California Supreme Court declines to hear appeal on Loop Road case
March 6, 2019
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The California Supreme Court has rejected a request to review a lower court ruling on a 2016 voter-approved ballot measure regarding the "Loop Road" project.
The court on Feb. 20 denied a petition for review filed by Bruce Grego — a local attorney and one of the residents behind the 2016 ballot measure, named Measure T — after two lower court losses.
The Supreme Court's decision officially closes the case.
"That's the end of the road but there are other roads to take," Grego told the Tribune.
Those "other roads," Grego explained, could include another ballot initiative if the city, as he and others argue, fails to listen to the will of voters.
"Right now we're all sitting on the edge of our seat. We're going to see how the council acts," Grego said.
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Council heard a presentation from project officials Tuesday. The city is hosting a community forum on the project Thursday, March 14, from 5-8 p.m. at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center, 3050 Lake Tahoe Blvd.
"With the legal proceeding coming to a conclusion we are focused on future planning efforts and we are focused on getting public input as the project moves forward. The first opportunity to do that is March 14 at the community forum," City Manager Frank Rush said in a statement.
The legal proceedings date back to 2016 when nearly 60 percent of voters approved Measure T.
Not to be confused with 2018's Measure T, which deals with vacation home rentals, 2016's Measure T prevented the city from "taking any action, adopting ordinance, making any resolution that approves or supports the Tahoe Transportation District Project known as 'The US 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project' (also known as the Loop Road project) …" without approval from South Lake Tahoe voters.
At the time newly elected City Councilor Jason Collin, who had filed a previous lawsuit attempting to keep the measure off the ballot, filed a second suit claiming the measure was unconstitutional.
The case was filed against the city of South Lake Tahoe as it was responsible for enforcing the measure.
In that second lawsuit, Collin did not identify the people behind the ballot measure as "real parties in interest." They were named in the initial lawsuit.
The city did not contest the lawsuit and an El Dorado County Superior Court judge ruled the ballot measure was "vague to the point of being unenforceable."
Grego appealed and eventually California's 3rd Appellate District ruled that he lacked standing to appeal, which effectively upheld the lower court's ruling without saying whether the measure was constitutional.
Grego hoped the Supreme Court would look beyond that issue and recognize the uniqueness of the case.
Ultimately, though, the court declined to consider his request for appeal.
Brian T. Hildreth, a Sacramento-based attorney representing Collin in the case, told the Tribune the court's decision amounts to affirmation of the Appellate Court's ruling.
"The Supreme Court essentially upheld the Appellate Court's decision."
As for the suit itself, Hildreth said it was successful in preventing a vague and ambiguous mandate that would have made it practically impossible for the city to make decisions regarding the Loop Road project.
"Ultimately this was about preserving the right for the city of South Lake Tahoe government to function with regards to the Loop Road," he said.