Calabasas cityhood supporters said they will go to court today to try to overturn a surprise temporary restraining order that has indefinitely postponed their incorporation effort.
Leaders said they will seek to quash the order, issued Friday at the request of a Calabasas developer's friend, because they were not told that there would be a court hearing.
Plaintiff Rita N. Humphry of Whittier, who described herself as a friend of developer Jim Baldwin, vowed to actively pursue the suit.
Baldwin is purchasing 1,300 acres in the center of the proposed 11-square-mile city and has unsuccessfully sought to have that land excluded from its boundaries.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Miriam Vogel's restraining order delayed a crucial final review of the proposed incorporation. The review had been scheduled for Wednesday before Los Angeles County's Local Agency Formation Commission.
Vogel ordered a second hearing to be held Feb. 24 to determine whether grounds exist to challenge the constitutionality of a new state wild-lands protection law that Calabasas cityhood backers have counted on to help make their proposed city financially viable.
Officials in Los Angeles County, which stands to lose $675,800 if Calabasas becomes a city, have charged that the law's implementation would be an illegal "gift of public funds" to Calabasas residents.
They have predicted that the proposed city would end up $1.3 million in the red after its first year of operation if it has to pay for fire protection for its brushlands.
Humphry said she is angry that taxpayers throughout the county would have to foot that bill if Calabasas residents are excused from paying it.
"It should be illegal that me, as a taxpayer, is paying for Calabasas," she said. "If these cities are interested in incorporation, they should pay their own way."
Humphry said she decided to file suit after Baldwin mentioned the fire-protection issue at a party. She said she has bought two homes from him.
However, cityhood leaders and state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia), who wrote the wild-lands bill last year, angrily denounced Humphry on Monday as a "front" for Baldwin.
Cityhood committee president Robert Hill charged that Baldwin had been meeting with him and other committee members Friday afternoon and talking of negotiating the two sides' differences while Baldwin's lawyer was in court arguing for Humphry's temporary restraining order.
"We were having lunch with Baldwin, and he was talking about getting back in touch with us Sunday," Hill said. "He called us back this morning. He didn't deny he was behind it. . . . He said it was just a coincidence of timing. I believe that like I believe my father's my mother."
Baldwin was unavailable for comment Monday afternoon.
He was also criticized by Davis, who said the timing "shows the true nature of the developer. He obviously has absolutely no consideration for the people in that community."
Incorporation backers said Monday that they still hope the LAFCO hearing will be held Wednesday so they can argue that their city would be financially viable and that the commission should allow a June election on the issue for the area's 18,561 residents.
Monday afternoon, LAFCO officials still considered the hearing canceled, however.
Hill said his group hopes to win standing today before Vogel as "an interested party" to the lawsuit so it can ask that the restraining order be set aside.
"We hope to counteract it before the hearing," Hill said. "We're not listed as a party to the filing. That makes it tough for us to get involved in the process."