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CALABASAS : Ruling Favors City in Suit Over Legal Fees

January 24, 1995|FRANK MANNING

The city of Calabasas has won a minor skirmish in its legal war with Ahmanson Land Co. to prevent the developer from building a controversial mini-city in the Simi Hills.

A judge has ruled that the city does not have to pay Ahmanson's legal fees in a suit that challenged the city's decision to deny the developer's application to revamp Thousand Oaks Boulevard to make way for the project.

"I'm sure a lot of taxpayers are going to be happy in Calabasas," said Steve Quintanilla, an attorney for the city.

Ahmanson Land Co. wants to widen the road and extend it to the Ventura County line. The road would be a major artery to its development.

The developer wants to build 3,050 homes, two golf courses and 400,000 square feet of commercial space in a hilly area southeast of Simi Valley near the border of Los Angeles. The project has met fierce resistance from area residents, who say it would disrupt their neighborhoods.

In another suit, Calabasas has sued Ventura County and the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, which approved the project, for granting Ahmanson Land Co. a three-year extension to purchase 10,000 acres of land to be preserved as open space. Last October, Ahmanson Land Co. struck back in court, suing Calabasas to block its tentative plan to annex Mountain Gate, a gated community near the planned mini city.

Under the state code, plaintiffs are entitled to recover up to $7,500 in legal fees if they prevail in lawsuits challenging administrative decisions by public entities, Quintanilla said.

Ahmanson Land Co. claims it spent more than $31,500 on legal fees in the Thousand Oaks Boulevard case to the law firm of McClintock, Weston, Benshoof, Rochefort, Rubalcava & MacCuish, Quintanilla said.

In that case, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dianne Wayne ruled in favor of Ahmanson, and the city has appealed. Ahmanson sought to be reimbursed for its legal fees, but Wayne ruled that Ahmanson failed to show evidence to support its claims.

Meanwhile, in a related matter, the city is processing Ahmanson Land Co.'s application to extend Las Virgenes Road 15 feet to the Ventura County line, according to city officials. It is the second time the developer has had to apply for permits to extend the road. The city ruled that the company's first application was incomplete.

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