A recent court decision rejected Mark Fudge’s latest attempt to block renovations at The Ranch at Laguna Beach, a hotel and golf course in Aliso Canyon. Undeterred, the Laguna Beach resident pushed on by filing an appeal against coastal regulators over its approval of the project with the state Court of Appeal last week.
The property, now converted into a 97-room boutique hotel with a nine-hole golf course, has undergone considerable remodeling over two years under the direction of principal Mark Christy. A longtime local, Christy also owns other successful businesses including Hobie surf shops and La Sirena Grill restaurants.
The Ranch endeavor may be Christy’s boldest move yet. “We have some pretty cool stuff happening down here. Feature by feature, it is really coming together and I am very excited about pulling back the curtain and introducing the world to what we believe is the coolest hotel in Orange County,” said Christy by email, estimating the final piece of the remodel, the addition of a fitness spa, will be completed by March.
In March 2015, Fudge attempted to block Christy’s progress by filing a lawsuit in state court against the city and the Coastal Commission, claiming that Ranch permit approvals were illegal because environmental impacts and historical guidelines were not considered.
In reaching his decision, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard L. Fruin Jr.’s opinion rested on Fudge’s failure to file his suit within the required 35 days after the Laguna Beach Planning Commission granted project approval.
Christy won the go-ahead to begin renovations in May 2014. Two months later, Fudge asked the Coastal Commission to review the approval, which was eventually endorsed this past January.
According to City Attorney Phil Kohn, the recent judicial decision places the city in the clear from further action. “The judge dismissed the entirety of Mr. Fudge’s lawsuit against the city,” said Kohn, as well as most of the contentions against the Coastal Commission.
Only one claim still exists, Kohn said, which is Fudge’s only available option to continue his challenge through appeal. “The remaining claim is whether the Coastal Commission’s approval of the coastal development permit for the project complies with the requirements of the Coastal Act,” said Kohn.
Fudge has refused comment in the past. His attorney, Peter Hsiao, of Morrison & Foerster LLP in Los Angeles, also declined comment about the latest lawsuit.
In his most recent legal maneuver against the Coastal Commission alone, Fudge is looking for the appeals court to “rescind the Commission’s approval of a coastal development permit,” according to Kohn. “If Mr. Fudge prevails on his Coastal Act claim against the Coastal Commission, The Ranch’s remodeling project would likely have to be reconsidered by the Commission pursuant to whatever direction might be included in the court order.”
Asked for his thoughts, Christy said that: “I really don’t have a comment on the Fudge suit or his appeal. The court’s ruling was very strong, based on well-established case law and speaks for itself.”
The appeal will be heard at the second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles. A search of court records did not reveal a date for the hearing.