In a clash between a major developer and advocates for local preservation, the preservationists emerged victorious yesterday, as a judge upheld La Habra city's decision to halt a major housing development that would have overlooked the town.
While the verdict may have marked the conclusion of the $100 million legal battle between Lennar homebuilders and the city, it likely isn't the final chapter in the developer's eight-year bid to build on La Habra's Westridge Golf Course.
Capitalizing on La Habra's failure to meet the deadline for adopting a state-approved housing plan, Lennar submitted a second application in January of last year to build an even larger housing project on the 151-acre golf course. This application falls beyond the city's authority to reject based on zoning or the city's general plan.
However, in the ruling issued on Tuesday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Sheila Recio dismissed Lennar's plea to reverse the city's 2020 resolution that hindered progress on the Rancho La Habra development.
The gated residential plan encompassed 448 houses and town homes, a community center, parks, pools, and trails, with slightly more than half of the land designated for preservation as open space. Judge Recio also dismissed Lennar's attempt to overturn Measure X, a November 2020 referendum that prohibited the development of open spaces without voter approval.
Lennar's legal team contended that Measure X amounted to "spot zoning," given that the Westridge Golf Course was the city's sole privately-owned open space. However, Judge Recio ruled that the evidence presented did not substantiate claims of bias. "In summary, the evidence provided does not uphold (Lennar's) contentions, and it would be inappropriate for this court to replace the city council's decision," read the judge's statement.
A press release from the city celebrated the verdict as "a significant triumph," and feedback on the city's Facebook page praised the judgment as well.
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