Counting all in-house and outside legal fees, Napa County spent nearly $1 million to defend itself against a challenge to its housing plans and policies.

Latinos Unidos del Valle de Napa y Solano sued the county in 2009, alleging its Housing Element was inadequate and its policies were illegally discriminatory. The county denied the allegations, and won a complete victory in Napa County Superior Court in 2011.

Defending that portion of the case cost $700,000, although the county was only able to recoup $12,000 for administrative costs, county officials reported. The county received no compensation for the far more expensive fees for attorneys and expert witnesses.

The county subsequently largely won a decision in the appellate courts, and the California Supreme Court decided last month not to hear an appeal, ending the court case.

The county’s bill for outside legal services as the case wound through the appeals process over the last two years was another $130,000, County Counsel Minh Tran said Monday.

This additional sum doesn’t include the staff time and other costs accrued by attorneys within the County Counsel’s Office, Tran said. He said he estimated that to be within one third to one fourth of the total cost of the outside attorneys.

The county won the lawsuit in Napa Superior Court, but Latinos Unidos appealed in 2012, and the California 1st District Court of Appeals upheld the majority of the Superior Court ruling. The appellate court ruled that the county’s density bonus ordinance wasn’t compliant with state law.

The Supreme Court’s decision to not review the lawsuit provided an end to Latinos Unidos’ appeal, but Tran said the portion of the case regarding the density bonus ordinance will continue this month.

County planning staff had to rewrite the ordinance to bring it in line with the appellate court’s ruling, and the revised version is scheduled to go before the Napa County Planning Commission later this month, Tran said. It will have to go to the Board of Supervisors after that.

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