Homeowner’s federal lawsuit against city of Pismo Beach will proceed

Mike Spangler’s home in Pismo Beach.
Mike Spangler’s home in Pismo Beach. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A federal judge has said a lawsuit claiming the city of Pismo Beach illegally shut off a Shell Beach man’s water last year can move forward this week, despite a protest from the city. The man’s local court case regarding a zoning dispute on the same property is still awaiting trial next month.

Mike Spangler bought a 2.5-acre lot on Shell Beach Road in 2002, and has since been embroiled in a contentious legal battle with the city of Pismo Beach over the property — a battle that peaked in August with the city shutting off utilities to Spangler’s home after he refused to sign a deed restriction that would preserve the majority of his property as open space. The restriction would also permanently keep a dirt lot next to his house undeveloped.

The city said the requirements were part of the original conditional use permit to build the home, and contended that Spangler refused to sign the deed restriction despite repeated requests to do so.

Spangler, a former president of the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce, sought and was granted a restraining order in Superior Court against the city in September, preventing the city from fining him $500 per day and attempting to evict him from his home. The city was also required to turn his utilities back on.

Spangler and the city of Pismo Beach are scheduled to appear in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on May 6 to discuss the deed restriction.

In January, he filed a federal civil rights suit with the Central District of California United States District Court, claiming the city violated his rights by turning off the utilities at his home.

Federal judge Michael Fitzgerald ruled Monday that the lawsuit could move forward, despite opposition from the city, which moved to have the case dismissed because Spangler had a similar case pending before San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

Spangler is in the process of suing Pismo Beach to determine whether he must sign the deed restriction, but that court date has been put on hold numerous times since it was filed late last year, as both sides moved to have new judges. The case is scheduled to go before San Luis Obispo Superior Court on May 6.

For the federal case, Fitzgerald tentatively ruled that the suit could move forward because the two cases were asking for answers to separate questions: whether Spangler has to sign the deed restriction, and whether the city violated his rights by shutting off the utilities.

“Should it later become clear that the validity of the City’s ordinances or resolutions is a foundational issue in this action, the Court will reconsider Defendants’ arguments,” Fitzgerald wrote in the minute court order.

Attorney Stephanie Bowen, who is representing Pismo Beach in the case, said she and her co-counsel will draft a response to the order before April 25, and the case will proceed from there.

Bowen’s firm, Hall, Hieatt and Connely, is working on the federal case because the city is handling the issue through its insurance agency, the California Joint Insurance Powers Authority, and not in-house, city attorney Dave Fleishman said Wednesday.

Bowen said she did not yet know when the case would go to trial.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

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