MTC Attorney Says Council Declines Tolling of Trancas Park Legal Action
• City of Malibu Says Suit Is Untimely in Spite of Statute of Limitations
BY ANNE SOBLE
BY ANNE SOBLE
The attorney representing the Malibu Township Council in a lawsuit filed last month that seeks to overturn the city council’s approval of Trancas Canyon Park, has learned that the Malibu City Council turned down an MTC offer to toll the litigation for 90 days in closed session this week.
As it was going to press, the Malibu Surfside News learned that the MTC’s counsel, longtime local attorney Frank Angel, was informed of the council’s action in a voicemail from Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin.
The civic organization had offered to toll, or stop the clock, on its legal action while a city-hosted workshop took place that may or may not lead to any substantive changes in the controversial park plans when they go before the city council again on May 26.
The MTC indicated it had to file when it did because the law under which legal action can be taken against the project, the California Environmental Quality Act, has a statute of limitations. Any legal challenge of the park plans originally approved by the city council on March 9 that were noticed on March 24 would have expired. The MTC action was filed April 23. Tolling is a way to preserve rights despite statutory deadlines.
Angel said what he finds most puzzling is that Hogin’s latest message is similar to public comments she made when the suit was filed. He said she indicated “the lawsuit was not timely,” which he said is comparable to saying, “You should forfeit your rights [to sue].”
Angel added that Hogin, who had earlier alerted The News that word of council action had been transmitted to the MTC attorney, also said park critics should have waited to see what the council does on May 26, but Angel countered, “If they did, then it would be too late to do anything about it.”
Angel said the city has a 60-day deadline from the date of service to prepare an administrative record and proceed with the case. Since the city was not willing to stop the clock, the burden is now on it to respond to why it should not rescind the permits it granted itself and decertify the Environmental Impact Report for the project, according to CEQA requirements.
MTC’s legal brief argues that the city certified a Trancas Canyon Park EIR that was incomplete, and failed to prepare and circulate a revised draft EIR “despite the addition to the final EIR of significant new information after circulation of the draft EIR,, but prior to the certification of the final EIR.”
Angel said not addressing or considering this new information in the draft EIR means the public was deprived of a “meaningful opportunity to know of and thus offer comments on substantial adverse environmental effects.”
Another reason Angel said he is puzzled by the council’s refusal to agree to a standstill is the city’s acute financial state. “If a plan is approved that is acceptable to all parties, Malibu will have expended unnecessary funds on litigation.”
The MTC showed good faith, he said, and he is concerned that the council action might mean it intends to ignore the park’s critics.