Lockaway Storage Gets $500K Settlement in Alameda County 'Takings' Case

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Lockaway Storage, a California-based self-storage company, received a $500,000 payment from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in the case of Lockaway Storage v. Alameda County (#HG3091201) to settle claims against five planning department employees and former Deputy County Counsel Eric Chambliss for applying the Measure D open-space initiative to prevent Lockaway from developing company-owned land in Alameda County.
 
"If they (Lockaway) don't like our result, they can sue," County Supervisor Nate Miley said at the time of the Board's decision to deny Lockaway's appeal of the County's actions, according to court documents. Lockaway's primary claim against the County alleging Fifth Amendment "takings" violations remains set for trial beginning Jan. 12, 2009, according to Sacramento-based Zumbrun Law Firm attorney Tim Kassouni, representing Lockaway Storage.
 
"If Measure D and its philosophy stands, the American people will find private property will continue on its course toward abolition," said Michael Shaw, an owner of Lockaway Storage and president of FreedomAdvocates.org. "Freedom is dependent on preserving the ideals of private property. This lawsuit provides some hope in the defense of private property and the individual liberty that private property protects," Shaw said.
 
According to court documents, Lockaway purchased an 8-acre parcel lot in August 2000, with a conditional-use permit for a recreational-vehicle and self-storage facility in Castro Valley, and began processing design improvements with the County Planning Department. In November 2000, county voters approved Measure D, prohibiting economic development on much of the privately-held property in Alameda County. In 2002, the County informed Lockaway of its new intention to apply Measure D to Lockaway's project.
 
Lockaway filed suit in 2003. The Alameda Superior Court heard arguments and ordered Alameda County to issue a building permit in 2005. The court documents show that Chambliss wrote a memo following the court order directing planning staff to stop processing permits for Lockaway stating that, "The Court did not change the terms of the permit causing it to expire in 2002. Thus it cannot be implemented in its present state. Whether it ever can be will be determined later in the litigation. Thus do NOT issue any permits or in any other way implement the permit."
 
Lockaway filed a separate suit (Superior Court of California County of Alameda #HG07313321) against Chambliss and Alameda County for the damages caused by the delay tactic, according to Kassouni. Court documents show that Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller recognized that Chambliss' actions were unreasonable, but that he was "absolutely immune" to citizen claims because no California law or precedent allows for litigation against government lawyers.
 
Lockaway appealed the Court decision to the First District Court of Appeal regarding the issue of a government civil lawyer's absolute immunity, claiming, "courts never intended to give a blanket grant of absolute immunity to government lawyers acting to prevent exposure of the government to liability," according to court documents.
 
After filing the opening brief with the Court of Appeal, the County offered the $500,000 settlement to Lockaway, saying, "The County of Alameda and L. Eric Chambliss acknowledge that the doctrine of absolute immunity does not apply to events described in Phase III," according to court documents. Lockaway accepted the settlement, but plans to continue its primary claims against the County for alleged Fifth Amendment "takings" violations. Measure D will be at the center of the $2 million claim set for trial in January, according to Kassouni.
 
Lockaway was founded in 1984. For more information, visit www.lockawaystorage.com.
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