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Orange County

Tower Builder Loses Again

Judge rejects developer Mike Harrah's second attempt to have an April 5 referendum on the 37-story Santa Ana office building canceled.

December 18, 2004|Jennifer Mena | Times Staff Writer

A developer's second attempt to invalidate signatures collected for a citywide referendum in Santa Ana on what would be Orange County's tallest building has failed.

Superior Court Judge Steven L. Perk ruled Friday against a motion filed by Mike Harrah that would have canceled the April 5 referendum on the project known as One Broadway Plaza, an $86-million, 37-story office tower at 10th Street and Broadway.

Perk will make public his explanation for the ruling Monday.

Harrah "has to realize this is going to the people and he can't stop it," said project opponent Barry Jensen. "He's done what he can to prevent the people from deciding. He may have appeals but it's likely he won't get anywhere."

In the lawsuit -- filed against the city, the county registrar of voters and the Citizens for Responsible Planning opposition group -- Harrah alleged that if voters overturned the project, that action would violate zoning laws because zoning changes cannot be made without a public hearing.

In November, Perk ruled on a separate lawsuit filed by Harrah against the same defendants. In that suit, the developer alleged that the signatures on petitions to call the referendum were collected without providing the signers with enough information. Among other things, Harrah's attorney, Michael Ramirez, argued to Perk that the words on a map shown to petition signers were too small.

Neither Harrah nor his attorney were available for comment Friday on Perk's latest ruling.

Harrah is challenging the first ruling in the state appellate court. On Friday, attorney Daniel R. Wildish, who represents residents opposed to the project, learned that the appeal has been transferred to an appellate court in San Diego. According to Wildish, the appellate court in Santa Ana said there were not the necessary three judges to hear the appeal who did not have a conflict of interest in the case.

Wildish, who is trying to recover attorney's fees for his clients from Harrah, said it is possible that Harrah will appeal the ruling Friday.

"This should go forward," Wildish said. "Let the people have their vote. It's that important."

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