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For many residents of Golden Hill and South Park, the fight to dissolve their maintenance assessment district was long, hard, and expensive. In 2011, more than four years after filing a complaint against the city, the residents were victorious. The maintenance assessment district was soon after invalidated.

On November 25, California's Court of Appeals ruled that the city will have to reimburse the residents for legal fees incurred during the drawn-out legal battle. The decision can be seen as a defeat for the city and the City Attorney's Office, which has spent countless hours fighting the lawsuit.

In fact, the city continues to refund the money collected as part of the assessment.

Throughout the duration of the lawsuit, residents continued to pay the annual assessment. Shortly after the ruling, the city began handing out refunds, with some strings attached. Residents were required to file a claim with the city's Risk Management Department. In addition, the four-year statute of limitations was kept in place, meaning that many residents were too late to collect the first year's assessment. In June of this year, according to the previous year's tax documents, the city had handed out 84 refunds totaling a little more than $78,000.

The issue of legal costs goes back a few years. The 2011 judgment failed to address the issue of legal expenses. So, in January 2012, residents filed a new motion, demanding the city reimburse them for any and all legal expenses. The city objected, stating that the residents, in their pursuit of dissolving the assessment district, had failed to request that those fees be paid.

On November 25, the Fourth District Court of Appeals gave the residents their final victory, ordering that residents are entitled to fees. According to an unpublished ruling, "the court is ordered to consider the Association's attorney fees motion consistent with the conclusions reached in this opinion. The City is ordered to bear appellants' costs on appeal."

The amount that the city will have to pay will be decided at a future hearing.

They legal debate over maintenance assessment districts is also undecided. The City Attorney's Office is currently defending several lawsuits challenging surrounding community-based assessments. One has been brought by San Diegans for Open Government, challenging the legality of all 58 maintenance assessment districts throughout the city. That case is making its way through the courts.

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Comments

HonestGovernment Dec. 5, 2013 @ 12:27 p.m.

Good info on the amount reimbursed. Pretty amazing, the way the City schemes to take money improperly, then keeps it, even when ordered to desist and refund.

Over 4 years, the City took about $1.8 million in assessments from the property owners of Golden Hill and South Park, but has refunded only $78,000. That is dirty. The legal argument for keeping the first year's collection because of too much time elapsing was as specious as the losing argument that legal costs were not requested timely.

The appellate court decisions have shown the legal arguments by the City to be stupid and baseless in every case. The City doesn't care: they will stall by fighting without a hope of winning, out of spite and in the belief that plaintiffs will just give up. Goldsmith runs the worst City Attorney's office ever, and the Deputy City attorneys are amazingly agreeable to enact inept and dishonest undertakings.

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goodlead Dec. 6, 2013 @ 9:55 a.m.

I'm not one who believes government is a tyrant, but it does need to be watched closely, and unfortunately that's especially true of the San Diego city government. Jan Goldsmith is a particular problem. Witness his prosecution of the man who wrote anti-bank comments with chalk on the sidewalk in front of the Bank of America. What;s more, Doug Manchester loves him, which tells you all you need to know.

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nostalgic Dec. 6, 2013 @ 10:49 a.m.

Now it looks like Bario Logan is headed down the same path. The Bario Logan Association forgot to get their corporation in place. So the Urban Corps is doing the work anyhow. What part of the "not legal" Golden Hill MAD comes to mind? Maintenance Districts were designed to performe physical maintenance, like retaining walls, for example. They weren't really designed to pick up trash. The criteria of "Special benfit" must be met. Again.

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TrueJustice Dec. 7, 2013 @ 11:24 a.m.

The Appellate Court's decision is worth reading.

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=17146195730019114951&q=D062203&hl=en&as_sdt=4,5

Hoping Todd Gloria, a prior advocate of the GGH Mad, will use this as an opportunity to finally close this chapter and move on.

Would like the Reader to try and get some estimate of how much money the City has wasted on this fiasco. Bet it would fund at least one community library for a year.

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