Attorney’s fees could not be recovered in a CEQA action in which plaintiff obtained an initial stay of the project but the applicant later had the project approvals rescinded, citing inability to afford to litigate the case. Canyon Crest Conservancy v. County of Los Angeles, No. B290379 (2nd Dist., March 12, 2020).

Doron Kuhn sought to build a single-family residence on an undeveloped lot in Los Angeles County.  Because the property was located on a steep hillside and construction would require removal of a protected coastal oak tree, Kuhn obtained a minor conditional use permit and an oak tree permit from the county. Plaintiff, Canyon Crest Conservancy, an organization formed by two of Kuhn’s neighbors, challenged the approvals alleging violations of CEQA.

After the trial court issued a stay of the permit approvals to preserve the status quo, Kuhn (who had been self-represented throughout the litigation) asked the County to vacate the permit approvals, stating he could not afford to continue the litigation. The County complied and plaintiff dismissed the case. Plaintiff then filed a motion for attorney fees under the private attorney general doctrine, Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that plaintiff failed to establish any of the requirements for a right to fees under the statute.

To obtain fees under section 1021.5, the moving party must establish that the action resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest and that the action conferred a significant benefit on the public or a large class of persons.
Continue Reading Fees Under Private Attorney General Doctrine Denied Where CEQA Lawsuit Neither Enforced Important Rights Nor Conferred Significant Public Benefits

A plaintiff challenging a city council’s interpretation of a local ballot measure was entitled to recover costs and attorney fees when successful on only one cause of action because the primary relief sought was granted. Friends of Spring Street v. Nevada City, 33 Cal.App.5th 1092 (2019).

In 1991, the Kendalls received a Conditional Use Permit

A project sponsor can successfully defend an action brought to challenge a permit for its project, and satisfy the standards in Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 for an award of attorneys’ fees, but still have its fee claim rejected, if the court concludes the aim of the lawsuit was to protect, rather than curtail,