In a victory for residents hoping to restrict development in the Malibou Lake area of the Santa Monica Mountains, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge this week threw out most of a lawsuit challenging a county building ordinance, saying the legal action was premature.
The lawsuit filed in March against the state, Los Angeles County and the Malibou Lakeside Homeowners Assn. by Madeleine Drolet, who wants to develop her 5,600-square-foot lot near the lake, should have been filed only after the plaintiff exhausted administrative remedies, stated a ruling issued Thursday by Judge John Zebrowski.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in January lifted a ban on development near Malibou Lake and approved an ordinance requiring a rigorous planning review for most construction proposals instead. County officials touted the measure as an effort to balance the extreme fire hazard in the area with property owners' desire to build on their land.
Drolet's lawsuit stated, among other things, that she could not afford the review process, which can cost up to $4,000, her attorney, Samuel Reece, said Friday.
It was unclear whether Drolet will request a permit to build on her land, which she bought in 1990 for $100,000, Reece said.
Zebrowski also gave Drolet 20 days to clarify her claim in the suit that the homeowner group is responsible for physical damage to her property. That allegation is part of a $4.5-million claim against the homeowners.
Philip Hess, who represents the homeowners, said his clients see the decision as a confirmation of their right to lobby on behalf of building restrictions in their neighborhood.
"They felt they were named in this lawsuit as punishment for their part in opposing the development, and to scare them off from further advocacy," Hess said. "To be honest, it did scare some people."