Entertainment mogul makes second attempt to restrict neighbor’s home construction

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The city attorney says new lawsuit would be an “exercise in stupidity.”

By Jonathan Friedman/ Assistant Editor

Music and film producer Lou Adler is headed back to court on July 28 with a new lawsuit in his attempt to get a permit revoked for the construction of a home owned by Bill Chadwick on a parcel located next to Adler’s Carbon Beach property.

Adler’s suit alleges that the City Council allowed Chadwick to violate the law when it voted against revoking his permit in November. The council decision came after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe ruled in September that the permit, which was originally approved in 2001, violated the city’s stringline requirement, a law that has since been adjusted to prevent the building-out of beach front homes beyond the line of adjacent homes. But Yaffe did not invalidate the permit, choosing instead to force the council to reject Chadwick’s permit or allow him to keep a permit that was incorrectly issued.

“The law is that it’s only in a truly extraordinary case that the courts are going to allow somebody to build a project that violates the law,” said Edward Burg, Adler’s attorney. “This is not one of those cases.”

Burg said the council did not provide sufficient evidence for why it voted not to revoke the permit. Therefore, he said, it went against Yaffe’s ruling, which instructed the council to make an evidence-based decision.

City Attorney Christi Hogin said the council had a good reason for its decision. She said because the stringline requirement has since changed, if the council were to have revoked the permit, Chadwick would have sought a new one and received a permit designating the same setback.

“It would just be an exercise in stupidity,” said Hogin, who further stated that Adler’s suit is a rehashing of his argument in the previous suit.

Burg said Hogin’s vision of what would happen if Adler were to win the suit was inaccurate. He said if Chadwick were to reapply for a permit, he would still have to follow the laws of 2001, when he received the original permit.

“I’m consistently impressed with the city’s creativity that somehow every part of this project is to be determined and be in compliance with the law as it existed in August 2001, with the sole exception of the setback to the beach,” Burg said.

Burg added that a permit revocation would not mean that Chadwick would have to tear down the entire home, which is under construction, but rather the setback would just have to be adjusted.

This property dispute stretches back to August 2001, when Pepperdine University owned Chadwick’s property. Then Planning Director Barry Hogan approved the design in the form of a Plot Plan Review Determination. Adler was never noticed about the decision to give him a chance to appeal it.

In September 2002, the California Coastal Commission granted a coastal development permit for the project. Adler requested the permit be revoked, but the Coastal Commission rejected the request in January 2003. The project then received its final city permits in September of that year.

Adler went before the Planning Commission in December 2003 to request an appeal during the public comment portion of a meeting. The commission is allowed to listen to comments during the public comment portion of a meeting but cannot take action on an item if it is not on the agenda. However, the commissioners asked several clarifying questions about the item and eventually voted to hear the appeal on a future agenda.

Several days later, City Attorney Hogin publicly accused the commission of having violated the Brown Act, a law that regulates government open-meeting rules. Later that month, Councilmember Sharon Barovsky (at the time the mayor pro tem) and Mayor Andy Stern (at the time a councilmember) fired their respective appointed commissioners, Deirdre Roney and Robert Adler, because they said the commissioners had violated the Brown Act by discussing and taking action on an item not on the agenda and for allegedly discussing the item prior to the commission meeting. Commissioner Richard Carrigan resigned in protest.

Roney, Adler and Carrigan said the firings had little to do with an alleged Brown Act violation, but rather were a response to Roney and Adler’s publicly neutral stance on Measure M, the failed Malibu Bay Co. Development Agreement that the council heavily backed. Barovsky and Stern denied the accusation.

Adler later filed his first suit against the city.