NEWPORT BEACH An Orange County judge has denied a request by Museum House opponents to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Orange County Museum of Art challenging the petition that led to the condominium tower being scrapped earlier this year.
Political action committee Line in the Sand had asked that the lawsuit against the Newport Beach City Council be dismissed, accusing museum officials of trying to silence the group.
They claimed the suit was a SLAPP suit, or strategic lawsuit against public participation — known as lawsuits intended to censor and silence critics through burdensome costs until they drop their opposition.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Glass on May 25 ruled that Line in the Sand had no standing in the suit because state law requires the petitioner be an individual, not an organization.
“Initially, the California schema for referenda require that the petitioners be electors,” Glass wrote. “Electors are defined in California as natural beings, not organizations.”
Spokesman Tim Stoakes said Line in the Sand is disappointed in the ruling.
The group is also “still disappointed that OCMA’s legal tacit does not serve the residents of Newport Beach, who we believe are overwhelmingly against this high-density project,” he said.
Calls to the art museum were not immediately returned.
Developer Related California proposed building the 25-story, 100-unit condominium on the art museum site at 850 San Clemente Drive.
Museum officials want to sell the land to help finance a move to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts campus in Costa Mesa.
The council rescinded its earlier approval of the project in March after Line in the Sand gathered nearly 14,000 signatures to bring the matter to a public vote.
In January, the art museum filed a suit asking the court to void Line in the Sand’s petition, saying it does not meet “the most basic and mandatory” state elections code requirements.
Among the museum’s complaints are that the…