PROOF OF SERVICE

PETITIONERS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE AND FRIENDS OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD INTEGRITY INITIATIVE?S REPLY BRIEF TO RESPONDENTS AND REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST?S OPPOSITION TO PETITIONERS? OPENING BRIE

8/24/2017: PETITIONERS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE AND FRIENDS OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD INTEGRITY INITIATIVE?S REPLY BRIEF TO RESPONDENTS AND REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST?S OPPOSITION TO PETITIONERS? OPENING BRIE

Minute Order

9/22/2017: Minute Order

66 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 04/11/2019
  • at 08:30 AM in Department 1, Samantha Jessner, Presiding; Court Order

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  • 04/11/2019
  • Certificate of Mailing for (Minute Order (Court Order Re Reassignment) of 04/11/2019); Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/11/2019
  • Minute Order ( (Court Order Re Reassignment)); Filed by Clerk

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 08/28/2018
  • SUBSTITUTION OF ATTORNEY-CIVIL

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 08/28/2018
  • SUBSTITUTION OF ATTORNEY-CIVIL

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 08/28/2018
  • Substitution of Attorney; Filed by Real Party in Interest

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 08/28/2018
  • Substitution of Attorney; Filed by Real Party in Interest

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 08/16/2018
  • PROOF OF SERVICE OF SIGNED ORDERS GRANTING HOLLAND & KNIGHT LLP'S MOTIONS TO BE RELIEVED AS COUNSEL FOR REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST COLONY HOLDINGS LLC AND MIKE HAKIM

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  • 08/16/2018
  • Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by Real Party in Interest

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 08/13/2018
  • at 08:45 AM in Department 28; Hearing on Motion to be Relieved as Counsel - Held - Motion Granted

    Read MoreRead Less
182 More Docket Entries
  • 05/18/2016
  • Proof-Service/Summons; Filed by Attorney for Petitioner

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 05/18/2016
  • Proof-Service/Summons; Filed by Petitioner

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 05/18/2016
  • PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 05/06/2016
  • Summons Filed; Filed by Attorney for Petitioner

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 05/06/2016
  • SUMMONS

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 05/06/2016
  • Complaint Filed (VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS AND COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF ); Filed by Attorney for Petitioner

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 05/06/2016
  • Petition; Filed by null

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 05/06/2016
  • VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS AND COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 05/06/2016
  • Complaint; Filed by Friends of the Neighborhood Integrity In- (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 05/06/2016
  • Summons; Filed by Petitioner

    Read MoreRead Less

Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BS162453    Hearing Date: February 05, 2020    Dept: 32

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE, et al.,

Plaintiffs,

v.

CITY OF LOS ANGELES, et al.

Defendants.

Case No.: BS162453

Hearing Date: February 5, 2020

[TENTATIVE] order RE:

(1) RESPONDENT’S MOTION TO STRIKE OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, TO TAX COSTS;

(2) PETITIONER’S MOTION FOR AN AWARD OF ATTORNEYS’ FEES

BACKGROUND

A. FTC Case

On April 18, 2016, Petitioner Fix the City, Inc. (“FTC”) commenced this proceeding against Respondents City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles City Council (collectively “City”) by filing a Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief (“FTC Case”). FTC brought the action to set aside the City’s approval of a 27-story mixed use project located in the middle of a residential block in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles (“Project”). FTC contended, among other things, that the Project violated the City’s zoning ordinances, the City’s General Plan, and CEQA.

B. EJC Case

On May 6, 2016, Petitioners Environmental Justice Collaborative and Friends of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (collectively “EJC”) filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Injunctive Relief against the City (case no. BS162453) (“EJC Case”). EJC sought to set aside the City’s approval of the Project based on violations of CEQA.

C. Trial and Judgment

On July 28, 2016, the Court related the FTC Case and the EJC Case. The cases were not consolidated, and the cases remained separate proceedings. The City did not request consolidation.

On March 28, 2018, the Court issued one ruling granting both petitions for writ of mandate. The Court found that a fair argument existed that the Project may have a significant environmental impact and that the City was thus required to prepare an Environmental Impact Report.

On June 18, 2018, judgment was entered in the FTC Case. The three-page judgment in the FTC Case does not mention the EJC Case or Plaintiffs’ counsel in the EJC Case. The judgment states “Petitioner and Plaintiff shall be awarded costs as against Respondents and Defendants the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles City Council.” The judgment in the FTC Case was served on the City and, on June 18, 2018, a writ of mandate was issued directing the City to rescind its Project approvals and the Mitigated Negative Declaration. On August 2, 2018, in the FTC Case and, also separately in the EJC Case, the City filed a return to the writ indicating compliance therewith.

On October 1, 2019, judgment was entered in the EJC Case.

On December 11, 2019, the Court denied City’s Motion to Set Aside the judgment entered in the EJC case.

MOTION TO STRIKE OR TAX COSTS

  1. Legal Standard

    Except as otherwise expressly provided by statute, a prevailing party is entitled as a matter of right to recover costs in any action or proceeding. (CCP § 1032(b).)

    The statutory scheme for cost recovery establishes three categories of trial preparation expenses: (1) one category allowable as a matter of right to the prevailing party (CCP § 1033.5(a)), (2) one category disallowable unless expressly authorized elsewhere by law (CCP § 1033.5(b)), and (3) one category allowable or disallowable in the court’s discretion (CCP § 1033.5(c)(4)). Even where costs are deemed allowable, such costs are only recoverable to the extent that they are (1) reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation rather than merely convenient or beneficial to its preparation and (2) reasonable in amount. (CCP § 1033.5(c)(2), (3).)

    “In ruling upon a motion to tax costs, the trial court’s first determination is whether the statute expressly allows the particular item and whether it appears proper on its face.” (Foothill-De Anza Community College Dist. v. Emerich (2007) 158 Cal.App.4th 11, 29.) “ ‘If so, the burden is on the objecting party to show the costs are unnecessary or unreasonable.’ [Citation omitted.] Where costs are not expressly allowed by the statute, the burden is on the party claiming the costs to show that the charges were reasonable and necessary.” (Ibid.)

  2. Analysis

    1. Motion to Strike Costs

      The City moves to strike the memorandum of costs on grounds that it was untimely filed pursuant to CRC Rule 3.1700.

      The City’s argument that the memorandum of costs is untimely is premised on the theory that EJC was omitted from the judgment entered in the FTC case on June 18, 2018 and that the judgment entered on October 1, 2019 in this case is redundant. The City’s argument is unavailing. As discussed in the Court’s December 11, 2019 order denying the City’s motion to vacate the October 1, 2019 judgment in this case and December 6, 2019 order denying the City’s motion to correct the 2018 judgment in the FTC case, the cases were consolidated for trial purposes only and thus require separate judgments to be issued in each case. The judgment in the FTC case thus did not serve as the judgment in this case.

      The judgment in this case was entered on October 1, 2019 and a notice of entry of judgment was served by the clerk of the court on the same date. EJC filed and served a written notice of entry of judgment on October 4, 2019. CRC Rule 3.1700(a) provides that “[a] prevailing party who claims costs must serve and file a memorandum of costs within 15 days after the date of service of the notice of entry of judgment or dismissal by the clerk under Code of Civil Procedure section 664.5 or the date of service of written notice of entry of judgment or dismissal, or within 180 days after entry of judgment, whichever is first. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1700(a) (emphasis added).) As the clerk of the court served a notice of entry of judgment on October 1, 2019, the 15-day deadline began to run on October 1, 2019, not October 4, 2019 as asserted by EJC. The deadline to file and serve the memorandum of costs based on the service date of October 1, 2019 is October 16, 2019. The memorandum of costs was not filed and served until October 21, 2019. However, as the notice of entry of judgment was served by mail, the Court finds that the deadline was extended by five calendar days to October 21, 2019 pursuant to CCP section 1013. (CCP § 1013 (finding that the five-day extension for notices served by mail did not apply to extend the time for filing notices of intention to move for new trial, vacate judgment pursuant to Section 663a, or appeal, but otherwise applies in the absence of a specific exception provided for by statute or court rule).) The memorandum of costs is thus timely pursuant to CRC Rule 3.1700.

      Accordingly, the motion to strike the memorandum of costs is DENIED.

    2. Motion to Tax Costs

      The City alternatively moves to tax the costs of service of process for Real-Parties-in-Interest Colony Holdings, LLC (“Colony Holdings”) and Michael Hakim (“Hakim”) in the amount of $2,855.56.[1] The City contends these costs should be apportioned to Colony Holdings and Hakim, citing to Heppler v. J.M. Peters Co. (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 1265 to support its contention.

      In opposition, EJC asserts that it is entitled to all costs and that the City’s reliance on Heppler is misplaced and that the petition could not have proceeded without service on Colony Holdings and Hakim.

      The Court agrees with EJC. In Heppler, the plaintiffs prevailed against one of four subcontractors and were awarded contractual attorney’s fees and costs against that subcontractor. (Heppler, supra, 73 Cal.App.4th at 1265, 1274-75.) The subcontractor appealed and the Court of Appeal found that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to apportion the attorney’s fees and costs for court reporter fees and jury fees. (Id. at 1297-98.) The Court of Appeal found that the subcontractor’s part of the case “could have been tried in considerably less time than seven weeks had the trial not taken up issues that involved the other nonsettling subcontractors.” (Ibid.) The Court of Appeal thus stated it would be unfair to “tag” one subcontractor with all of those costs when not all the issues involving the subcontractor’s case were integrally associated with the other issues in the case and some of the issues could have been severed and isolated. (Ibid.) Unlike in Heppler, the issues as to the City and Colony Holdings and Hakim could not have been severed and are in fact intertwined as Colony Holdings and Hakim are the real-parties-in-interest, not co-defendants. Heppler is thus distinguishable and inapplicable in this case.

      The City also asserts that Nelson v. Anderson (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 111, cited by EJC in its opposition, supports the City’s position that the costs should be apportioned. The City’s assertion is unavailing. The City asserts that the Court of Appeal in Nelson found that a court can allocate costs when it distinguishes between costs that are attributable to different parties. The City is correct that the Nelson court suggested that a trial court may be justified in disallowing costs in some circumstances. (Nelson, supra, 72 Cal.App.4th at 129-30.) However, merely suggesting that apportionment may be allowable does not support the City’s position that the costs should be apportioned in this case.

      Therefore, the motion to tax costs is DENIED.

MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES

EJC moves for an award of attorney’s fees and costs in a total amount of $459,921.20. The Court finds that the requested amount appears to have been miscalculated. EJC seeks a lodestar of $229,727.50 and a 2.0 multiplier add-on, which would mean a total amount of $459,455.00, not $459,921.20. There appears to be no support for the $466.20 difference. The Court will thus construe EJC’s request as a request for attorney’s fees in a total amount of $459,455.00.

  1. Entitlement to Attorney’s Fees

    EJC seeks attorney’s fees pursuant to CCP section 1021.5.

    Under CCP section 1021.5, “the court may award attorney fees to a ‘successful party’ in any action that ‘has resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest if: (a) a significant benefit, whether pecuniary or nonpecuniary, has been conferred on the general public or a large class of persons, (b) the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement are such as to make the award appropriate, and (c) such fees should not in the interest of justice be paid out of the recovery, if any.’” (Graham v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. (2004) 34 Cal.4th 553, 565 (quoting Maria P. v. Riles (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1281, 1288-89); CCP § 1021.5.) “[T]he fundamental objective of the doctrine is to encourage suits enforcing important public policies by providing substantial attorney fees to successful litigants in such cases.’” (Graham, supra, 34 Cal.4th at 565.)

    “A superior court may award attorney fees to (1) a successful party in any action (2) that has resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest if (3) a significant benefit has been conferred on the general public or a large class of persons, (4) private enforcement is necessary because no public entity or official pursued enforcement or litigation, (5) the financial burden of private enforcement is such as to make a fee award appropriate, and (6) in the interests of justice the fees should not be paid out of the recovery.” (Robinson v. City of Chowchilla (2011) 202 Cal.App.4th 382, 390.) “[C]ourts have interpreted section 1021.5 to require that each element be satisfied to justify an award of attorney fees.” (Id. at 390-91 (citing County of Colusa v. California Wildlife Conservation Bd. (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 637, 648).)

  1. Successful Party

    “The term ‘successful party,’ as ordinarily understood, means the party to litigation that achieves its objections.” (Graham, supra, 34 Cal.4th at 571.) The courts have taken a broad, pragmatic view of what constitutes a “successful party.” (Id. at 565.) “In determining whether a plaintiff is a successful party for purposes of section 1021.5, ‘[t]he critical fact is the impact of the action, not the manner of its resolution.’” (Id. at 566 (quoting Folsom v. Butte County Assn. of Governments (1982) 32 Cal.3d 668, 685) (alteration in original).)

    The Court finds EJC is the successful party in this action. The judgment entered on October 1, 2019 granted the writ of mandate and directed the clerk of the court to issue a peremptory writ of mandate directing the City to rescind, revoke, and invalidate all approvals issued in support of the project and refrain from taking any action to further the construction of the project, relief which was sought by EJC in this action. EJC thus achieved its objectives.

    The City argues in opposition that EJC failed to obtain a writ in this action and that any success claimed by EJC is attributable to the writ obtained by FTC in the FTC action. The City’s argument is unavailing. As discussed, the judgment granted the writ of mandate sought by EJC in this action. That a writ ultimately did not issue does not change the fact that EJC was entitled to an issuance of the writ, especially when the writ did not issue because of counsels’ agreement in light of the City having already withdrawn approval of the project. (Chennakesavan Decl., ¶ 8, Ex. G.)

    The City also argues in opposition that EJC’s sole CEQA cause of action was only partially successful and was only successful to the extent that FTC’s CEQA cause of action was successful. This argument is also unavailing. The City’s argument is premised on the Court’s decision being based on the City’s failure to properly analyze three categories of purported environmental impacts in approving the project advanced by FTC and not the four other purported environmental impacts advanced by EJC. That the Court did not address the other four categories does not mean that EJC was only partially successful on its CEQA cause of action. As pointed out by EJC, EJC fully obtained the relief they sought in this action—i.e., the invalidation of the entitlements and approvals issued by the City.

  2. Important Right Affecting the Public Interest

    “[B]oth constitutional and statutory rights are capable of qualifying as ‘important’ for purposes of section 1021.5, but not all statutory rights are important.” (Robinson, supra, 202 Cal.App.4th at 393 (discussing Woodland Hills Residents Assn., Inc. v. City Council (1979) 23 Cal.3d 917, 935).) “‘[I]mportant rights’ are not necessarily confined to any one subject or field.” (Woodland Hills Residents Assn., supra, 23 Cal.3d at 935.) “[T]he private attorney doctrine may find proper application in litigation involving, for example, racial discrimination, the rights of mental patients, legislative reapportionment, and . . . environmental protection.” (Id. at 935-36.) “[S]ection 1021.5 ‘directs the judiciary to exercise judgment in attempting to ascertain the ‘strength’ or ‘societal importance’ of the rights involved.’” (Robinson, supra, 202 Cal.App.4th at 393 (quoting Woodland Hills Residents Assn., supra, 23 Cal.3d at 935).) “The strength or societal importance of a particular right generally is determined by realistically assessing the significance of that right in terms of its relationship to the achievement of fundamental legislative goals.” (Id. at 393-94.)

    This is an action compelling the City’s compliance with CEQA. Courts have specifically found that “the effectuation of the strong state policy expressed in CEQA was an ‘important right’ within the meaning of section 1021.5.” (Schwartz v. City of Rosemead (1984) 155 Cal.App.3d 547, 558.) The City does not argue otherwise.

  3. Significant Benefit to the General Public or Large Class of Persons

    “[T]he ‘significant benefit’ that will justify an attorney fee award need not represent a ‘tangible’ asset or a ‘concrete’ gain but, in some cases, may be recognized simply from the effectuation of a fundamental constitutional or statutory policy.” (Woodland Hills Residents Assn., supra, 23 Cal.3d at 939.) Courts have found a significant benefit in CEQA actions where the action “‘secured the opportunity for a large number of fellow residents and affected property owners to voice their concerns and objections,’ and ‘permitted a large class of persons to contribute their input towards the City’s ultimate decision.’” (Bowman v. City of Berkeley (2005) 131 Cal.App.4th 173, 180-81 (quoting Schwartz v. City of Rosemead (1984) 155 Cal.App.3d 547, 558).)

    Here, EJC’s action resulted in a revocation of the approvals for the project and ensures compliance with CEQA. This thus benefits the residents living in the area where the project was to be built and allows them an opportunity to voice any concerns should future approval be sought for the project. EJC’s action has thus conferred a significant benefit.

    The City argues in opposition that EJC did not confer a significant benefit on the public because no writ issued in this action and thus this action had no impact on the City’s revocation of its approval of the project. The City’s argument is unavailing. As discussed, judgment was entered in this action granting the writ sought by EJC. That one did not issue does not mean EJC’s action did not confer a significant benefit, especially when EJC litigated this action along with FTC in the joint trial.

  4. Necessity of Private Enforcement

    “[T]he necessity of private enforcement require[s] courts to consider only one fact—the availability of public enforcement.” (Robinson, supra, 202 Cal.App.4th at 401 (discussing Conservatorship of Whitley (2010) 50 Cal.4th 1206, 1217).)

    Given that the City is the governmental agency responsible for conducting environmental studies in compliance with CEQA prior to issuing approvals for projects, the Court finds that private enforcement was the only method of ensuring the City’s compliance with CEQA. (See Woodland Hills Residents Assn., supra, 23 Cal.3d at 941 (“Inasmuch as the present action proceeded against the only governmental agencies that bear responsibility for the subdivision approval process, the necessity of private, as compared to public, enforcement becomes clear.”).)

  5. Financial Burden of Private Enforcement

    “‘An award on the ‘private attorney general’ theory is appropriate when the cost of the claimant’s legal victory transcends his personal interest, that is, when the necessity for pursuing the lawsuit placed a burden on the plaintiff ‘out of proportion to his individual stake in the matter.’ [Citation.]’” (Conservatorship of Whitley, supra, 50 Cal.4th at 1215 (quoting Woodland Hills Residents Assn., supra, 23 Cal.3d at 941).) “‘This requirement focuses on the financial burdens and incentives involved in bringing the lawsuit.’” (Ibid. (quoting Press v. Lucky Stores, Inc. (1983) 34 Cal.3d 311, 321).) “[A] strong nonfinancial motivation does not change or alleviate the ‘financial burden’ that a litigant bears.” (Id. at 1217.) “Only offsetting pecuniary gains can do that.” (Ibid.)

    Here, EJC sought no monetary damages and thus had no financial interest in this action. The Court thus finds that EJC’s necessity for pursuing this case to ensure the City complied with CEQA placed a burden on EJC that is out of proportion to their individual stake in this case.

  6. Interest of Justice Not to Pay Fees Out of Recovery

    Given that EJC recovered no monetary damages, there is no recovery from which fees can be paid in this action.

    Based on the foregoing, the Court finds attorney’s fees pursuant to CCP section 1021.5 are warranted in this case.

  1. Reasonableness of Fees

    1. Damian Martinez

      EJC seeks to recover $39,267.50 for work completed by Damian Martinez. This represents 56.5 hours at an hourly rate of $625.00.

      In opposition, the City argues EJC should recover nothing for the time spent by Martinez in this matter as Martinez’s hourly rate is unreasonable and there is a lack of evidence showing Martinez contributed anything of value to this litigation.

      The Court finds Martinez’s reasonable hourly rate is $600. That Martinez does not appear to have CEQA and land use law experience does not change the fact that he has significant legal experience. Attorneys regularly learn new areas of law when practicing and the lack of experience in a specific area of law does not warrant a discounted hourly rate.

      The Court finds that the reasonable hours spent on this matter by Martinez is 48 hours. EJC is awarded attorney’s fees in the amount of $30,000.00 for work completed by Martinez.

    2. Gina Gi

      EJC seeks to recover $41,850.00 for work completed by Gina Gi. This represents 83.7 hours at an hourly rate of $500.00.

      The City argues in opposition that Gi’s hourly rate is unreasonable and should be discounted by 50% given her lack of experience in land use and CEQA and lack of supervision by an attorney with land use and CEQA experience.

      The Court finds Gi’s reasonable hourly rate to be $475. As discussed previously, the lack of experience in a specific area of law does not warrant a discounted hourly rate. As pointed out by EJC in the reply, Gi has at least nine years of experience.

      The City also argues that the 18.5 hours Gi spent conducting basic legal research, 14.5 hours spent preparing the memorandum on potential CEQA violations, and 26.4 hours spent drafting the petition are unreasonable. The Court agrees. Someone with greater experience in experience in land use and CEQA could have accomplished this task sooner.

      The City argues that the 7.9 hours spent doing clerical work consisting of creating a chronological outline of the history of the project and traveling to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office in Norwalk to see if the Notice of Determination for the Project had been posted on two occasions should be discounted. The Court agrees. This is work that could have been delegated.

      The City asserts that the 2.9 hours billed for attending a City Council hearing is unreasonable as there are no indications Gi did anything beyond listening to the hearing. The Court disagrees and finds this to be reasonable as attending the hearing to be fully informed about the decisions with respect to the project is part of the litigation process.

      The Court finds that the reasonable hours spent on this matter by GI is 60 hours.

      Thus, EJC is awarded attorney’s fees in the amount of $28,500.00 for work completed by Gi.

    3. Danica Lam

      EJC seeks to recover $113,410.00 for work completed by Danica Lam. This amount represents 206.2 hours at $550.00 per hour.

      The Court finds Gi’s reasonable hourly rate to be $525. As discussed previously, the lack of experience in a specific area of law does not warrant a discounted hourly rate.

      The City argues the 17.3 hours Lam spent conducting basic legal research and drafting memorandum is duplicative of the work done by Gi and thus should be completely discounted. The City also challenges 5.2 hours billed for clerical tasks and other work that the City asserts should not have been billed. The City also challenges the 40.3 hours spent drafting the opening brief and related tasks and the various 0.1 and 0.2 entries for drafting and reviewing emails and court notices. The Court finds that someone with greater experience in experience in land use and CEQA could have accomplished these tasks sooner and that some of the tasks should have been delegated.

      The Court finds that the reasonable hours spent on this matter by Lam is 180 hours.

      EJC is awarded attorney’s fees in the amount of $94,500.00 for work completed by Lam.

    4. Prashanth Chennakesavan

      EJC seeks recovery of $28,105.00 for work completed by Prashanth Chennakesavan. This represents 51.1 hours at $550.00 per hour.

      The Court finds Gi’s reasonable hourly rate to be $525. To the extent the City advances the same argument with respect to Chennakesavan’s hourly rate as with the hourly rates of Martinez, Gi, and Lam, the argument fails for the aforementioned reasons.

      The City argues that the first 25.2 hours billed by Chennakesavan should be completely discounted as it is duplicative of Lam’s work. The Court finds that some of Chennakesavan’s hours are duplicative and that that someone with greater experience in experience in land use and CEQA could have accomplished these tasks sooner.

      The Court finds that the reasonable hours spent on this matter by Chennakesavan is 35 hours.

      EJC is awarded attorney’s fees in the amount of $18,375.00 for work completed by Chennakesavan..

    5. Paralegals and Clerks

      EJC seeks an amount of $7,095.00 for work completed by various paralegals and clerks. This represents 47.3 hours at an hourly rate of $150.00.

      The City argues EJC should recover nothing for the 47.3 hours spent by the paralegals and clerks as EJC has failed to submit evidence with respect to the qualifications of these paralegals and clerk to show that the requested hourly rate of $150.00 is reasonable. The City’s argument is well-taken. Although $150.00 would generally be a reasonable rate for a paralegal, the Court cannot make a definitive determination without knowing the qualifications of the paralegals. The Court also notes that $150.00 per hour is generally unreasonable for clerks. As EJC has failed to set forth the qualifications of the paralegals and clerks and failed to even properly separate the paralegal’s billing from the clerk’s, EJC has failed to justify the reasonableness of these fees. Therefore, the Court will not award these fees.

    6. Out-of-Pocket Costs

      EJC seeks costs in the amount of $3,837.36 in addition to the requested attorney’s fees.

      It is unclear what these requested costs consist of. However, as pointed out by the City, this amount appears to represent the amount set forth in the memorandum of costs. Given that the City’s motion to strike or tax costs is denied, the Court finds EJC is entitled to its requested costs.

  2. Multiplier

    EJC requests a lodestar multiplier of 2.0 on the grounds that counsel’s compensation was entirely contingent and is long-delayed.

    Relevant factors to determine whether an enhancement is appropriate include (1) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, (2) the skill displayed in presenting them, (3) the extent to which the nature of the litigation precluded other employment by the attorneys, (4) the contingent nature of the fee award. (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1132.) “The purpose of a fee enhancement, or so-called multiplier, for contingent risk is to bring the financial incentives for attorneys enforcing important constitutional rights . . . into line with incentives they have to undertake claims for which they are paid on a fee-for-services basis.” (Ibid.)

    Based on the record, the Court finds that no multiplier is warranted in this case. This case did not present any novel or difficult issues. Additionally, there is no evidence that EJC’s counsel was precluded from taking other cases.

    CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, Respondent’s Motion to Strike Costs is DENIED. Respondent’s alternative Motion to Tax Costs is DENIED.

Petitioner’s Motion for an Award of Attorneys’ Fees is GRANTED.

Petitioner is awarded attorneys’ fees in the amount of $171,375.00 and costs in the amount of $3,837.36.


[1] The City’s notice and memorandum of points and authorities seek to tax costs in the amount of $2,855.76 for the service of process on Colony Holdings and Hakim. However, a review of the memorandum of costs shows that the total cost of serving Colony Holdings and Hakim is $2,855.56, not $2,855.76.

Case Number: BS162453    Hearing Date: December 11, 2019    Dept: 32

Environmental justice collaborative,

Petitioner,

v.

city of los angeles, et al.,

Respondents.

Case No.: BS162453

Hearing Date: December 11, 2019

[TENTATIVE] order RE:

motion to set aside judgment entered on October 1, 2019

BACKGROUND

A. FTC Case

On April 18, 2016, Petitioner Fix the City, Inc. (“FTC”) commenced this proceeding against Respondents City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles City Council (collectively “City”) by filing a Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief (“FTC Case”). FTC brought the action to set aside the City’s approval of a 27-story mixed use project located in the middle of a residential block in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles (“Project”). FTC contended, among other things, that the Project violated the City’s zoning ordinances, the City’s General Plan, and CEQA.

B. EJC Case

On May 6, 2016, Petitioners Environmental Justice Collaborative and Friends of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (collectively “EJC”) filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Injunctive Relief against the City (case no. BS162453) (“EJC Case”). EJC sought to set aside the City’s approval of the Project based on violations of CEQA.

C. Trial and Judgment

On July 28, 2016, the Court related the FTC Case and the EJC Case. The cases were not consolidated, and the cases remained separate proceedings. The City did not request consolidation.

On March 28, 2018, the Court issued one ruling granting both petitions for writ of mandate. The Court found that a fair argument existed that the Project may have a significant environmental impact and that the City was thus required to prepare an Environmental Impact Report.

On June 18, 2018, judgment was entered in the FTC Case. The three-page judgment in the FTC Case does not mention the EJC Case or Plaintiffs’ counsel in the EJC Case. The judgment states “Petitioner and Plaintiff shall be awarded costs as against Respondents and Defendants the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles City Council.” The judgment in the FTC Case was served on the City and, on June 18, 2018, a writ of mandate was issued directing the City to rescind its Project approvals and the Mitigated Negative Declaration. On August 2, 2018, in the FTC Case and, also separately in the EJC Case, the City filed a return to the writ indicating compliance therewith.

On October 1, 2019, judgment was entered in the EJC Case.

LEGAL STANDARD

“The court may, upon motion of the injured party, or its own motion, correct clerical mistakes in its judgment or orders as entered, so as to conform to the judgment or order directed, and may, on motion of either party after notice to the other party, set aside any void judgment or order.” (CCP § 473(d).)

DISCUSSION

The City moves pursuant to CCP section 473(d) for an order setting aside the Court’s October 1, 2019 judgment. The City argues that the aforesaid judgment is without effect and therefore moot because the judgment entered in the FTC Case was the final determination of the rights of the parties in both actions.

In the FTC Case, the City recently brought a motion to correct a clerical error based on the same theory — that the judgment in the FTC Case served as a judgment in both the EJC and FTC Cases. The Court denied this motion for several reasons, most prominently because cases consolidated for trial purposes only require that separate judgments be issued in each case. (Stubblefield Construction Co. v. City of San Bernardino (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 687, 701; McClure v. Donovan (1949) 33 Cal.2d 717, 722; Sanchez v. Superior Court (1988) 203 Cal.App.3d 1391, 1396; McFarland v. Booker (1967) 250 Cal.App.2d 402, 416; Wegner, et al., Cal. Practice Guide: Civil Trials and Evidence (The Rutter Group 2019) ¶ 4:432.23; 4 Witkin, Cal. Procedure (5th ed. 2008) Pleading, § 347; 1A Cal. Jur.3d (2019) Actions, § 179.)

For the same reasons articulated in that ruling, the instant motion is without merit.

The City’s motion to vacate the October 1, 2019 judgment is DENIED.