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City to pay $650,000 in legal expenses

May 27, 2010

An Orange County Superior Court judge has ordered Huntington Beach to pay almost $650,000 in attorney's fees to the group that successfully challenged the city's decision to build a new senior center in Huntington Central Park.

Judge David C. Velasquez decided this month that the city will have to cover $648,506 of the Parks Legal Defense Fund's legal fees, according to court documents.

"We think it's a fair amount, but we asked for more," said Mark Allen, the group's attorney.

The defense fund had originally asked for $995,000, City Atty. Jennifer McGrath said.

McGrath declined to comment on whether the amount was fair, but said "the fact that is was reduced...is a good result for the city."

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The defense fund challenged the city's decision to build a new $22-million senior center in Huntington Central Park in March 2008.

In November, Velasquez found that the project was violating the city's general plan and two state environmental acts. He ruled that it had to find another source of funding.

The next month, Velasquez ruled the city would have to cover any expenses connected to the lawsuit. The city decided to appeal the ruling in January.

The proposed 45,000-square-foot center would have replaced the Michael E. Rodgers Seniors Center on Orange Avenue and given residents twice as much space.

— Britney Barnes

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