Judge Upholds Dismissal Of $40M Sunroad Lawsuit - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Judge Upholds Dismissal Of $40M Sunroad Lawsuit

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A judge today confirmed a tentative ruling throwing out a $40 million lawsuit filed by developer Sunroad Enterprises against the city of San Diego.

Sunroad attorney Steven Strauss argued that the company had a right to build a tower on a Kearny Mesa office building to 180 feet -- despite the Federal Aviation Administration's 160-foot limit -- because the city approved plans and issued building permits.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor disagreed, ruling that Sunroad never possessed a "vested property right" to build a structure which penetrated into -- and thereby created a hazard -- in federally regulated public airspace not far from Montgomery Field.

Sunroad's subjective belief that it had a valid permit to build up to 180 feet is not enough, the judge ruled.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told reporters that several million dollars were saved by taking the case away from an outside law firm and handing it to the city attorney's litigation team.

"We're very proud of that success," Goldsmith said. "We believe we can compete with any litigation firm."

The outside law firm estimate for taking the case to trial June 19 was $1.2 million, said Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jones.

Sunroad removed the top 20 feet of the office tower at the company's expense after it was sued by the city in 2006.

Sunroad officials claimed they were bullied by Mayor Jerry Sanders and then-City Attorney Mike Aguirre into tearing down the building's top two floors because Aguirre threatened criminal prosecution and Sanders said the city would tear it down if Sunroad didn't.

The mix-up was initially blamed on a Sunroad executive who was accused of using his connection as an ex-city employee to push the permits through despite the excessive height.

The executive was not prosecuted because the San Diego City Council refused to hire a special prosecutor for the case.

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