Lawsuit Against SPAWN Loses in Marin Superior Court

Lawsuit Against SPAWN Loses in Marin Superior Court

For Immediate Release: January 14, 2022

Contact:

Preston Brown, (303) 877-0880,‬ preston@tirn.net

Lawsuit Against SPAWN Loses in Marin Superior Court

San Rafael, CA–ln a tentative ruling in Marin County’s Superior Court, Judge Andrew Sweet ruled against the San Geronimo Heritage Alliance (SGHA) lawsuit against the County of Marin, the Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN), and Preston Brown. The lawsuit was filed after the County of Marin granted a permit to remove a dam blocking salmon migration, remove a failing bridge and install a new pedestrian bridge for the public, and implement a salmon habitat restoration along a long stretch of the San Geronimo Creek on the former San Geronimo Golf Course.

The loss for the SGHA, an unincorporated association of 10 local residents who were unhappy that the property was sold to the Trust for Public Land which decided to cease golf operations, is likely to be an expensive mistake for its members. The SHGA is now responsible for the County of Marin, SPAWN, and Brown’s attorney fees.

In the current ruling, Judge Sweet stated, “SGHA failed to file a timely appeal and exhaust their administrative remedy.”  Furthermore, his decision stated, “Much of Petitioner’s appeal of this writ focuses on how the Creek Permit allegedly violated Marin County Municipal Development Code sections.  This argument demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the differences between a permit issued Title 11 of Marin County code…”

Over the course of the lawsuit, Judge Andrew Sweet made clear that the petitioners’ case had little merit, did not reflect an understanding of the law, and was not in the public interest, yet petitioners continued their tortuous litigation. In the first round, the petitioners requested a stay to prevent the work from commencing and was denied.

Nonetheless, the petitioners persisted, twice amending the complaint and continuing down a path that had little likelihood of success, even after Judge Sweet stated in an earlier ruling, “The Court further finds to perpetuate the conflict on this property in a case where success on the merits is low [and] is against the public interest.” 

Attorney Philip Snell for the petitioners persevered, even insisting on oral arguments following the Judge’s tentative ruling, using further time of the Court and the respondents, as well as running up SGHA legal fees that they will now be held responsible to pay.

Preston Brown, Conservation Director for SPAWN said, “From the outset this lawsuit by a few unhappy golfers seemed to be nothing more than a harassment tactic.  The restoration project was designed and approved by the previous owners of the golf course and once completed would have allowed golf operations to continue.  The fact that the property had been sold in the interim had nothing to do with our creek restoration project to protect salmon. SPAWN does not own the property and their complaint about the ultimate use for the property had nothing to do with us. “

Brown continued, “We are happy to have this lawsuit behind us, but more importantly, we are elated to have completed one of the most important restoration projects for coho salmon in the region by removing a dam that obstructed migration, improving habitat for salmon along a quarter mile stretch of creek habitat, and providing a safe and beautiful bridge that provides an excellent opportunity for the community to gather and watch salmon during their spawning migration. This restoration project gives our endangered coho salmon a fighting chance at recovery.”

The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) is a program of the global ocean conservation non-profit Turtle Island Restoration Network that protects endangered, wild coho salmon and the forests and watersheds they need to survive in West Marin County, California. Learn more at www.seaturtles.org/salmon. 

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