The California Supreme Court on Friday refused to hear arguments from Soka University, dealing the school yet another setback as it fights to prevent the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy from condemning its scenic Calabasas campus.
Without commenting on the case, justices declined to consider Soka's challenge of a 2nd District Court of Appeal ruling in which the conservancy was permitted to proceed with eminent domain proceedings against the school.
Soka spokesman Jeff Ourvan said the school is considering whether to appeal yet again--this time to the U.S. Supreme Court. "We believe our constitutional rights have been denied," Ourvan said.
But conservancy staff counsel Liz Cheadle was dubious, saying: "I have no idea how they are going to make a federal claim out of this."
Soka attorney Hodge Dolle said the school could take issue with the amount of time the case has spent in legal limbo. Formally launched in December, 1992, the condemnation proceedings have been on hold in Los Angeles County Superior Court as both sides slog it out in appeals.
The case stems from a fight between the school and some of its neighbors. Soka wants to expand its campus at the corner of Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road into a liberal arts college, but state and federal parks officials want the land to be a visitors center for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Soka administrators have offered to share the site with park officials but have rejected offers to sell the property outright. So late in 1992, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority--a subsidiary of the conservancy--launched condemnation proceedings to seize 245 acres through eminent domain.
Soka sued to stop the conservancy.
Because the conservation authority has a joint powers agreement with park agencies in Ventura County, conservancy officials sought approval from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to launch condemnation proceedings, even though Soka's property is entirely within Los Angeles County.
Soka lawyers argued that Ventura County officials overstepped their bounds and they sought to have the approval overturned. A Ventura County judge agreed and the conservancy appealed.
But at the appeal court level, justices earlier this year sided with the conservancy and told Soka lawyers that the proper forum in which to raise their objections would be during condemnation proceedings in Los Angeles County, when a judge will decide whether the conservancy has the right to take Soka's land.