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Friday, January 28, 2011

Monterey Building and Construction Trades Council: Court of Appeal Issues Wide-Ranging Prevailing Wage Decision

This is an interesting case, as long as you find prevailing wage issues interesting: Monterey/Santa Cruz County Bldg. and Const. Trades Council v. Cypress Marina (1/10/11, pub. 1/24/11) --- Cal.App.4th ----, 2011 WL 63101.
Plaintiffs, who are labor organizations, an association of contractors, and two City of Marina taxpayers, prevailed in their action for declaratory and injunctive relief against Cypress Marina Heights LP (CMH). CMH had acquired Fort Ord land from the City of Marina's Redevelopment Agency (MRDA) for the development of CMH's Marina Heights project. MRDA had acquired that land from the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA). Deed covenants in the FORA/MRDA deeds required payment of the prevailing wage to workers on all development of the land. CMH refused to commit to pay the prevailing wage to workers on the Marina Heights project. It claimed that its purchase agreement with MRDA did not require payment of the prevailing wage. The trial court granted plaintiffs' summary adjudication motion and found that it was undisputed that CMH was required to pay the prevailing wage on the Marina Heights project. The court thereafter entered judgment for plaintiffs and awarded plaintiffs their attorney's fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5.
CMH appeals. It claims that triable issues of fact precluded summary adjudication of the prevailing wage issue. CMH also contends that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding plaintiffs their attorney's fees and awarded plaintiffs an excessive amount of fees. We find no error or abuse of discretion in the trial court's rulings and affirm the judgment.
Slip op. at 1.

The Court held that the redevelopment agency's "Master Resolution," which required all developers of Fort Ord land to "pay or cause to be paid" prevailing wages "to all workers employed in connection with the development of such property," unambiguously established prevailing wage requirement as to all development of the property, not only as to public works contracts. Slip. op at 6-9.

The agreement to transfer the land from the redevelopment agency to the city required the city to “use or transfer” the land in compliance with the Master Resolution and specific deed restrictions, including a requirement that any development of the land be done in accordance with the Master Resolution. The Court held that these deed restrictions ran with the land and unambiguously obligated the developer to pay prevailing wages on all development projects. Slip op. at 9-12.

The Court next held that the plaintiffs had standing to assert the prevailing wage issues:
Here, the individual contractors represented by plaintiffs were “interested under a written instrument” in the enforcement of the prevailing wage covenant. There was an “actual controversy” about this issue because CMH insisted that the covenant did not apply to its Marina Heights project. A declaratory relief action was authorized even though CMH had yet to breach the covenant. The interests that plaintiffs sought to protect were germane to the purposes of their associations, and the participation of individuals members was not necessary. Consequently, the unions and associations had standing to litigate this action on their members' behalf.
Slip op. at 14.

Finally, the Court upheld the award of attorney fees to the prevailing plaintiffs under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. Slip op. at 15.

The opinion is available here.

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