Judge Dismisses 1 MCA Suit Against Disney Project
A judge Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit that the entertainment conglomerate MCA had filed against the City of Burbank in an attempt to block plans by the Walt Disney Co. to build an entertainment and shopping center.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Warren H. Deering granted the city’s motion to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it was not valid.
He also ordered MCA, which has its headquarters in Universal City, to pay the city’s court costs.
MCA, Disney’s business rival, filed two lawsuits last year in an attempt to end Burbank’s tentative agreement with Disney to develop the center, to be called “The Disney-MGM Studio Backlot.”
The second suit, claiming that the city violated state laws in negotiating with Disney, is pending.
Deering’s ruling came five days after a hearing in which the judge took issue with several points made by MCA attorney Gregory P. Stone.
Stone had argued that Burbank failed to determine the adverse environmental impact of the project, as required by state law. He also said the agreement was a “waste of taxpayers’ funds” because the city had agreed to sell Disney 40 acres of property for $1 million, which he said was far below its worth.
The judge responded that no environmental assessment was needed because specifics of the project had not been determined. He also said that the preliminary agreement was necessary so that Disney and the city could negotiate the final terms.
“We were challenged with a bogus lawsuit, but we won,” said Burbank Mayor Michael R. Hastings.
“I hope now we can bury the hatchet with MCA.”
City Atty. Douglas C. Holland said Deering’s decision “helps vindicate and validate the entire process we went through. We want to involve the community in a meaningful dialogue on this project, and having a lawsuit over us just clouded the process.”
MCA attorney Daniel Shapiro said he is disappointed at the ruling, but wants to review Deering’s decision before deciding whether to appeal.
The Burbank City Council is scheduled to hear more specifics of Disney’s proposal in May. Disney officials want to build a multimillion-dollar complex with shops, theaters, restaurants, a man-made lake and a hotel on the 40-acre downtown site.
The other suit filed by MCA against the city alleges that the council, acting as the city’s redevelopment agency, violated the state’s Brown Act by meeting privately with Disney officials before awarding the tentative agreement.
The Brown Act requires local governments to act publicly on most matters.