The five homeowners who successfully sued the city for the right to rebuild after the Tea Fire were awarded attorneys fees this week, in addition to the damages already given by a Superior Court judge.
Luke Brost, Lavell and Louise Canley, and Ruben and Pamela Barajas own property in Sycamore Canyon and lost their homes in the November 2008 Tea Fire. They tried to rebuild, but Santa Barbara wouldn’t issue permits since the land is within the Conejo Road Landslide Area.
The homeowners sued the city, represented by attorney Joseph Liebman, and Judge Thomas Anderle awarded them $126,000 in damages.
In a tentative ruling this week, Anderle also granted their motion for the city to pay their attorneys’ fees, engineering and design fees, and building and safety code expert fees for a total of $410,413.78.
The city argued the fees were unreasonably high since they exceed the damages award, but Anderle said “there is simply no legal support for city’s argument.”
Since the civil court case, the city has amended its Conejo landslide area ordinance so homes can be rebuilt there if they were lost during the Tea Fire or if existing homes are destroyed in any casualty afterward.
City Attorney Steve Wiley said at the time that the ordinance was amended because there isn’t enough evidence that the area is dangerous enough to prohibit new construction in case of a fire or other disaster.