May 22, 2017

Marco Gonzalez
Coast Law Group LLP
[email protected]

Encinitas based Coast Law Group LLP has again successfully defended local residents and the City from wealthy neighbors seeking to misuse environmental laws to prevent modest home improvements.

Encinitas residents Gina Merchant and Derek Bradley were the target of a frivolous lawsuit in March, 2016, challenging the addition of a 649 sq. ft. second story to their 863 sq. ft. duplex on Rosebay Drive. The lawsuit, brought by a shell group calling itself “Friends to Preserve Encinitas Beauty,” claimed the home remodel would block public and private views, would violate the City’s parking requirements, that it didn’t follow the City’s Design Review Guidelines, and that it should have been subject to extensive review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

In a judgment entered May 10, 2017, San Diego Superior Court Judge Earl H. Maas, III disagreed with all of the groups’ arguments. It found that the City had in fact adequately reviewed the claims of view impairment and found them lacking, specifically noting former “Deputy Mayor Shaffer’s testimony regarding personal knowledge of the area and how the addition would not block views from the trails.”

Real Party in Interest Gina Merchant, stated “I remember it like it was yesterday – there was a knock on our door around 8pm, and we were served papers a couple weeks before our son was born. My husband and I are so relieved to have put this to rest as the weight of the lawsuit has been bearing down on us for 12 long months. We were shocked and disheartened that these people took it this far given that we worked carefully with the City of Encinitas to design a second story that would be considerate of our neighbors and community, and their arguments were completely baseless. They were just determined to try to bully us with their money. We hope our success will discourage similar NIMBY attacks elsewhere in our community, and empower people to fight for their right to improve their homes.”

Coast Law Group environmental attorney Marco Gonzalez, noted: “Suits like these only serve to fuel the perception that our environmental laws are ineffective and frequently abused. I really wish some attorneys would consider the negative consequences to the environmental movement when they bring these types of clearly bogus suits.”

The City of Encinitas did not assist in briefing the opposition to the lawsuit, but rather joined in the successful efforts of Coast Law Group on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.