Appellate court throws out Dalidio ruling
August 4, 2009
By KAREN VELIE
A state appellate court ruling Tuesday paved the way for Ernie Dalidio’s proposed multi-faceted plan to develop his land and, at the same time, gave him the option of refilling a RICO lawsuit against the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association and the mysterious corporation that opposed his proposal.
“They have blown these guys (opponents) out of the water,” Dalidio said after the decision was made public. “It is unbelievable how strongly the appellate court knocked them out.”
The Second Appellate District of the state Court of Appeal voted unanimously to throw out Superior Court Judge Roger Picquet’s ruling last year that overturned a 2006 San Luis Obispo County ballot initiative approved Dalidio’s project by a 65-35 percent margin.
“This is not just about me,” Dalidio said. “It is about the public that voted for this thing. They have been vindicated.”
The approved vote would have allowed Dalidio to incorporate business, retail, and residential development on his 131-acre site that runs along the west side of U.S. Highway 101 between Los Osos Valley and Madonna Roads.
The appellate court noted in its 3-0 decision that the Measure J initiative was legislative and not adjudicative (adjudicative issues cannot go through the initiative process). In addition, the issue of the Measure J trumping the airport land use was ruled to be “without merit.”
“Respondents’ remaining arguments can be disposed of summarily,” the decision said.
The court noted that a case Picquet relied on for his ruling against Dalidio was not relevant, concluding that Picquet erred in his reasoning for his decision against Dalidio.
Opponents of the development, Citizens for Planning Responsibly (CPR), and the Environmental Center, said they have not yet decided how they plan to react to the decision. Their options include making a motion to the appellate court for reconsideration or to ask the state Supreme Court to hear their arguments.
“We were disappointed when we read this decision and think the court of appeals got it wrong,” said CPR President Rosemary Wilvert. “We are going to review the decision and look at our legal options.”
In early 2008, Dalidio filed a declaration to allow a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit against the LLC and the downtown association that opposed the No on Measure J Campaign and the downtown association. Dalido’s multimillion-dollar lawsuit claims that the downtown association and Responsible County Development LLC conspired and implemented unlawful business practices to thwart the proposed development.
U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder in Los Angeles tentatively dismissed Dalidio’s case alleging conspiracy and unlawful business practices, noting Picquet’s ruling.
At this time, Dalidio is undecided on how he will proceed in the future with his proposal, but he said he is not going to “quit.”
“It is a long and winding road where someone in the system has heard Dalidio’s voice,” said Dalidio attorney James McKiernan. “The shovel can break the ground. It breathes new life and resurrects our clients’ option on the tort lawsuit.”
Following information from Dalidio’s attorneys that the downtown Association and the No on Measure J had run an illegal campaign against the Dalidio proposal, the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) researched the claims and determined they had merit.
“The FPPC has authorized us to act as representatives of the state in an election fraud case,” McKiernan added.