News - July 14, 2010

Retail development lawsuit nears end?

by Sandy Brundage

The legal tangle surrounding an office/retail development project at 1300 El Camino Real may clear up when the Menlo Park City Council considers a proposed settlement on July 20.

"Concerned Citizens of Menlo Park" filed the lawsuit on Nov. 19, naming the city of Menlo Park and the City Council as defendants. The group of anonymous plaintiffs took action against the city's approval of the environmental impact review for the project.

Neither the San Francisco-based law firm representing the group, Lippe Gaffney Wagner, nor Menlo Park City Attorney Bill McClure would name the single plaintiff who signed the proposed settlement on behalf of the group.

All the other details of the proposal remain equally mysterious, although the city should issue a staff report prior to the July 20 meeting, according to Mr. McClure. At least part of the report is likely to discuss reimbursement of the plaintiff(s) and the law firm.

The lawsuit was filed using the private attorney general statute, which allows private citizens acting as representatives of the public interest to bring suits against government entities. Plaintiffs are entitled to recover attorney fees if they win. If a settlement is reached instead, they may be awarded a percentage of the fees.

A source close to the case said the proposed settlement awards much less than the plaintiffs sought.


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