The district investigated complaints that Takhar was causing a dust problem for his neighbors as he tilled to convert pasture land into an orchard.  Eventually, the district cited and then sued Takhar for violating various state laws banning emissions of air contaminants.  Takhar cross-complained alleging two claims, one a taxpayer action under CCP 526a, claiming the district was wasting public funds by suing him since his farming operations were exempt from the air emissions control statutes, and the other seeking declaratory relief as to whether his operations were exempt or whether the district could prosecute him.  Held: the trial court erred in denying the district’s Anti-SLAPP motion to strike Takhar’s cross-complaint.  The cross-complaint did not fall within CCP 425.17(b) exemption for public interest actions since Takhar sought relief for himself in particular, not just generally for the public.  The complaint arose from the district’s protected conduct in suing Takhar for air emissions violations and for investigatory and communicatory acts preliminary and ancillary to that protected petitioning conduct.  Even the declaratory relief claim arose from protected activity because unlike in City of Cotati v. Cashman (2002) 29 Cal.4th 69, the enforcement action was not only the occasion for Takhar’s cross-complaint but in large part the basis of his claim for declaratory relief.  Finally, Takhar failed to show a probability of success on the merits since he never presented any argument on the merits of his claim his operations were exempt from air emissions regulations.

California Court of Appeal, Third District (Hoch, J.); September 11, 2018; 27 Cal. App. 5th 15