Measure W Lawsuit Decision Expected on Monday, 10/31/16

On Friday, 10/28/16, we argued our case to uphold the people’s 2012 Measure W referendum in the Orange County Superior Court. The people rejected the Development Agreement and therefore according to the ordinances the City Council approved in 2011, “In the event the Development Agreement is terminated, all other development approvals for the project shall be null and void.”

The case may come down to what the word “terminate” means. The City argued that only they or Chevron-PCH could have terminated the Development Agreement, not the voters.  Chevron-PCH argued that the word “terminate” has a special meaning. We argue that since the City’s ordinances did not define “terminate” as special, it is reasonable to use the plain definition of “terminate” which is “to bring to an end”.

The judge considered these three interpretations of the effect of Measure W. He will issue a judgement on Monday, 10/31/16.

  1. Chevron – The Development Agreement (DA) was not terminated. It just never came into effect due to Measure W. Therefore it could not trigger the “poison pill” to nullify other development approvals.
  1. City – The Development Agreement allows only the City or Chevron to terminate the Agreement. After the referendum, they chose not to do that. Therefore the Development Agreement was not terminated and it did not trigger the poison pill to nullify other development approvals.
  1. Friends – Measure W brought the Development Agreement “to an end” or terminated That triggered the “poison pill” and nullified all development approvals.

The judge questioned the City why the Development Agreement and voter pamphlet were not written more clearly.

The judge asked what the City’s intent was when it wrote the Development Agreement and other approvals. Did they intend for the approvals to be linked? We provided evidence from the City’s own argument that they did indeed.

The judge asked what was the intent of the voters? Was there an expectation that their vote would reject the development or just get rid of the Development Agreement?

We the people can’t control how well or clearly the City writes its laws. All we have is the power of referendum.

Regardless whether it was sloppy or intentionally bad law making, let’s hope the people don’t end up the big loser.

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