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CVP Cease & Desist Letter and Petition to

the Superior Court of California,

County of Marin

 

January 11, 2016

Court Issues FInal Ruling in Favor of CVP

 

Marin County Superior Court Judge, Roy O. Chernus, issued his final ruling in the case of Community Venture Partners vs. the County of Marin, on our Petition alleging that the Marin Board of Supervisors made a conscious decision to not place a public notice on its agenda, about a planned hearing on the Marin Housing Element, in the summer of 2014.

 

The Final Ruling, clearly and unequivocally rules in favor of CVP and against Marin County. The ruling is replete with citations of case law and relevant facts substantiating our cause of action and the truth of our allegations.

 

See our fomal Press Release HERE.

 

Click on PDF below to read the Final Ruling.

 

December 8, 2015

Court Issues Tenative Ruling in Favor of CVP

 

Marin County Superior Court Judge, Roy O. Chernus, issued a tentative ruling in the case of Community Venture Partners vs. the County of Marin, on our Petition alleging that the Marin Board of Supervisors made a conscious decision to not place a public notice on its agenda, about a planned hearing on the Marin Housing Element, in the summer of 2014.

 

The tentative ruling, clearly and unequivocally rules in favor of CVP and against Marin County. The ruling is replete with citations of case law and relevant facts substantiating our cause of action and the truth of our allegations.

 

Please click on this link to read the full account of the ruling.

 

Click on PDF below to read the Tenative Ruling.

 

November 9, 2015

CVP files its Final Reply Brief on County's Opposition Motion


CVP attorney, Edward Yates, files our Reply Memorandum on Points and Authorities to Oppose Marin County's Opposition to our request for a Writ of Peremptory Mandate and Declaratory Relief, in  ordering Respondent to conform to the requirements of the Ralph M. Brown Act, and for a Declaration that the County of Marin Board of Supervisors, has violated the Ralph M. Brown Act by engaging in discussion on matters outside a properly posted meeting and for not placing the discussion items on the agenda and for not providing public notice of the discussion.

 

Click on PDF below to read the CVP Motion.

 

September 8, 2015

CVP files its Motion For

Peremptory Writ of Mandate and for Declaratory Relief

 


In response to the Court having moved the case toward a final briefing schedule, the Petitioner, Community Venture Partners, Inc., will and hereby does move the court to issue a Write of Peremptory Mandate ordering Respondent to conform to the requirements of the Ralph M. Brown Act, and for a Declaration that the County of Marin Board of Supervisors, has violated the Ralph M. Brown Act by engaging in discussion on matters outside a properly posted meeting and for not placing the discussion items on the agenda and for not providing public notice of the discussion.

 

Click on PDF below to read the CVP Motion.

 

July 22, 2015

The Court issues a Tenative Ruling

Denying CVP ability to depose witnesses

or continue discovery

 

The Marin Superior Court issued a ruling that denied CVP the ability to depose witnesses, even in light of the fact that the County refused to produce documents known to exist. In doing this the Court moved the case toward a final briefing schedule, denying CVP any further discovery even though no actual discover had yet taken place.

 

Click on PDF below to read the Court's ruling.

 

July 15, 2015

CVP responds to  County response on

"Notice to Compel Depositions of Defendents"

 

CVP files its reponse to the County's response to CVP's Notice to Compel Depositions of Defendents.

 

Click on PDF below to read the CVP filing.

 

July 08, 2015

County responds to the CVP

"Notice to Compel Depositions of Defendents"

 

The County filed an incomplete reply to CVP's Notice to Compel Depositions of Defendents, with incomplete references and missing pages.

 

Click on PDF below to read the County filing.

 

June 24, 2015

CVP Files a

"Notice to Compel Depositions of Defendents"

as part of discovery.

 

Since the County chose to ignore CVP's Notice of Taking of Depositions of Defendents, CVP was left with no alternative other than to file a motion to compel the depositions of Community Development Director Brian Crawford, and Supervisors Arnold and Rice.

 

Click on PDF below to read the CVP filing.

 

June 12, 2015

CVP Files a

"Notice of Taking of Depositions of Defendents"

as part of discovery.

 

The County ignores the Notice

 

Since the County refused to produce any documents, even though the record clearly shows that such documents exist (including documents submitted by CVP), CVP was left with no alternative than to depose Community Development Director Brian Crawford (to discern what his written presentation contained) and Supervisors Arnold and Rice (to discern the veracity of the affidavits they filed in this case). However, once again the County chose to simply ignore the Notice.

 

Click on PDF below to read the CVP filing.

 

May 15, 2015

CVP Files its "Request for Production

of Documents" as part of discovery.

 

County Claims no documents or communications

of any kind exist.

 

As a part of CVP's request for "discovery," CVP filed a Request of Production of Documents with the Superior Court. CVP has pursued discovery as is our right in this case, and in order to assess the veracity of sworn affidavits submitted to the Court by Supervisor Katie Rice and Supervisor Judy Arnold.

 

After the County ignored the Court ordered due date for production of documents, County Counsel filed a statement that no documentation of any kind exist regarding the hearing discussions that took place at the Board of Supervisors on August 19, 2014.

 

Click on PDFs to read the CVP filing for production of documents.

 

March 25, 2015

Press Release & Tentative Ruling

Marin Superior Court

Denies County Motion in favor of CVP

 

Superior Court Judge Roy O. Chernus denied the County's Motion for Judgment to Deny the Writ on CVP's Petition for a Writ of Mandate against Marin County. Judge Chernus ruled in CVP's favor on every substantive issue of law involved in this case, including whether the County had discretion to itself determine if a discussion is exempt from the law as a "brief report." Thus, there are no substantive legal issues left in this case.

 

Click on PDFs to read full Press Release and the Court's Tentative Ruling.

 

 

March 11, 2015

Community Venture Partners files Opposition to County Motion for Judgment Denying Writ of Mandate

 

In response to CVP filing its Petition due to the County's violation of the Brown Act, the Marin County Board of Supervisors filed a motion to ask for denial of our claim. This unusual tactic by the County in an attempt to deny our right to be heard is consistent with their initial refusal to respond to our claim, which prompted CVP to have to file our Petition for Writ of Mandate; Injuctive and Declaratory Relief.

 

To read a copy of our Motion click on the "PDF" icon

December 16, 2014

Community Venture Partners files a Petition for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief in Superior Court of California

 

In response to the Marin County Board of Supervisors having held an unnoticed public hearing about the Marin County Housing Element, on August 19th, in violation with the Ralph M. Brown Act, CVP has filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate; Injuctive and Declaratory Relief in the Superior Court of California, County of Marin. 

 

To read the Writ click on the "PDF" icon

COMMENTARY

 

Community Venture Partners was founded on the belief that open public process is essential to good government and equitable public policymaking. That is why CVP has filed a Petition in the Superior Court of California, County of Marin, for injunctive and declaratory relief in response to the Marin County Board of Supervisors’ violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act.


The California Ralph M Brown Act, authored by Assembly Member Ralph M. Brown in 1953, guarantees the public's right to attend and participate in meeting of local legislative bodies. In part, the introduction of the legislation states that “the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.”

 

As described in our Petition, we hold that the Marin Board of Supervisors committed a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act at their scheduled hearing of August 19, 2014 by having a staff presentation and follow-up discussion about the Draft Housing Element without proper public notice.

 

Items discussed at a public agency meeting must be noted in a published agenda to allow the public the opportunity to attend and comment and make their concerns known. This violation was of particular concern to CVP because the presentation made at the hearing was in response to our letter of August 12, 2014, criticizing the Marin County Draft Housing Element. This essentially denied CVP its right to be present to offer a rebuttal.

 

Unfortunately, this appears to be just one of many such violations of the public meetings laws committed over the past several years by public agencies and public committees’ meetings. In fact, violations of the Brown Act are now fairly routine in Marin County and in Marin cities, with certain agencies being worse than others.

 

I have personally witnessed agency chairpersons cutting off public comment because they felt the comments were repetitive or “boring;” staff taking incomplete minutes at meetings that exclude critically important public comment that does not agree with the staff’s desired outcomes; officials reducing public comment time to the point of making it meaningless (to as little as one minute), thereby effectively denying the public its right to have a say in public policymaking; and officials making policy decisions at hearings advertised as workshops or otherwise not indicated to be decision making meetings.

 

Since its inception, CVP has focused on developing more sustainable solutions to our growth and planning challenges. Our projects and initiatives such as The Marin Post, the Larkspur Landing Farm & Educational Center, and the Complete Communities Initiative are all good examples of that focus. However, sometimes we have to stop flawed planning ideas and misconduct by our elected leaders in order to make room for better solutions. Our initiative against the Larkspur Landing Station Area Plan and this Petition stand as examples of that. Without an open and fair public process better solutions are just not possible.

 

We feel the time is past to simply ask for good government. It is time we began to demand it and ensure that our laws are followed. Public agencies must not be allowed to abuse the privilege of their office to deflect public opposition to their decisions.

 

Although there is no way to guarantee the outcome of a Court proceeding, we trust that our judicial system will give our grievances a fair hearing. There is no hearing date set at this time, but we will provide notice of that date when it is posted, in the event that community members wish to attend, in a show of support.

 

Thank you for your continued support in our efforts to empower community voices that would otherwise go unheard.

September 18, 2014

Community Venture Partners files a Cease and Desist Letter with the Marin County Board of Supervisors

 

On August 19th the Marin County Board of Supervisors held an unnoticed public hearing, essentially to rebut arguments submitted by CVP about the Marin County Housing Element, in clear violation with the Ralph M. Brown Act.

 

The nature of the violation is as follows: in its meeting of August 19, 2014, the Marin County Board of Supervisors planned for and engaged in an extensive discussion of an item that was not on the agenda and for which no public notice was given.  

 

To read the Cease & Desist transcript click on the "PDF" icon

COMMENTARY

 

I recently met with Marin County Supervisor, Steve Kinsey, in response to his invitation. There was no explanation given for the invitation nor was there any agenda, but at the meeting, which was also attended by Dick Spotswood and Susan Kirsch (founder of Citizen Marin), a wide variety of topics were touched upon, mostly dealing with the dysfunction of our local governments.

 

At one point in the conversation Steve asked with disingenuous, wide-eyed wonder, “Well, what can we do to fix it?” To which I replied, “Well, good government would be a good start.”

 

I went on to explain that sometimes we have to stop bad actions and decisions in order to make room so better solutions can succeed. I explained that this was why CVP sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors, on August 12th, to “Request to Amend The Marin County Housing Element and Extend The Public Review and Approval Process”

 

I’m not sure he understood what I was talking about.

 

It’s Not About Being "For" or "Against" the Housing Element

 

In response to this meeting and how housing advocates continue to suffocate any chance for legitimate debate by painting everything as a polarized “for” or “against” issue, I wrote an Op Ed and submitted it to the Marin IJ. It explained why organizations like CVP pushing back on local government is not only a good thing, but our democratic responsibility.

 

The IJ ran the piece on Monday, September 22, 2014, only in the print version.

 

Here is the text of that Op Ed as it was submitted:

 

The proposed Marin County Housing Element (the “HE”) has produced a great deal of discussion lately. Unfortunately, it’s been “dumbed down” to being a “for” or “against” argument. This kind of “straw man debate,” distracts from the real issues, does a disservice to the community and does nothing to address our affordable housing challenges.

 

We’re also told that those who disagree with the HE are only “against” things and have no solutions. Nothing could be further from the truth. But sometimes one has to stop bad solutions in order to make a room so better solutions can prosper.

 

Public criticism of the HE is a good thing. But the Devil, as they say, is in the details and that is what this discussion is and should be about.

 

Community Venture Partners, a nonprofit I recently founded, has taken an increasingly active role in monitoring local government and supporting a more responsive public process. Toward that end we’ve made comments on the HE and how the County has been conducting its hearings. These comments serve simple objectives: to bring about better governance and decision-making, to ensure that our county’s public process is based on accurate information and adheres to the law, and to promote greater transparency and accountability. If accomplishing that sometimes requires legal action, so be it.

 

It’s amazing to me that some people, including some of our County Supervisors, apparently now feel that requiring local government to adhere to the law is somehow objectionable, improper or even “undemocratic.”

 

We fully acknowledge and understand the County’s responsibilities to adopt a Housing Element plan that makes a reasonable and good faith effort to address the state’s growth projections and affordable housing quota for Marin. While many of us may feel the entire system of state quotas is nonsensical, that’s an issue we need to deal with separately and one that we’re going to have to take higher up the ladder to be effective about.

 

But at the local level, what we object to is a public process that is increasingly driven by state and regional agencies stepping outside of their legal authority to compel local municipalities to meet artificial and legally questionable requirements. We object to public hearings that make a mockery of public input and consistently arrive at predetermined conclusions.  We object to a plan that exceeds the County’s legal obligations by over 400 percent while ignoring its infrastructure and public service impacts. And we object to decision-making based on incomplete and often inaccurate information, which is repeated over and over at public hearings, even though the County has been advised otherwise.

 

So when County Supervisor Katie Rice sends out a newsletter stating that “proposals for development of any parcel are required to conform to local code, community plans,” etc., when the State Density Bonus Law specifically overrides all of those, we feel a need to correct that. And when Planning Commission Holland, tells his colleagues at a “Draft” HE meeting that it’s “too late” to change the number of sites or units based on public comment (when Ms. Rice has just assured us in her newsletter that it’s a long process with plenty of time to comment), we feel a need to protest that.

 

I’m sorry if democracy is “messy,” but the law applies to us all. And that is a very good thing.  This is the spirit in which we bring our arguments and criticisms. In fact I believe it’s our fundamental civic responsibility to question the actions and decisions of our government and elected representatives on any matters at any time, regardless of whether the views expressed are “left” or “right,” Democrat or Republican, or popular or unpopular or politically correct to discuss.

 

And in the meantime some of us will continue working diligently on more socially equitable and economically and environmentally sustainable solutions that must come next.

 

It’s Time to Level the Playing Field

 

Like many of you I’ve watched endless violations of the laws that govern public meetings, by local government councils, commissions and agencies all around the county.

 

I’ve seen public comment cut off at a Transportation Authority of Marin meeting, because the chair said it was getting boring and no one was “saying anything new.” I've seen public comment limted to one minute to the point that it's meaningless, in the "interest of saving time" (for whom?). I’ve read minutes of meetings that were so sparse in their accounting that dissenting comments by the public or even by officials were barely noted. I’ve seen policy decisions made at hearings that were noticed as “workshops” or otherwise not indicated to be decision making meetings. And I’ve listened to elected officials abuse their bully pulpit by making slanderous, personal remarks about community members who disagree with their beliefs (like labeling longtime liberal Democrats who disagree with large scaled development as Tea Party members or racists or worse).

 

So on August 19th, when the Marin County Board of Supervisors held an unnoticed public hearing, essentially to rebut arguments submitted by CVP about the Housing Element, we felt that action was needed.

 

On September 19th, Community Venture Partners filed a formal Cease and Desist letter with the office of the Marin County Clerk, seeking immediate relief from violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act by the Marin Board of Supervisors.

 

We are not asking for anything that is at all extraordinary. We are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for fair and honest dealings and a level playing field, and a respect for the law by people elected and paid to uphold it.

 

A copy of that letter is attached above. Our grievances are self-explanatory.  

 

Please Support the CVP HE Challenge

Please put "Marin County Housing Element" in the "Purpose" Box