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Court Compels City to Release Documents Sought by SMCLA: Cites California Public Records Act

In May, Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, a local citizens’ group, filed a writ petition in Superior Court to compel the City of Santa Monica to turn over public records relating to the redevelopment of Santa Monica Place.

Monday, the Superior Court granted the Coalition’s request and ordered the City to search for and/or release documents that it had refused to produce.

The Court determined that the documents sought for months by SMCLC are an important element in the public’s understanding of the issues and the City/Macerich partnership.

“This is an important victory for Santa Monica residents,” said SMCLC spokesperson Diana Gordon. “The Court agreed with us that documents the City has withheld are ’public documents’ which must be made available so that residents will have the needed information to make informed decisions about this major City/Macerich redevelopment project. The City was contending that only documents they selectively release on their websites should be produced.”

Among the documents the Court has ordered the City to release are:

• E-mails/attachments between the City and the Developer that the City must search for (the City argued a change in its email program precluded a proper search)

• Underlying source documents of the City’s costs to redevelop Santa Monica Place, as well as traffic studies and other environmental impacts, (the City argued only information it posted on the City’s websites was discoverable)

• The telephone surveys the City conducted, with input from the developer (the City was arguing its soon to be published report with its “spin” of what the results were was sufficient)

• The names and addresses of residents who attended the City workshops (information the City previously had released only to the developer); and

• Lease and fee interest information for Macy’s and Robinsons-May (the City claimed not to necessarily” have this information)

The Court also ordered the City to prepare a list of all documents that it has withheld on the basis of “privilege” so the Court can determine whether it has properly asserted a privilege.The Court set a further hearing for September 26, 2005.

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