Residents Step Up Legal Battle in Rustic Canyon

Times Staff Writer

Members of two Rustic Canyon homeowner groups are seeking a court order against a neighbor, film producer Steven Tisch, in a long-running legal battle over community access to a 25-foot-wide right of way through Tisch’s property.

Residents claim they are entitled to use the right of way, which for 50 years has provided pedestrian access to Sunset Boulevard from Latimer Road, a paved private road that ends in a cul-de-sac at Rustic Canyon Creek just south of Tisch’s property. The right of way once included a footbridge over the creek and a walking path to Sunset.

The right to use the right of way was deeded in 1936 to 62 homes on Latimer and Haldeman roads, and it has been used regularly by as many as 160 more households, according to Linda Nathanson, a resident and spokeswoman for the homeowner groups.

In 1982, Tisch filed suit seeking to prohibit public use of the right of the way and obtained a court order for such a prohibition until the trial, which is expected this fall.


Seeks Countersuit

Last week, the Homeowners Assn. of Rustic Canyon and the Uplifters Improvement Assn. asked court permission to file a countersuit against Tisch, according to their attorney, Peggy Garrity.

Residents also asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction that would prohibit Tisch from performing grading, landscaping or construction on the right of way until a trial resolves the community-access issue, Garrity said.

A hearing on the two requests is scheduled May 18 before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jerry Fields, she said.


Tisch’s attorney, Albert Erkel, of the Los Angeles law firm of Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine, said Tuesday he did not wish to comment on the case.

In his 1982 lawsuit, Tisch claims that residents gave up their right to use the right of way many years ago.

Footbridge Washed Away

The footbridge that residents had been using until 1980, when floods washed it away, was actually on private property and not on the right of way, Tisch said in his lawsuit. Because they did not use the right of way, Tisch claimed, residents in effect gave up their access rights.


The 1982 preliminary injunction prohibits residents from rebuilding the footbridge and from using the right-of-way path to Sunset.

What most angered residents about Tisch’s lawsuit, Nathanson said, was that legal papers were served on residents at 5:30 on a Sunday morning. The papers notified residents that until legal resolution of the case, public record would show their properties were in litigation and in danger of being adversely affected.

This legal cloud over the easement rights in their deeds has posed a problem for residents who wished to sell their homes because potential buyers are wary of pending litigation, Garrity said.

Homeowners said that Tisch has “abused the spirit and intent of the (1982) injunction” Nathanson said.


She said the court order was intended to preserve the status quo on the right of way until the matter could be brought to trial.

Instead, she said, residents claim that Tisch has altered the easement by excavating, obstructing and planting. Residents have asked the court to stop Tisch from making changes in the easement until the dispute is resolved at trial, she said.