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City Settles 415 PCH Case

By Jorge Casuso

September 18 -- The City Council voted to settle three lawsuits last week, paving the way for a public beach club, setting to rest a longstanding fight over a nightclub on the pier and recouping attorneys' fees in the Farmers’ Market case.

The most significant of the settlements removes a legal roadblock that threatened to delay construction of a beach club at what is left of the old Marion Davies estate at 415 PCH bankrolled with nearly $30 million from the Annenberg Foundation.

The settlement -- which requires separate agreements with the foundation and the California Department of Parks and Recreation -- sets forth conditions relating to operating hours, security, lighting, parking and noise. It also calls for the City to continue to lobby Caltrans to install a stoplight at the beach club entrance on PCH.

The City would include the conditions, which would apply for ten years and, in some cases, seven and a half years, as part of the project description to be reviewed by the California Coastal Commission.

“At the end of the day what it comes to is trust,” said Mayor Bob Holbrook. “We’d rather have a good relationship, instead of an adversarial one. Why have animosities. I think we came up with a better project.”

Under the agreement, the plaintiffs would agree not to sue the City and release it “from all liability connected with the project,” said City Attorney Marsha Moutrie.

The Palisades Beach Property Owners Association and resident Jonathan G. Ornstein, who jointly filed the suit, hailed the settlement.

"I am delighted the citizens of Santa Monica are now assured the new beach club will be operated with the public safety issues resolved for years to come," said Ornstein, a member of the association. "The lawsuit was never about denying access to the wide open public beach or preventing construction of the beach club."

The lawsuit charged that the environmental impact report (EIR) for the project does not adequately address traffic and parking problems. The suit also claimed that the project would violate Proposition S, which limits the development of restaurants or food service facilities along the coast.

The lawsuit’s claim that the City's plan to raze a 58-year-old locker building at the site would violate rules for properties listed in the California Register of Historical Resources was rendered moot when the State Historic Resources Commission last month unanimously approved the City's request to de-list the structure.

In other actions in closed session Tuesday, the City Council voted to settle a suit with local developer Russell Barnard, who said the City’s bureaucracy killed his plans to develop a nightclub on the pier.

The City -- which prevailed in court -- waived its costs and dismissed its cross appeal, in exchange for Barnard dismissing his appeal. The City will receive $175,000 in reimbursement in fees from insurances.

In a final settlement, the City authorized a settlement in the case of Supino v. the City of Santa Monica, involving legal representation of the Bayside Board related to the Farmer’s Market litigation.

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