Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Sonia and Hector Ruiz's (together Ruiz) home flooded because their privately owned underground storm drain pipe rusted out after 50 years of use. They sued the County of San Diego (County) for inverse condemnation, and after a bench trial the court entered judgment in their favor (essentially the cost of replacing their metal pipe (the Ruiz pipe)) with a reinforced concrete pipe. The primary issue on appeal was whether a privately owned storm drain pipe located on private property, for which a public entity had rejected an offer of dedication, nevertheless became a public improvement because "public water" drained through it. After review of the trial court record, the Court of Appeal agreed with the County that under settled law, the answer is no. The County also contended the trial court's alternative basis for imposing liability, that the County acted unreasonably in discharging water through a public drainage system that connects to the Ruiz pipe, also failed. "Even viewing the evidence most favorably to Ruiz, the evidence is insufficient to sustain the judgment on this theory." Accordingly, judgment was reversed with directions to enter judgment for the County. View "Ruiz v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and the Coalition filed a petition for writ of mandate, seeking a peremptory writ directing the City to set aside various land use approvals, as well as determinations and documents approved under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The trial court sustained the demurrers of real parties and the Coalition without leave to amend and dismissed the Coalition's petition. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the Coalition's CEQA claims are time-barred because they were filed more than 30 days after the City filed a facially valid Notice of Determination. To the extent the Coalition argues on appeal that the agency lacked authority to make any determinations under CEQA or lacked authority to approve the project, while such claims could have been considered as part of a timely action, the court held that they are also time-barred. View "Coalition for an Equitable Westlake/MacArthur Park v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Defendants County of Sacramento and the County Board of Supervisors (the County) approved Cordova Hills, a large master planned community comprised of residential and commercial uses and including a university (the Project). Plaintiffs Environmental Council of Sacramento and the Sierra Club (Environmental Council) filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the Project, which the trial court denied. Environmental Council appealed, contending the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) contained a legally inadequate project description, an inadequate environmental impact analysis, failed to analyze impacts to land use, and the County failed to adopt feasible mitigation measures. Central to the Environmental Council’s appeal was the contention that the university was not likely to be built, and since the EIR assumed the buildout of a university, it was deficient in failing to analyze the Project without a university. We shall affirm the judgment. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court’s assessment, that the County, in drafting the EIR, was required to assume all phases of the Project, including the university, would be built. The Court affirmed the trial court in all respects. View "Environmental Council of Sacramento v. County of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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The City of San Diego (the City) appealed a judgment in a lawsuit filed by Citizens for South Bay Coastal Access (Plaintiff), which challenged the City's issuance of a conditional use permit allowing it to convert a motel that it recently purchased into a transitional housing facility for homeless misdemeanor offenders. Specifically, the City contended the trial court erred by ruling that the City was required to obtain a coastal development permit for the project because the motel was located in the Coastal Overlay Zone as defined in the City's municipal code. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in concluding that a coastal development permit was required under state law regulations promulgated by the California Coastal Commission (the Commission). Because the Commission certified the City's local coastal program, those provisions applied here rather than the Commission's regulations. "Under the City's local coastal program, the project is exempt from the requirement to obtain a coastal development permit because it involves an improvement to an existing structure, and no exceptions to the existing- structure exemption are applicable." Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment. View "Citizens for South Bay Coastal Access v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Junaid Lateef appealed a judgment entered in favor of the City of Madera (city) and the Madera City Council (city council) (collectively, respondents), which denied his petition for administrative mandamus and requests for declaratory and injunctive relief. At issue was the meaning of Madera Municipal Code section 10-3.1310(E), which set forth the minimum number of council votes required to overturn the Madera Planning Commission’s (commission) denial of an application for a conditional use permit: “A five-sevenths vote of the whole of the Council shall be required to grant, in whole or in part, any appealed application denied by the Commission.” Lateef appealed the denial of his application to the seven-member city council, which voted four-to-one to grant his appeal; however, one councilmember recused himself and another council seat was vacant. The city council denied Lateef’s appeal, ruling that he needed five votes (five-sevenths times the total membership of the council) to prevail. Arguing to the Court of Appeal, Lateef contended the city council was required to grant his appeal because the ordinance requires a five-sevenths vote of those councilmembers present and voting, and he received five-sevenths of the five votes that were cast, namely four votes. He also contended he was denied a fair trial because the recused councilmember and vacant seat were included as councilmembers when determining the number of votes needed to grant his appeal. Finding no merit to Lateef’s contentions, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Lateef v. City of Madera" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Court of Appeal was whether Riverside County, California could impose a tax on possessory interests in federally owned land set aside for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians or its members. In 1971, Court held that it could, holding in part that federal law did not preempt the tax. The tax was also upheld that year by the Ninth Circuit. Since then, the United States Supreme Court articulated a new preemption framework in considering whether states may tax Indian interests, and the Department of the Interior promulgated new Indian leasing regulations, the preamble of which stated that state taxation was precluded. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal concluded, as it did in 1971, this possessory interest tax was valid. View "Herpel v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

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The application called for a “tennis cabaña” with a guest room and bathroom, next to a tennis court on a 2.38-acre residential property. Neighbors objected that the cabaña was inconsistent with the neighborhood; was too close to an adjacent home: was an illegal second unit; violated a landscape condition imposed when the tennis court was approved; was too large, too close to neighboring residences; was inconsistent with the general plan and municipal code; that the hearing notices violated the Brown Act; and that the applicants had an unfair advantage because their architect was a Planning Commission member. The applicants cut the size to 1,100 square feet and increased the distance from the cabaña to a neighboring project, and improved landscaping. The Commission approved the project subject to conditions, including a landscape agreement and the prohibition on use as a secondary dwelling unit. The City Council denied an appeal. While approval was pending, the applicants’ attorney threatened to sue if the city denied the project; the Council discussed the threat of litigation during closed sessions. That a threat of litigation had been made was not noted in the agenda for any of the public meetings. Plaintiffs did not learn about the litigation threat or the discussions until after the project had been approved. The court of appeal affirmed. While the city improperly considered the application in closed sessions in violation of Gov. Code 54950 (Brown Act), there was no prejudice. View "Fowler v. City of Lafayette" on Justia Law

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Appellants Baldwin & Sons, Inc.; Baldwin & Sons, LLC; Sunranch Capital Partners, LLC; USA Portola Properties, LLC; Sunrise Pacific Construction; USA Portola East, LLC; USA Portola West, LLC; and SRC-PH Investments, LLC, all appealed an order compelling compliance with administrative subpoenas issued by the State Water Resources Control Board. Appellants were involved (or believed to be involved) in the construction of a large-scale development in the Portola Hills Community in Lake Forest, California. The State Board initiated an investigation into alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act and California's Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act occurring during construction activities. In connection with its investigation, the State Board issued subpoenas seeking Appellants' financial records. When Appellants refused to produce the requested financial records, the State Board sought a court order compelling compliance with the subpoenas. With the exception of tax returns, the trial court concluded that the information sought was relevant to the State Board's investigation and subject to disclosure pursuant to the investigative subpoenas. Appellants argued on appeal: (1) their financial records were not reasonably relevant to the State Board's investigation; (2) compelling production of their financial records violated their right to privacy; and (3) the protective order did not adequately protect against disclosure of their private financial information to third parties. The Court of Appeal rejected these claims and affirmed the challenged order compelling production of the Appellants' financial records subject to a protective order. View "State Water Resources Control Bd. v. Baldwin & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law

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The City of Desert Hot Springs (the City) tried to abate a public nuisance by serving the owner of a dilapidated hotel/motel with notice that it was required to correct numerous building and safety violations. When the owner failed to timely correct the violations or apply for a permit to raze the building, the City sought a declaration that the building constituted a nuisance and, pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 17980.7(c), requested the appointment of a receiver to oversee the building’s rehabilitation. Instead of addressing the notice and opportunity given to the owner of the hotel/motel and the proposed receiver’s qualifications, the trial court here questioned the viability of the proposed receiver’s financial and construction plan. And, having concluded the plan made no economic sense because the value of the property after its rehabilitation would not exceed the costs of rehabilitation plus the additional costs associated with appointment of a receiver, the court denied the City’s request and subsequently dismissed the action. The Court of Appeal concurred with the City which argued the court exceeded its authority under section 17980.7(c). Therefore, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for the trial court to reconsider the City’s request for appointment of a receiver. View "City of Desert Hot Springs v. Valenti" on Justia Law

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Stephen Taylor was convicted by jury of numerous sex offenses against his adopted daughters, Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. In total, the jury convicted him on 12 counts. The trial court sentenced him to prison for a one-year determinate term and an aggregate indeterminate term of 165 years to life. On appeal, Taylor argued the trial court erred by admitting expert testimony on child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, and instructing the jurors that they could use that evidence to evaluate the victims’ credibility. He also claimed the court made several sentencing errors: (1) by imposing two indeterminate terms under the former “One Strike” law for two offenses that occurred during a single occasion; (2) by imposing multiple punishments for four counts of aggravated sexual assault and four counts of lewd acts arising from the same facts; and (3) by imposing a restitution fine and court operations and facilities fees without an ability to pay hearing. The Court of Appeal agreed that the court erred by imposing multiple punishments on four counts of aggravated sexual assault (counts 1 through 4) and four counts of forcible lewd acts (counts 5 through 8) that arose from the same conduct. Accordingly, Taylor’s sentence was stayed on counts 5 through 8. The Court also agreed the court should hold an ability to pay hearing, at least as to the court operations and facilities fees. Therefore, the Court reversed the order imposing those fees and remanded for a hearing on Taylor’s ability to pay them. As to the restitution fine, Taylor forfeited his contention. The Court otherwise rejected Taylor’s arguments and affirmed. View "Holden v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law