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Suit Against Tree-Sitter Dropped

Company says it wants to focus on relocating the massive Santa Clarita Valley oak.

December 03, 2003|Richard Fausset | Times Staff Writer

A developer has dropped a civil trespassing claim against the environmental activist who spent 71 days in a Santa Clarita Valley oak tree that stood in the way of a road-widening project.

Bill Rattazzi, a regional president of John Laing Homes, said his company dropped the suit against John Quigley to focus its efforts on ensuring the tree's survival.

"John Quigley has shown a steadfast commitment to saving the tree, and while we have differing ideas on how to accomplish this, we share that same goal," Rattazzi said in a prepared statement.

The massive oak, nicknamed "Old Glory," was originally slated to be cut down, but will now be relocated a few hundred yards down Pico Canyon Road in a compromise bid with environmentalists. Quigley, who was forced out of the tree by a court order in January, maintains that moving the tree would kill it.

Still, Quigley expressed relief Tuesday that the case was dropped.

"It's definitely a victory that they dropped the suit," he said. "For me it demonstrates that you can still stand up for what you believe in and prevail."

The developer is still pursuing a related lawsuit against the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment, or SCOPE, which recruited Quigley to climb the tree in November 2002.

That suit accuses SCOPE of trespassing and libel over the group's allegations that the developer broke a 1999 promise to save the tree.

A status conference is scheduled for Thursday, and a trial is set for Dec. 10.

Last month, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John P. Shook dismissed a lawsuit SCOPE brought against Laing Homes that alleged fraud, breach of contract and unfair business practices.

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