Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Plaintiff County of Monterey (County) appealed when the trial court denied its petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. The County was the successor agency for its former redevelopment agency ("RDA"), and challenged decisions by the Department of Finance (Department) relating to a development known as the East Garrison Project, which was part of the Fort Ord Redevelopment Project located on a closed military base in Monterey. The County claimed the trial court erroneously determined that a written agreement entered into between its former RDA and a private developer (real party in interest, UCP East Garrison, LLC) was not an enforceable obligation within the meaning of the dissolution law because the former RDA did not have the authority to approve the agreement on the date the governor signed the 2011 dissolution legislation. The County further contended the trial court erred in determining the County failed to show the Department abused its discretion in disapproving two separate requests for funding related to administration of the East Garrison Project. The County claimed these administrative costs were expended to complete an enforceable obligation within the meaning of the dissolution law, and therefore the Department should have approved its requests for payment of such costs. Finally, the County argued the Department’s application of the dissolution law improperly impaired UCP’s contractual rights. The Court of Appeal rejected each of the County's contentions and affirmed judgment. View "County of Monterey v. Bosler" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff AMCAL Chico, LLC (AMCAL) constructed a dormitory complex that would house unmarried university students within the boundaries of defendant Chico Unified School District (the District). The District imposed school impact fees on the complex, and AMCAL filed suit seeking a refund of the fees. The trial court granted the District’s motion for summary judgment. AMCAL appealed, arguing the fees had to be refunded because: (1) the District failed to comply with Government Code section 66001; (2) the fee was an invalid special tax; and (3) the fee was an improper taking. The Court of Appeal determined the imposed fee was reasonable and complied with the Mitigation Fee Act. Therefore, the fee was not an invalid tax, nor was it a taking. View "AMCAL Chico LLC v. Chico Unified School Dist." on Justia Law

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Before the 1972 effective date of Civil Code section 1009(b), the California Supreme Court held that an implied by law dedication is established when “the public has used the land ‘for a period of more than five years with full knowledge of the owner, without asking or receiving permission to do so and without objection being made by anyone.’” Since the 1920s, Martha has owned 110 acres of undeveloped land on the Tiburon peninsula, which has views of Angel Island, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2017, TRUST filed suit to quiet title, in favor of the public, to recreational easements over trails on the property, arguing that, nearly 50 years ago, the public’s use of trails on Martha’s property established a recreational easement under the doctrine of implied dedication.The court of appeal affirmed judgment in favor of Martha. Substantial evidence supports a finding that Martha’s attempts to deter trespassers showed it did not acquiesce to public dedication. There was “a running battle between some users, who took down signs and fences”, and owners, who repaired them, indicating both that the users did not believe that they had a right to use the property and that the owner made bona fide efforts to deter them. View "Tiburon/Belvedere Residents United to Support the Trails v. Martha Co." on Justia Law

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Quail's 47,480-square-foot unincorporated Sonoma County property contained two houses, garages, and several outbuildings. In 2013, a building with hazardous and unpermitted electrical wiring, hazardous decking and stairs, unpermitted kitchens and plumbing, broken windows, and lacking power, was destroyed in a fire. Two outbuildings, unlawfully being used as dwellings, were also damaged. One report stated: “The [p]roperty . . . exists as a makeshift, illegal mobile home park and junkyard.” After many unsuccessful attempts to compel Quail to abate the conditions, the county obtained the appointment of a receiver under Health and Safety Code section 17980.7 and Code of Civil Procedure section 564 to oversee abatement work. The banks challenged a superior court order authorizing the receiver to finance its rehabilitation efforts through a loan secured by a “super-priority” lien on the property and a subsequent order authorizing the sale of the property free and clear of U.S. Bank’s lien.The court of appeal affirmed in part. Trial courts enjoy broad discretion in matters subject to a receivership, including the power to issue a receiver’s certificate with priority over pre-existing liens when warranted. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in subordinating U.S. Bank’s lien and confirming the sale of the property free and clear of liens so that the receiver could remediate the nuisance conditions promptly and effectively, but prioritizing the county’s enforcement fees and costs on equal footing with the receiver had no basis in the statutes. View "County of Sonoma v. U.S. Bank N.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Parkford Owners for a Better Community (Parkford), appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendants, Placer County and Placer County Community Development Resource Agency (collectively, the County), and real parties in interest, Silversword Properties, LLC (Silversword), K.H. Moss Company, and Moss Equity (collectively, Moss). Silversword owned property upon which Moss operated a commercial self-storage facility (Treelake Storage). Parkford’s lawsuit challenged the County’s issuance of a building permit for construction of an expansion of Treelake Storage, claiming the County failed to comply with both the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Planning and Zoning Law. The trial court concluded: (1) the County’s issuance of the building permit was ministerial rather than discretionary, and therefore CEQA did not apply; and (2) Parkford’s challenge under the Planning and Zoning Law was barred by the statute of limitations. Real parties in interest, joined by the County, argued the trial court correctly decided each of these issues, and in the alternative, urged the Court of Appeal to affirm the judgment because Parkford’s challenge to the building permit became moot prior to the entry of judgment, when construction on the expansion project was completed. The Court concluded Parkford’s claims were moot and dismissed the appeal. View "Parkford Owners for a Better Community v. County of Placer" on Justia Law

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The City of Brentwood (Brentwood) sought reimbursement for construction costs incurred in five redevelopment projects. In City of Brentwood v. Campbell, 237 Cal.App.4th 488 (2015), the Court of Appeal rejected Brentwood’s contention that a statutory exception to the redevelopment dissolution statutes allowed the city to retain funds previously reimbursed under five public improvement agreements (PIA’s) between Brentwood and its former redevelopment agency (RDA). Here, Brentwood sought payment for expenses as yet unreimbursed, contending that the PIA’s were “enforceable obligations” under Health & Safety Code section 34191.4 (b)(1), a 2015 amendment to the dissolution statutes. Brentwood contended that third party construction contracts for the five projects - all but a small fraction of which preceded execution of the PIA’s - were “under” the PIA’s within the meaning of section 34191.4 (b)(2)(C)(i). The trial court ruled that “[i]n order for the contracts to have been ‘under’ the PIAs and on behalf of the RDA, the PIAs needed to already exist.” Similarly, Brentwood contended that the PIA’s ratified and incorporated the prior cooperation agreement and findings resolutions that predated third party construction contracts. The Court of Appeal determined no agreement or resolution prior to the PIA’s committed the RDA to reimburse Brentwood for the construction costs of the five redevelopment projects. "Ratification cannot import the terms of the PIA’s into the cooperation agreement and findings resolutions." The Court therefore affirmed denial of reimbursement. View "City of Brentwood v. Department of Finance" on Justia Law

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The Riverside County Transportation Commission (Commission) sought to extend its Metrolink commuter rail line from Riverside to Perris, using the route of a preexisting rail line that it had acquired. At five points, however, the new rail line would cross gas pipelines owned by the Southern California Gas Company. The Gas Company had installed these pipelines under city streets decades earlier, pursuant to franchises granted by the relevant cities and, in some instances, pursuant to licenses granted by the then-owner of the preexisting rail line. The new rail line could not be built as long as the pipelines remained in place. The Commission terminated the licenses and demanded that the Gas Company relocate its pipelines at its own expense. The parties agreed that the Gas Company would relocate its pipelines, to other points also owned by the Commission, and the Commission would pay the estimated expenses, but only provisionally; the Commission could still sue for reimbursement, and the Gas Company could then sue for any additional expenses. The trial court ruled that the Gas Company had to bear all of the costs of relocation; however, it also ruled that the Gas Company had never trespassed on the Commission’s land. Both sides appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal held the Gas Company did have to bear all of the costs of relocation. However, the Court also held that, at those points where the Gas Company held licenses for its pipelines, once the Commission terminated the licenses, the Gas Company could be held liable for trespass. View "Riverside County Transportation Comm. v. Southern Cal. Gas Co." on Justia Law

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In a consolidated appeal, defendant County of Placer decided to partially abandon public easement rights in Mill Site Road, a road that connected two adjacent residential subdivisions: Martis Camp (previously known as Siller Ranch) and the Retreat at Northstar (the Retreat). As originally planned, the connection between Martis Camp and the Retreat was intended for emergency access and public transit vehicles only. When the developments were approved in 2005, the environmental documents assumed there would be no private vehicle trips between Martis Camp and the Retreat or the Northstar community beyond; Martis Camp residents wishing to drive to Northstar-at-Tahoe (Northstar) would use State Route (SR) 267. However, sometime in or around 2010, residents of Martis Camp began using the emergency/transit connection as a shortcut to Northstar. In 2014, after efforts to have county officials stop Martis Camp residents from using the emergency access road failed, the Retreat owners filed an application requesting that the County Board of Supervisors (the Board) abandon the public’s right to use Mill Site Road. In 2015, the Board approved a partial abandonment, thereby restricting use of Mill Site Road to Retreat property owners and emergency and transit vehicles, consistent with what was described and analyzed in the prior planning documents. Then lawsuits followed. Plaintiffs, the Martis Camp Community Association (MCCA) and three individual Martis Camp property owners, appealed the denial of their petitions for writ of mandate challenging the County’s abandonment of Mill Site Road, as well as the dismissal (on demurrer) of the Martis Camp Homeowners’ inverse condemnation claim. After review, the Court of Appeal affirmed the portion of the judgment and order concluding that the County did not violate the Brown Act or the statutory requirements for abandonment of a public road, and affirmed the dismissal of the Martis Camp Homeowners’ inverse condemnation claim, but reversed and remanded as to plaintiffs’ California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) claim. View "Martis Camp Community Assn. v. County of Placer" on Justia Law

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Granny Purps grows and provides medical marijuana to its 20,000 members, in compliance with state laws governing the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. Santa Cruz County’s ordinance prohibits any medical cannabis operation from cultivating more than 99 plants; Granny’s dispensary was growing thousands of marijuana plants. The sheriff’s office went to the dispensary in June 2015, seized about 1,800 plants, and issued a notice of ordinance violation. Several months later, officers again went to the dispensary and took about 400 more marijuana plants. Granny sued, alleging conversion, trespass, and inverse condemnation and sought an order requiring the county to return the seized cannabis plants, The trial court dismissed.The court of appeal reversed. A government entity does not have to return seized property if the property itself is illegal but the Santa Cruz ordinance ultimately regulates land use within the county; it does not (nor could it) render illegal a substance that is legal under state law. View "Granny Purps, Inc. v. County of Santa Cruz" on Justia Law

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Under California Public Resources Code section 21167.6, documents "shall" be in the record in a CEQA challenge to an environmental impact report (EIR). The County of San Diego (County), as lead agency for the Newland Sierra project, no longer had "all" such correspondence, nor all "internal agency communications" related to the project. If those communications were by e-mail and not flagged as "official records," the County's computers automatically deleted them after 60 days. When project opponents propounded discovery to obtain copies of the destroyed e-mails and related documents to prepare the record of proceedings, the County refused to comply. After referring the discovery disputes to a referee, the superior court adopted the referee's recommendations to deny the motions to compel. The referee concluded that although section 21167.6 specified the contents of the record of proceedings, that statute did not require that such writings be retained. In effect, the referee interpreted section 21167.6 to provide that e-mails encompassed within that statute were mandated parts of the record - unless the County destroyed them first. The Court of Appeal disagreed with that interpretation, "[a] thorough record is fundamental to meaningful judicial review." The Court held the County should not have destroyed such e-mails, even under its own policies. The referee's erroneous interpretation of section 21167.6 was central to the appeals before the Court of Appeal. The Court issued a writ of mandate to direct the superior court to vacate its orders denying the motions to compel, and after receiving input from the parties, reconsider those motions. View "Golden Door Properties, LLC v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law