Marina City Club residents claim that developers' attorneys have been improperly allowed to help the county in its legal defense of a plan to sell 81-year leases on 600 luxury apartments.
In statements filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court as part of a lawsuit filed Oct. 21 against the county, the Marina City Club Residents Assn. claims that "county counsel has brazenly teamed up as co-counsel with the private law firm of Latham & Watkins" in defending the sale of long-term leases at Marina City Club. A hearing is scheduled at 9 a.m. Friday.
Latham & Watkins is a Los Angeles law firm representing Marina del Rey Properties (MDP) Ltd., the development company that holds the master lease for Marina City Club.
Robert W. Rodolf, deputy county counsel, Tuesday denied allegations of wrongdoing by the county's legal department.
He said it is appropriate for the development company and its attorneys to be involved in the case because "these people (the developers) have a much more substantial interest than the tenants have."
Bruce Lederman of Latham & Watkins said that because the developer and the county have a contract approved by the Board of Supervisors, it would have been "unusual (for us) not to cooperate" in the county's defense against the tenants' lawsuit.
He said that Latham & Watkins will file papers in court within the next few days asking to intervene officially in the lawsuit.
In court statements, residents said Latham & Watkins should not be used by the county because of "its direct and substantial conflict with the public interest" in representing the developer in the $150-million transaction.
"County counsel has lost its legal and moral compass and has wrongfully invited this private law firm to perform its legal work for it despite the fact that this private firm is not attorney of record for the county . . ." residents said in filings by their attorney, Robert J. Steele.
They also claimed that Latham & Watkins "is not qualified to represent the county due to its continuing representation of the private developer in this matter."
Residents on Friday will ask for a court order challenging the county's request for five days of testimony from residents next week in the offices of Latham & Watkins. The depositions were scheduled without consulting residents' schedules, they said.
They also objected to giving testimony at the Latham & Watkins offices, which they said would be "oppressive" to residents.
Rodolf said the testimony was scheduled Nov. 10 to 14 to give the county time to prepare for a Dec. 2 hearing on the tenants' lawsuit. He said it is "not unusual" to schedule depositions at locations other than the county offices.
The tenants' lawsuit seeks to overturn the Board of Supervisors' Oct. 7 decision approving the sale of leases at Marina City Club. The plan would give the county an estimated $1.4 billion in revenues over the duration of the leases.
On Nov. 19, the county Small Craft Harbor Commission is scheduled to discuss proposed lease prices and a planned reassignment of the master lease from MDP to J. H. Snyder Co. The supervisors will discuss the commission's recommendation on Nov. 25.
The proposed prices range from $85,000 for a single unit to $725,000 for a four-bedroom penthouse.