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In January, the Beverly Hills City Council declared approximately five acres of land on Foothill Drive as “surplus,” potentially opening the tract for development. The move angered some residents who said the city acted without transparency to develop land set aside for public use. The four parcels of land are home to a dog park, vacant office building, storage yard and Public Works Department facility.
After filing a cease-and-desist letter with the city in February, claiming it had violated the Brown Act governing how legislative bodies conduct public meetings, resident and attorney Darian Bojeaux sued the city. On behalf of the unincorporated association Public Land for Public Use, Bojeaux on April 7 filed a complaint seeking an injunction to invalidate the surplus declaration and stop the city from taking steps to develop the land. On April 12, Bojeaux filed an application for a temporary restraining order, which would have imposed an injunction while the case is heard before the court.
“I was in a hurry because it was very clear their surplus land declaration was false,” Bojeaux said.
A judge denied the restraining order application, saying the surplus declaration has not caused irreparable harm, however, the lawsuit is proceeding to trial. A trial-setting hearing is scheduled for July, though the trial might not begin until up to a year after that, Bojeaux said.
According to Bojeaux’s complaint, the city had misleadingly included the matter in the agenda of the Jan. 24 City Council meeting, and the land could not be declared surplus when it is already being utilized for city services.
Beverly Hills City Attorney Laurence Wiener said that neither the complaint nor the restraining order application had any merit and added that the judge did not rule on Bojeaux’s complaint and did not uphold the restraining order. Wiener said the city is always open to a settlement, but he is “very confident” that the city would win if the case proceeded to trial.
Bojeaux said she hoped the city would resolve the issue before trial by engaging in public outreach about how to best use the land on Foothill Road. If the case were to go to trial, however, she expects to win, she said. To secure a temporary injunction, Bojeaux needs to prove that the city is causing irreparable harm, essentially meaning she would need to wait for the City Council to advance a development deal on the land before filing a new application, she said.
The City Council declared the land surplus after being approached in November by United Talent Agency, which has offices near the Foothill Road land, to discuss the possibility of leasing the land.
The Surplus Land Act, which took effect in 2020, requires the city to declare the land as surplus and send notices of availability to affordable housing developers, school districts and open space organizations, which have 60 days to send a proposal before the city can discuss sales or leases with UTA or other private entities.
Beverly Hills public information officer Lauren Santillana said the city is engaged in discussions with five developers who submitted letters of interest, but declined to comment further.
Public Land for Public Use is composed of approximately 40 residents who contributed to litigation costs, including filing fees, Bojeaux said.
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Isn’t that land also being partially leased by Beverly Hills Mercedes as storage and overflow parking?