MRCA
Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority
FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST
City of Whitter, Whittier City Council, County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles County Regional Parks and Open Space District

Filed February 24, 2012

 

 Here is the latest development in the fight against the City of Whittier with regards to drilling on Open Space land.  On Feb. 24, 2012 the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (www.mrca.ca.gov) filed a lawsuit againt the City of Whitter, City Council, County of LA, LA County Board of Supervisors etc stating that they do not have the right to drill on Puente Hills native Habitat Preserve. I have attached the lawsuit for you to read, but below are some highlights.
 
The Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (MRCA) purchased what is now the Puente Hills Native Habitat Preserve on Dec. 12, 1995 from Pacific Coast Homes and then on Dec. 20, 1995 entered into an agreement with the City of Whittier to sell them the Open Space land. The agreement between MRCA and the City required that the land be maintained by the City in perpetuity for open space and recreation purposes. 
 
As part of the agreement a declaration/easement was agreed to which stated as written in the lawsuit p.4: "The Declaration/Easement further provided that it was intended to limit the use of the Conservation Easement Area to activities consistent with such purposes and specificially limits the use to public hiking, biking and horseback trails, habitat preservation, construction and maintenance of same, fire prevention, security and oil field remedial cleanup (the Permitted Uses). The Declaration/Easement prohibits any activity or use which is inconsistent with habitat preservation purposes...and requires all successor owners be bound by its terms."
 
MRCA also discusses Prop A violations. More importantly, the City breached its contract with MRCA (p.10) when they ignored the obligations to protect the Open Space and failed to obtain MRCA's approval prior to seeking to impair the use of the Open Space when it entered into a contract on Oct. 28, 2008 and again with the amended contract on April 12, 2011 with Matrix and Clayton Williams Energy.  The City  approved a CUP and ignored numerous comments that raised the fact that the Oil and Gas Drilling activites would harm the open space (p.6).
 
Another issue to note is on pg.5: "City did not obtain MRCA's approval prior to taking such actions and did not even place MRCA on the Public Notification List for Environmental Impact Report that the City prepared in connection with approval of the CUP."
 
These are all issues which the Open Space Legal Defense Fund has previously raised in its lawsuits as well as during the public hearings. In fact, the breach of contract (ie the City never had a right to enter into this agreement with Matrix and Clayton Williams because of the Easement they signed with MRCA, which had never been overturned or changed) issue was read out loud during the public hearings off of the contract that Henderson signed with regards to this land purchase - this is an issue that the WDN has not covered.
 
MRCA has requested a temporary restraining order and permanent injunctions restraining Oil and Drilling operations.
 
As you read through this lawsuit another issue you may note that may be raised  - is has the City Council gotten ahead of themselves with regards to this "windfall" of money which they have discussed and has been reported in the WDN. MRCA's claims are that their contract doesn't allow any drilling to take place. So again the question may be - what money?

 MRCA's Lawsuit below.

 

 Sales agreement between City of Whittier and MRCA.