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Santa Rosa loses appeal of $40,000 in sanctions

An appellate court on Monday denied Santa Rosa's request to reconsider the sanctions it levied against the city for filing a frivolous appeal in the case of a disputed easement through a gated community near Oakmont.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco chastised the city in August for its “repeated pattern of ignoring or misrepresenting relevant authority” in its appeal of a lower court ruling against the city.

The court issued $40,000 in sanctions to compensate the Villages at Wild Oak Association for the legal costs it incurred fighting the city's filings.

Assistant City Attorney John Fritsch urged the court on Sept. 12 to reconsider the sanctions, claiming his arguments “were made in good faith, were objectively reasonable and not indisputably without merit.”

The court denied the request without explanation. The city does not plan to appeal to the California Supreme Court, City Attorney Caroline Fowler said.

The case will now return to Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Elliot Daum in late October for further hearings, Fowler said.

“We'll continue to try to protect the public's right of access,” she said.

The case seeks to clarify the type of easement that runs through the gated community between Oakmont and the eastern edge of Annadel State Park.

The association claims the easement allows only pedestrians and emergency vehicles. The city claims the route across a narrow path and private streets also allows bicyclists and equestrians.

The dispute stretches back to 2008 when residents, frustrated with recreational bicyclists whizzing through their neighborhood, put up “No bicycles” and “No trespassing” signs along the path.

The city sued to enforce the public's right of access across the easement.

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