Oakland Municipal Ordinance Did Justify Fee Award to Winners.
This one is a case that could have fallen under our category “Homeowners Association,” although it involved adjoining neighbors who got into a fight over trees obstructing a view corridor to the San Francisco Bay (as contrasted to homeowners versus a homeowners association controversy as to views). However, the losers--even after appeal--were liable to pay $202,144.17 in their opponents’ fees.
Bishop v. Hanes, Case Nos. A129018/A130062 (1st Dist., Div. 1 Oct. 27, 2011) (unpublished) was a lengthy battle where adjoining neighbors, at first cooperative, got into acrimonious litigation over acacia trees disrupting plaintiffs’ views to the San Francisco Bay. In a prior litigation, plaintiffs lost their bid to obtain relief based on a 1964 view agreement with different parties and under an Oakland View Ordinance which was more narrowly written. Not to be derailed, plaintiffs successfully lobbied to have the Oakland City Council clarify the scope of the View Ordinance in their favor. That led to suit number two, where plaintiffs did prevail against defendants neighbors (who actually moved and rented out the property to tenants) by obtaining court-ordered injunctive relief to remove view corridor obstructing vegetation and to replace the offensive plants with view nonintrusive vegetation. (Defendants apparently lost a creative argument that “birds might enjoy the trees at issue” when attempting to shore up their position.) However, relevant to our blog here, plaintiffs were awarded $202,144.17 in attorney’s fees as prevailing parties under an Oakland ordinance mandating fees to a party prevailing in a controverted view action which was “resolved after trial or judicial arbitration in municipal or Superior Court.”
The fee award was affirmed. Defendants did not dispute entitlement under the Oakland ordinance or the reasonableness of the fees awarded. Result? Sustain, sustain.