Tuesday, April 26, 2005
C.A.: Neighbors Properly Denied Leave to Intervene in Geffen Dispute With Coastal Panel Over Ocean Access
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe did not abuse his discretion in rejecting a bid by Malibu neighbors of entertainment mogul David Geffen to intervene in Geffen’s dispute with the California Coastal Commission over beach access, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Justice Robert M. Mallano, writing for Div. One, conceded that Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 387, which governs intervention, “is to be liberally construed to permit” the participation of interested parties. But, citing Denham v. Superior Court (1970) 2 Cal.3d 557, Mallano said permitting intervention “remains a matter of judicial discretion,” and that abuse may be found only if a trial judge “exceeds the bounds of reason, all of the circumstances before it being considered.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven Suzakawa, sitting on assignment, concurred. But Justice Miram A. Vogel dissented, calling the situation “a paradigm case for intervention.”
Geffen recently reached an agreement in his long-running dispute with the commission over access to the shoreline in front of his Malibu estate. Public beach access was mandated as part of an agreement under which the commission granted Geffen the right to improve the property in 1983, but Geffen, the commission, the City of Malibu and environmentalists quarreled over the terms of that access.
The neighbors, heirs of bandleader Horace Heidt, objected unsuccessfully before the commission to the 1983 agreement and sought to intervene in the litigation over implementation of the access provisions.
The Heidts argued that since Geffen’s property includes a wall protecting his residence from beach users and theirs does not, they would be more directly affected by decisions about public access than he would.
Of the four cases cited by the Heidts in support of their challenge to Yaffe’s ruling, Mallano noted, three merely affirmed a trial court decision to permit intervention.
“[T]here is nothing in the opinions which would suggest that a ruling denying discretionary intervention in this case would constitute an abuse of that discretion,” he observed.
The fourth case, Simpson Redwood Co. v. State of California (1987) 196 Cal.App.3d 1192, involved an attempt by the Save-The-Redwoods League to intervene in litigation over the fate of land it had donated for use as a park.
Mallano said the donor group had a “direct and immediate” interest in the ligitation, since if the lumber company plaintiff “were to prevail on its claim of ownership, the loss of public parkland would immediately damage the reputation and integrity of the League as a conservation organization.”
“In contrast, if defendants prevail in this case and the public accessways are opened, there are no immediate consequences because the Heidts can only speculate that members of the public will trespass and litter on the portion of the beach that the Heidts own and thereby ultimately affect the quiet enjoyment of their property. Indeed, if such speculation provided a basis on which intervention could be required, the Heidts’s neighbors to the west, Geffen’s neighbors to the east, and the neighbors of those neighbors would be in a position to demand intervention....”
In her dissent, Vogel called the circumstances of Simpson “strikingly similar” to those of the litigation under review. The Heidts’ interest in the dispute over beachfront access was “substantively indistinguishable from the League’s interest in the dispute between Simpson and the State” in that case, she argued.
The dissenting justice explained:
“As the Simpson court also noted in this context, intervention should not be denied where, as here, the putative intervener would be forced to bring a separate action against one or more of the parties to the action into which intervention is sought...For this reason, I would not give any weight to the trial court’s suggestion that the Heidts file their own action, which might or might not be consolidated with Geffen’s action — a suggestion that ignores the benefits of intervention as well as the Heidts’ right to intervention.”
The case is City of Malibu v. California Coastal Commission (Heidt), B171650.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company