On February 15, 2023, the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) filed an amicus brief in support of the County’s authority to remove unlawful road encroachments in the County’s appeal of the preliminary injunction issued by the trial court in Anderson, et al. v. County of Santa Barbara, et al. The case raises the question of whether the court can enjoin the removal of unlawful private encroachments through a preliminary injunction when a property owner maintaining unlawful private encroachments files a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CSAC determined that the case is a matter affecting all 58 California counties in that the Court of Appeal’s decision will impact important issues of governance statewide. Specifically, it will impact the ability to maintain safe and orderly roadways at both the State and local level. Santa Barbara County Public Works Director and County Road Commissioner Scott McGolpin said, “CSAC providing amicus support to the County on appeal reaffirms that no party in California has the right to infringe upon the public’s enjoyment of their right-of-way nor the Road Commissioners’ authority to keep the traveling public safe.”
In their brief, CSAC argues that the Court’s preliminary injunction order should be reversed for the following reasons:
- The ability of Road Commissioners and Caltrans to quickly enforce encroachment requirements is a statewide matter of public safety.
- Courts must give deference to the opinions of County road commissioners and other qualified transportation agency staff. This will ensure the speculative concerns of nonexperts will not interfere with the safety and maintenance of the county road system.
- Preliminary injunctions are a remedy in equity that cannot be used to allow petitioners to continue unlawful conduct when the validity of the underlying statutes is not at issue.
Last year, the Santa Barbara County Road Commissioner posted notices to remove unpermitted road encroachments to property owners along East Mountain Drive, near the Hot Springs trailhead, in Montecito. Four private property owners on East Mountain Drive sued the County arguing that removing unlawful private encroachments from the public right of way requires an Environmental Impact Report under CEQA. They sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the removal of the unlawful encroachments. The Santa Barbara County Superior Court issued the requested injunction. The County appealed that decision and is currently awaiting the Court of Appeal’s decision.
CSAC is a non-profit corporation whose membership consists of the 58 California counties. CSAC sponsors a Litigation Coordination Program, which is administered by the County Counsels’ Association of California and is overseen by the Association’s Litigation Overview Committee, comprised of County Counsels throughout the state. The County Counsels’ Association of California is comprised of public attorneys who provide legal advice and representation to California’s 58 counties and other units of local government.
To download the amicus brief, visit https://www.counties.org/post/anderson-v-county-santa-barbara-b322465. For information on road encroachment permits, visit https://www.countyofsb.org/2061/Road-Encroachment-Permits.