Lawyer: Appellate Court Erred in One Broadway Ruling

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The attorney fighting construction of what would be the tallest building in Orange County declared that California’s 4th District Court of Appeal “made a mistake” in ruling last week that construction may move forward.

The 37-story tower known as One Broadway Plaza was approved by Santa Ana voters in 2005. Last year the Santa Ana City Council last year eliminated a requirement that developer Mike Harrah prelease 50 percent of the building before he could begin construction.

A group of residents known as the Coalition for Accountable Government Ethics (CAGE) sued the city on grounds that any proposed changes to the development agreement must be approved by voters.

The appellate court agreed with the city’s contention that residents voted only to approve a zoning change in the 2005 referendum, not a specific development agreement.

But despite the ruling, Dan Wildish, attorney for CAGE, hasn’t backed away from his argument. “It’s an error,” he said. “I can’t say what their thinking was.”

Wildish and the activists met Wednesday night to discuss whether to continue the battle. CAGE spokesman Jeff Dickman said before the meeting that much of the debate will come down to money.

“It’s always like this. Your costs always exceed your revenue, so you’re always chasing around the money,” Dickman said. “I think the group has not ruled out any options. Everything is on the table.”

After the meeting, Dickman refused further comment on the group’s plans. “It’s a little bit out of our control,” he said.

The main issue for the activists is whether they can afford to continue the case. Wildish said he is discussing with another Santa Ana-based group about funding an appeal, though he declined to name the group.

Wildish maintains that among other things, the city attorney’s impartial analysis states that the development agreement would go into effect only if the voters approved the zone change.

In July, Superior Court Judge Derek Hunt ruled in favor of the activists, agreeing with Wildish’s argument that voters believed they were voting on the whole project and not just the zone change.

“So the court either ignored that [city attorney’s analysis] or overlooked that. I will have to bring it to their attention,” Wildish said. He vowed that he would take the battle all the way to the California Supreme Court if necessary.

If the activists decide not to file an appeal, Harrah will have jumped the legal hurdles that for several years have frozen the tower’s development.

Harrah did not return a phone call seeking comment.

— ADAM ELMAHREK

 

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