LOS ANGELES — The owners of Los Alamitos Golf Course, angered over their inability to turn 160 acres of open space into a business complex, filed a $125-million federal lawsuit Tuesday against the City of Cypress.
The suit says the city has violated the developer's civil rights by first approving and then rescinding a zoning change that would have permitted a development called Cypress Plaza.
The controversy centers on property northwest of Katella Avenue. The golf course was closed in January, 1987, despite protests by the Los Alamitos Men's Golf Club, which has been heavily involved in opposing Hollywood Park Realty Enterprises Inc.'s proposed development of the site, according to the suit.
The dispute over development of the golf course prompted a petition drive that resulted in an initiative designated Measure D on next Tuesday's ballot. If it passes, the "Greenbelt and Open Spaces Initiative" would require a public vote on any proposal to change the zoning on land currently designated for public or semi-public use.
Cypress Mayor John Kanel called the suit filed by Hollywood Park Realty "a scare tactic" and a "publicity ploy" because it was filed just a week before the election.
But Neil Papiano, the Los Angeles attorney representing Hollywood Park Realty, said: "This is not a campaign ploy. . . . We have always intended to do it (file the suit)."
Papiano said the suit was filed in federal court because the U.S. Supreme Court recently issued two rulings reaffirming private property rights. "The city has the right to make it a golf course; they just have to pay for it," he said.
Papiano said the owner is losing about $1 million a month because it cannot proceed with its development plans. Hollywood Park Realty is seeking $125 million in damages from the city, based on what a buyer recently offered for the full 300 acres, Papiano said.
The company also has challenged the legality of Measure D in a separate lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court. A hearing on that case is scheduled for Nov. 23, Papiano said.
Hollywood Park Realty purchased the 300 acres in August, 1984, with the intention of building a business park. The company says it spent more than $200,000 for an environmental impact report and other requirements necessary to obtain a zoning change from the City Council, according to the suit.
The council approved a zoning change to permit the business park in September, 1986, but rescinded that approval two months later after public outcry and the petition drive.