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The 4th District Court of Appeal last week reversed an Orange County Superior Court ruling that had put a stop to the construction of One Broadway Plaza, a 37-story office tower in Santa Ana that voters approved in 2005.

In July, Superior Court Judge Derek Hunt ruled in favor of community activists who had sued to stop the construction on the grounds that Mike Harrah, the project’s developer, had not fulfilled a requirement that he pre-lease 50 percent of the building before it could be built.

The activist group, which calls itself the Coalition for Accountable Government Ethics, sued last year after the Santa Ana City Council removed the pre-lease condition from the city’s development agreement with Harrah. The activists argued that since the tower was approved in a referendum, changes to the development agreement must also go to a citywide vote.

Hunt’s ruling called for the new referendum.

In its 3-0 decision, the appellate court agreed with the city’s contention that residents were voting only to approve a zoning ordinance, not the development agreement.

“They [appellate court justices] found that the referendum did not involve the provision for the building being 50 percent pre-leased before they [Harrah] could start construction,” said interim City Attorney Joe Straka.

The ruling means that Harrah has cleared the legal hurdles that for several years prevented him from building the tower. Harrah couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

It is unclear what, if any, steps the activists will take to continue fighting development of the tower. They plan to meet with their attorney, Dan Wilidish, on Wednesday to discuss the appellate court ruling.

“If he [Wildish] thinks there is a defect in their thinking, then we may decide to exercise an option to appeal,” said coalition member Jeff Dickman.

— ADAM ELMAHREK

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