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In Coalition for a Sustainable Yucaipa v. City of Yucaipa (2015) Cal.App.Unpub. LEXIS 4016, the Coalition for a Sustainable Yucaipa (Coalition) challenged the City of Yucaipa’s (Yucaipa’s) approval of the Oak Hills Marketplace (Project). The Project was to be built on land owned by the Palmer General Corporation (Palmer) and developed by the Target Corporation (Target).

Coalition’s initial petition for writ of mandate was denied, and Coalition appealed. But, pending appeal, the Project was dropped following a contract dispute between Palmer and Target. The City then revoked the Project’s land use entitlements, and the court of appeal reversed the order denying mandate, but with direction to dismiss the action with prejudice, since it was now moot.

Coalition moved for attorney’s fees, claiming under the “catalyst theory,” they were entitled to attorney’s fees, since the defendants substantially changed their behavior because of the litigation. The court denied their motion, and Coalition appealed again, alleging the trial court abused its discretion in denying attorney’s fees.

The court of appeal affirmed, holding Coalition was not a “prevailing party” to recover under the “catalyst theory” because Coalition did not show that they caused the City to revoke the land use entitlements. Coalition was not required to show that they were the only cause of the revocation, but that they were a substantial factor in the decision. The court reasoned that Coalition did not catalyze the entitlement revocation because: (1) Coalition did not prevail, but had appealed a denial of their petition for writ of mandate; (2) Yucaipa did not revoke the entitlements for any reason related to the Environmental Impact Report or CEQA violations Coalition had alleged; and (3) Coalition had not shown any “threat of victory” in the lower court.

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