Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

by
After the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) certified an environmental impact report (EIR) for its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (transportation plan), CREED-21 and Affordable Housing Coalition of San Diego filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the EIR's adequacy under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Cleveland National Forest Foundation and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a similar petition, in which Sierra Club and the State later joined. The superior court granted the petitions in part, finding the EIR failed to carry out its role as an informational document because it did not analyze the inconsistency between the state's policy goals reflected in Executive Order S-3-05 (Executive Order) and the transportation plan's greenhouse gas emissions impacts after 2020. The court also found the EIR failed to adequately address mitigation measures for the transportation plan's greenhouse gas emissions impacts. The California Supreme Court granted review on the sole issue of whether the EIR should have analyzed the transportation plan's impacts against the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals in the Executive Order and reversed the Court of Appeal "insofar as it determined that the [EIR's] analysis of greenhouse gas emission impacts rendered the EIR inadequate and required revision." Cleveland and the State requested the Court of Appeal keep the remainder of its decision substantially intact and publish it as revised. SANDAG asserted the case was moot because the EIR and the transportation plan have been superseded by more recent versions, which Cleveland and the State did not challenge. The Court of Appeal agreed with Cleveland and the State that SANDAG did not establish this case was moot. The Court exercised its discretion and reversed to the extent the superior court determined the EIR failed to adequately analyze the transportation plan's greenhouse gas emissions impacts. The judgment was affirmed to the extent the superior court determined the EIR failed to adequately address the mitigation measures for the transportation plan's greenhouse gas emissions impacts. The judgment was modified to incorporate this court's decision on the cross-appeals. The matter was remanded to the superior court with directions to enter a modified judgment and order the issuance of a peremptory writ of mandate conforming to the Supreme Court's decision in Cleveland II and to this court's decision on remand. View "Cleveland Nat. Forest Foundation v. San Diego Assn. etc." on Justia Law

by
The state acquired land on the Upper Truckee River in the Lake Tahoe Basin: 608 acres for Washoe Meadows State Park plus the 169-acre Lake Valley State Recreation Area, to continue operation of an existing golf course. Golf courses are not allowed in state parks. Erosion of the River’s bed raised concerns about wildlife habitat, water table, and sedimentation of Lake Tahoe. Studies identified the state land among the worst contributors. The golf course's layout had altered the river's course, CEQA review (Pub. Resources Code 21000) commenced on the “Upper Truckee River Restoration and Golf Course Reconfiguration Project,” identifying four alternatives: no project; river restoration with reconfiguration of the 18-hole golf course; river restoration with a nine-hole golf course; river stabilization with continuation of the existing golf course; and restoration of the ecosystem and decommissioning the golf course. Relocating some holes inside the Park would necessitate adjustment of the Park/Recreation Area boundary. A draft environmental impact report (DEIR) did not identify a preferred alternative but analyzed the alternatives in detail. The final EIR identified river restoration with a reconfigured 18-hole golf course as the preferred alternative, taking about 40 acres from the Park. The court of appeal affirmed an order directing reversal of approval of the project. The DEIR did not identify a proposed project, but described five very different alternatives; the public was not provided with “an accurate, stable and finite” project description on which to comment. View "Washoe Meadows Community v. Department of Parks and Recreation" on Justia Law

by
Defendants-appellants the City of Huntington Beach and the City Council of Huntington Beach (collectively, City) appealed mandamus relief to plaintiffs-respondents The Kennedy Commission, William Adams and Jason Puloe (collectively, Kennedy) invalidating City’s amendment to the Beach Edinger Corridors Specific Plan (BECSP). Kennedy filed a complaint alleging in the first cause of action that the amended BECSP was inconsistent with the housing element in violation of California’s Housing Element Law (Gov. Code) sections 65454, 65580, 65583, 65587 and 65860. Kennedy argued that the amended BECSP was void as it was not consistent with the housing element in the general plan, and therefore the amendment should have been invalidated. City responded that it was amending its housing element and was seeking approval from the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The trial court applied section 65454, which required a specific plan be consistent with the general plan, and declared the amended BECSP was void. The Court of Appeal granted City’s petition for writ of supersedeas staying the writ of mandate. City argued: (1) for the first time on appeal, the City of Huntington Beach was a charter city, making it exempt from a consistency requirement of its specific plans to the general plan pursuant to section 65700; (2) if City was subject to the consistency requirement, the trial court erred by invalidating the entire BECSP amendment because it contained provisions that did not refer to housing; (3) the trial court’s judgment and writ are overbroad and overreaching and therefore violated constitutional separation of powers; (4) the issues are not ripe for adjudication because Kennedy cannot show harm; and (5) Kennedy has no standing to bring a claim under section 65454. The Court of Appeal concluded Kennedy’s attempts to show City adopted the consistency requirement in section 65454 failed. Even if the exemption applied, the remedy would not be that the amended BECSP was void. Rather, according to section 65750, City should have been granted time to amend its housing element. “As noted, City had already submitted an amended housing element to the HCD for approval prior to the trial court’s decision in this case. Moreover, the trial court ruled that it would not grant relief on Kennedy’s claim that City must implement the housing element in its current state. It was without dispute that City was working with the HCD to have the housing element comply with state law. City was free to amend its housing element to comply with state law while leaving the amended BECSP in place.” The Court of Appeal reversed the superior court’s grant of a writ of mandate and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "Kennedy Commission v. City of Huntington Beach" on Justia Law

by
Defendants-respondents the City of Davis (City) and the City Council of the City of Davis (City Council) approved a conditional use permit authorizing the use of a single family home in a residential zoning district as professional office space for three therapists. Petitioner-appellant and next door neighbor Michael Harrington, filed a petition for an administrative writ of mandate asking the trial court to set aside the conditional use permit. The trial court denied the petition. Harrington appealed, arguing: (1) the conditional use permit violated an ordinance prohibiting parking in the front yard setback; (2) the issuance of the conditional use permit resulted in a change in occupancy triggering accessible parking requirements under the California Building Standards Code (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 24, pt. 2); (3) the conditional use permit contemplated alterations triggering the accessible parking requirements; (4) the City Council failed to make sufficient findings to support a conclusion that compliance with accessible parking requirements would be technically infeasible, and the findings are not supported by substantial evidence; and (5) the City Council failed to make sufficient findings to support a conclusion that the permitted use is consistent with the zoning designation, and the findings are not supported by substantial evidence. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded: (1) the conditional use permit did not require parking in the front yard setback; (2) the City’s reasonable construction of the Building Code is entitled to deference, and its determination that the issuance of the conditional use permit did not result in a change in occupancy is supported by substantial evidence; (3) Harrington forfeited the argument that the conditional use permit contemplated alterations within the meaning of the Building Code; (4) technical infeasibility findings were not necessary, as the City Council did not rely on that theory; and (5) the City Council’s consistency findings were legally sufficient and supported by substantial evidence. View "Harrington v. City of Davis" on Justia Law

by
In 2001, Michael Durkin, through two limited liability companies, purchased two lots directly adjacent to the McClellan Palomar Airport (Airport) in the City of Carlsbad (City). His development plans for the two lots were initially successful despite determinations by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (Authority) that the proposed projects were not compatible with the Airport. Overriding the Authority's objections, the City issued a planned industrial permit and Durkin completed the construction of a commercial building on one of the lots in 2005. He also obtained a permit from the City for construction of a second building on the other lot. Both permits included provisions in which Durkin agreed to hold the City harmless for any liability arising out of approval of the projects. Durkin's permit on the second lot expired in 2012 without the commencement of any construction. By the time Durkin sought to restart the permitting process with the City, the Authority had adopted an Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan (ALUCP) that designated Durkin's properties as being within a Safety Zone that carried specific limiting recommendations for compatible land uses. Despite having approved Durkin's previous permit application, the City now refused to override the recommendations in the ALUCP. Durkin filed an inverse condemnation action against the Authority and San Diego County, arguing the value of his property was depressed by the Authority’s adoption of the ALUCP and that decrease in value constituted a governmental taking. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly entered summary judgment in favor of the County and the Authority on the ground that undisputed evidence shows there was no taking by these defendants. View "Dryden Oaks v. San Diego County Regional Airport Authority" on Justia Law

by
The Judicial Council of California (Government Code 70321) prepared an environmental impact report (EIR, California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, 21000)) in connection with the consolidation of El Dorado County courthouse operations from two buildings, one of which is a historic building in downtown Placerville, into a single new building on the city’s outskirts, less than two miles away. Although the draft EIR addressed the possible economic impact of moving judicial activities from the downtown courthouse, it concluded the impact was not likely to be severe enough to cause urban decay in downtown Placerville. The League contended this conclusion was not supported by substantial evidence, given the importance of the courthouse to downtown commerce. The trial court and court of appeal upheld certification of the EIR. The court noted that the new construction will not result in a competitor to siphon business from downtown, but will leave behind a building that can be filled with other activities producing a level of commerce similar to that removed by the relocation, thereby mitigating the impact of the relocation. There was substantial evidence to support the draft EIR’s conclusion that urban decay is not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the project. View "Placerville Historic Preservation League v. Judicial Council of California" on Justia Law

by
The 7,517-square-foot lot, on the south side of Telegraph Hill bordering the Filbert Street steps, was unimproved except for a small uninhabitable 1906 cottage. Four other buildings were demolished in 1997. The developers intend to restore the existing 1.000-square-foot cottage and build a three-story over basement building with three units ranging from 3,700-4,200 square feet apiece. A new curb cut along Telegraph Boulevard will provide access to a basement with three off-street parking spaces. The front of the building, bordering the Filbert Street steps, is designed to appear as three separate single-family homes, each below the 40-foot height limit as they step down the hill. The San Francisco Planning Department determined the project was statutorily exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code, 21000 (CEQA), because it fell within classes of projects that were determined not to have significant effects on the environment: restoration or rehabilitation of deteriorated structures; a residential structure totaling no more than four dwelling units. The Planning Commission approved a conditional use authorization. The Board of Supervisors, superior court, and court of appeal upheld the approvals. No CEQA review was necessary because the project was categorically exempt from review and no unusual circumstances exist to override the exemptions on the basis the project will have a significant effect on the environment. View "Protect Telegraph Hill v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

by
Vallejo’s zoning code does not recognize medical marijuana dispensaries as a permitted land use. An unpermitted use is “a public nuisance.” Vallejo recently adopted Ordinance No. 1715 granting limited immunity to medical marijuana dispensaries that meet various requirements, including the past payment of local business taxes. NCORP4, a nonprofit corporation, operates a Vallejo medical marijuana dispensary. Vallejo denied NCORP4’s application for limited immunity for failure to pay taxes, among other reasons, but the dispensary continues to operate. The city sought to enjoin the dispensary as a public nuisance. The trial court denied the city a preliminary injunction, concluding that the ordinance improperly conditioned immunity upon past payment of business taxes. The court of appeal reversed. State law permitting medicinal marijuana use and distribution does not preempt “the authority of California cities and counties, under their traditional land use and police powers, to allow, restrict, limit, or entirely exclude facilities that distribute medical marijuana, and to enforce such policies by nuisance actions.” Local governments may rationally limit medical marijuana dispensaries to those already in operation and compliant with prior law as past compliance shows a willingness to follow the law, which suggests future lawful behavior. View "City of Vallejo v. NCORP4, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The State Water Resources Control Board (Wat. Code, 174(a)) has permitting authority, limited to surface water and to “subterranean streams flowing through known and definite channels.” It does not have authority over “percolating groundwater” that is not part of a subterranean stream, which is regulated by local agencies. It has authority to prevent the unreasonable or wasteful use of water regardless of its source. Living Rivers unsuccessfully sought a writ of mandate to compel the Board to rescind its approval of a policy designed to maintain instream flows in coastal streams north of San Francisco. Living Rivers alleged several violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA; Public Res. Code, 21000) relating to the indirect environmental effects of surface water users switching to groundwater pumping as a result of the policy. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that a revised supplemental environmental declaration’s (RSED) conclusion that increased groundwater pumping was uncertain or unlikely was in conflict with the Board’s finding that groundwater pumping could have significant effects on the environment; the RSED did not adequately describe or discuss the adoption of the Subterranean Stream Delineations as a mitigation measure; and the RSED’s stated reasons for finding the Subterranean Stream Delineations infeasible were erroneous as a matter of law. View "Living Rivers Council v. State Water Resources Control Board" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs and appellants Luz Solar Partners Ltd., III; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., IV; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., V; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VI; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VII; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VIII and Harper Lake Company VIII; and Luz Solar Partners Ltd., IX and HLC IX (collectively “Luz Partners”) challenged the assessment of real property improved with solar energy generating systems (SEGS units) for tax years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. They contended that defendants-respondents San Bernardino County (County) and the Assessment Appeals Board of San Bernardino County (Appeals Board) erroneously relied on the State of California Board of Equalization’s (Board) incorrect interpretation of the applicable statutes governing the method of assessing the value of the property. Finding that the Board correctly interpreted the applicable law in setting forth the method of assessing the value of the solar properties, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Luz Solar Partners Ltd. v. San Bernardino County" on Justia Law