Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Livermore adopted a General Plan and a Downtown Specific Plan in 2004, for which it certified an environmental impact report (EIR). A subsequent EIR (SEIR) was certified in 2009, after amendments to the Downtown Specific Plan increased the amount of development allowed. In 2018, Livermore approved a plan for redeveloping city-owned sites in the “Downtown Core” with park space, retail buildings, cultural facilities, multifamily workforce housing, a public parking garage, and a hotel. Livermore selected Eden to develop the housing. Addenda to the SEIR were prepared. The proposed housing project comprised two four-story buildings with 130 affordable housing units. . Livermore’s Planning Commission approved Eden’s application. The city approved design review and a vesting tentative parcel map, finding that no substantial changes were proposed that would require major revisions to the previous EIR, SEIR, or addenda and that the project was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) as consistent with a specific plan for which an EIR had been certified and as infill development.The trial court required SLD to file an undertaking of $500,000 in its challenges to the approvals, finding that the action was brought for the purpose of delaying affordable housing and that the undertaking would not cause SLD undue economic harm. The court of appeal rejected arguments that the project was inconsistent with the planning and zoning law and that further review of the environmental impacts was necessary and upheld the requirement that SLD post a bond. View "Save Livermore Downtown v. City of Livermore" on Justia Law

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Defendant Department of General Services and real party Joint Committee on Rules of the California State Senate and Assembly (collectively DGS) prepared an environmental impact report (EIR) to determine the environmental effects of a project they proposed which would significantly affect the California State Capitol Building in Sacramento (Historic Capitol). DGS would demolish the State Capitol Building Annex attached to the Historic Capitol and replace it with a larger new annex building, construct an underground visitor center attached to the Historic Capitol’s west side, and construct an underground parking garage east of the new Annex. Plaintiffs Save Our Capitol! and Save the Capitol, Save the Trees filed petitions for writ of mandate contending the EIR did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The trial court denied the petitions. Plaintiffs appealed the judgment, arguing: (1) the EIR lacked a stable project description; (2) the EIR did not adequately analyze and mitigate the project’s impacts on cultural resources, biological resources, aesthetics, traffic, and utilities and service systems; (3) the EIR’s analysis of alternatives to the project was legally deficient; and (4) DGS violated CEQA by not recirculating the EIR a second time before certifying it. The Court of Appeal reversed in part, finding the EIR’s project description, analyses of historical resources and aesthetics, and analysis of alternatives did not comply with CEQA. Judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Save Our Capitol! v. Dept. of General Services" on Justia Law

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The Jenkinses bought a one-bedroom home, built in 1909, with a small accessory cottage in San Anselmo. Following conversations with an architect, contractors, and the Town Planning Director, they sought permits to demolish the existing structures and build a new home with a detached studio. The Planning Commission approved the project. The Jenkinses nevertheless worked with neighbors to accommodate their concerns and submitted revised plans, which were also approved. Four individuals unsuccessfully appealed to the Town Council. Attorney Brandt-Hawley filed a mandamus petition on behalf of an unincorporated association and an individual, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), although the appeal did not include any CEQA claim and CEQA has a categorical exemption for single-family homes, and “violation of the Town Municipal Code,” without citation.The trial judge denied the petition, criticizing aspects of Brandt-Hawley’s briefing and advocacy. Petitioners appealed, then offered to dismiss the appeal for a waiver of fees and costs. The Jenkinses rejected the offer. On the day the opening brief was due, Brandt-Hawley dismissed the appeal. The Jenkinses sued Brandt-Hawley for malicious prosecution. The court denied Brandt-Hawley’s special anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion to strike. The court of appeal affirmed. The Jenkinses met their burden under step two of the anti-SLAPP procedure demonstrating a probability of success on their complaint. View "Jenkins v. Brandt-Hawley" on Justia Law

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Division purchased two office buildings from the city that included a short-term leaseback at below-market rent. Division alleged that the assessor failed to take the leaseback into account when valuing the buildings for property tax purposes and claims this violated Revenue and Taxation Code section 402.1. After failing to persuade the City’s Assessment Appeals Board, Division filed suit. The trial court dismissed, holding that the lease did not constitute an “enforceable restriction” under section 402.1.The court of appeal affirmed, noting that Division paid $53 million, a price discounted to reflect the leaseback. While a purchase price may play a significant role in the reassessment of property upon its sale, that price is only the beginning of the inquiry; one factor that may skew the purchase price and make it an unreliable indicator of fair market value is an agreement containing restrictions on the buyer’s use of the property. Such restrictions do not bind the assessor. Government-imposed land use restrictions must be taken into account when a property is valued for assessment purposes but under section 402.1 “enforceable restrictions” are land use restrictions imposed by the government under its police power, not restrictions agreed to by a public entity selling property to a private buyer in an ordinary arm’s-length transaction. View "290 Division (EAT), LLC v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Appellant AIDS HealthCare Foundation (AHF) challenges land use decisions by the Los Angeles City Council planning and land use management (PLUM) committee, made while two of its members allegedly were the beneficiaries of an extensive, ongoing bribery scheme directed at PLUM committee projects. AHF contends the three-year catch-all statute of limitations in Code of Civil Procedure section 338, subdivision (a), applies to those PRA claims. Respondents City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles City Council (collectively the City) asserted that the more specific 90-day statutes of limitation in Government Code sections 65009 and 66499.37 apply. The trial court, following precedent involving a predecessor statute to section 65009, agreed with the City, sustained the City’s demurrer without leave to amend, and dismissed the case.   The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court held that the application of the pre-existing shorter statute of limitations does not “practically amend” section 91011 subdivision (b), or any other part of the PRA. Section 65009 does not conflict with, or otherwise take away from, the original PRA, practically or otherwise. Further, the court held that the trial court properly dismissed AHF’s complaint as time-barred by section 65009, the applicable 90-day statute of limitations in this action. View "AIDS HealthCare Foundation v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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In 2003, JCJIC proposed a 312-unit apartment complex on 15.45 acres of vacant land along the Petaluma River. In 2008, after starting a draft environmental impact report (DEIR), for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000), Petaluma adopted General Plan 2025. In response, JCJIC submitted an application for a 278-unit complex. After conducting site visits, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service identified the issues the EIR should address. A “Habitat Mitigation Monitoring Plan” was incorporated. In 2018, the DEIR was published. JCJIC provided consultant studies regarding environmental impacts, including on “Special Status Species.” The Planning Commission considered traffic impacts, floodplain impacts, and decreased quality of neighborhood life. City Council members requested supplemental documentation and authorized the preparation of a final EIR. JCJIC further reduced the proposal to 205 units; reduced the height of buildings; increased setbacks from the River; and implement a “Traffic Calming Plan.” The Final EIR concluded the revisions eliminated or reduced several potential significant impacts. In 2020, JCJIC submitted another plan with 180 units.Objectors disputed the adequacy of the EIR’s special status species analysis and failure to analyze emergency evacuations. The City Council certified the EIR and approved zoning amendments. The trial court and court of appeal upheld the approvals. View "Save North Petaluma River and Wetlands v. City of Petaluma" on Justia Law

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The school's athletic stadium seats 2,008 persons and is surrounded by single-family homes. The school sought approval to add four permanent 90-foot tall outdoor light standards to enable its nighttime use. The planning department determined that the project was categorically exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000). The planning commission approved a permit, limiting the hours during which the lights could be used, and prohibiting use by groups unaffiliated with the school. The permit required the distribution of a large-event management plan and a code of conduct for students and others attending events. The board of supervisors affirmed, further restricting the hours that the lights could be used, requiring the school to report the dates and times the lights are turned on, dimmed, and turned off, requiring that for certain events, the school provide off-site parking, and requiring that trees be installed for screening.The court of appeal reversed. The project is not exempt from CEQA under the class 1 exemption for “existing facilities.” The project will significantly expand the nighttime use of the stadium. Nor does the class 3 exemption, entitled “New Construction or Conversion of Small Structures,” apply. View "Saint Ignatius Neighborhood Association v. City & County of San.Francisco" on Justia Law

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Defendant Department of General Services and real party Joint Committee on Rules of the California State Senate and Assembly (collectively DGS) prepared an environmental impact report (EIR) to determine the environmental effects of a project they proposed that would "significantly" affect the California State Capitol Building in Sacramento (Historic Capitol). Plaintiffs Save Our Capitol! and Save the Capitol, Save the Trees filed petitions for writ of mandate contending the EIR did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The trial court denied the petitions. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing: (1) the EIR lacked a stable project description; (2) the EIR did not adequately analyze and mitigate the project’s impacts on cultural resources, biological resources, aesthetics, traffic, and utilities and service systems; (3) the EIR’s analysis of alternatives to the project was legally deficient; and (4) DGS violated CEQA by not recirculating the EIR a second time before certifying it. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed in part and affirmed in part. The Court found the EIR’s project description, analyses of historical resources and aesthetics, and analysis of alternatives did not comply with CEQA. View "Save Our Capitol v. Dept. of General Services" on Justia Law

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O’Brien submitted an application in March 2011 for approval of a 315-unit residential apartment development. O’Brien’s application was deemed complete in July 2011, including 14 residential buildings, a clubhouse, a leasing office, parking in carports and garages, and internal roadways on a 22.27-acre site. The site was then designated Administrative/Professional/Multi-Family Residential on the city’s general-plan land-use map and was zoned Administrative/Professional. The city certified an environmental impact report (EIR) in 2013. Before the project was approved, O’Brien and the city suspended processing the original project while O’Brien pursued an alternative, smaller proposal.In 2018, when it proved impossible to proceed with the alternative project, O’Brien and the city revived the original proposal, with some modifications. The city finally approved the resumed project in 2020, after the preparation of an addendum to the original EIR. A citizen’s group claimed that the project conflicted with the city’s general plan as it existed when the project was revived in 2018, that the EIR was inadequate, and that a supplemental EIR is required. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of the mandamus petition. Despite the lengthy delay between certification of the EIR and project approval, the city properly applied the general plan standards in effect when the application was deemed complete. The court rejected challenges to the EIR. View "Save Lafayette v. City of Lafayette" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered whether Section 6 of the California Constitution required the state to reimburse the defendant local governments (collectively permittees or copermittees) for costs they incurred to satisfy conditions which the state imposed on their stormwater discharge permit. Defendant-respondent Commission on State Mandates (the Commission) determined that six of the eight permit conditions challenged in this action were reimbursable state mandates. They required permittees to provide a new program. Permittees also did not have sufficient legal authority to levy a fee for those conditions because doing so required preapproval by the voters. The Commission also determined that the other two conditions requiring the development and implementation of environmental mitigation plans for certain new development were not reimbursable state mandates. Permittees had authority to levy a fee for those conditions. On petitions for writ of administrative mandate, the trial court upheld the Commission’s decision in its entirety and denied the petitions. Plaintiffs, cross-defendants and appellants State Department of Finance, the State Water Resources Board, and the Regional Water Quality Board, San Diego Region (collectively the State) appealed, contending the six permit conditions found to be reimbursable state mandates were not mandates because the permit did not require permittees to provide a new program and permittees had authority to levy fees for those conditions without obtaining voter approval. Except to hold that the street sweeping condition was not a reimburseable mandate, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Dept. of Finance v. Commission on State Mandates" on Justia Law