Friends of Spring Street lawyer seeks $140K in attorney’s fees in B&B case
January 12, 2018
The attorney for the Friends of Spring Street has asked a Nevada County Superior Court judge for almost $140,000 in attorney's fees, money that would come from Nevada City and the Kendall House if he prevails in court.
Attorney Michael Graf, who represents the Friends of Spring Street, argues in court documents that because he was successful last March at the Third District Court of Appeal — which ruled that Measure G did, in fact, make residential bed and breakfasts a non-conforming use — he should receive attorney's fees.
"As a result of Petitioner's legal challenge, Measure G will now be properly interpreted, which would not have occurred in the absence of this litigation," court filings state.
Allan Haley — attorney for Mollie Poe and Declan Hickey, Kendall House owners — said Graf has made a faulty assumption: that he prevailed in court. The appeals court may have favored Graf, but he didn't officially prevail, and that legal distinction is important when determining whether someone receives attorney's fees.
"In my view they overlooked the key thing — there's no prevailing party in this case," Haley said.
Additionally, Haley said someone must receive a result in court that's significant and grants a substantial benefit to a large number of people. The appeals court's decision is unpublished, meaning it can't be cited in other, unrelated cases and will affect no large group.
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Attorneys are expected to appear in court Jan. 26 on the matter.
The issue of attorney's fees has its roots in the 1994 passage of Measure G, which prohibited bed and breakfasts in residential areas. The measure allowed existing B&Bs to continue operations.
According to Haley, the Kendall House received its first use permit in 1994. It was sold in 2002, and from that year to 2012 it rented rooms long-term.
The Friends of Spring Street argued the Kendall House abandoned its use as a B&B, leading its owners to approach first the city's Planning Commission — which agreed with the Spring Street group — and then the City Council, Haley said.
Council members sided with the B&B, which led to the appeals court hearing in March.
Haley said the issue is moot, pointing to a new ordinance that must be obeyed before a B&B use permit can be revoked.
"The fact that the city now has AirBnB's is just one consideration against taking up the 534 Spring Street matter," Haley said in an email.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.