Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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After the City of San Mateo denied an application to build a ten-unit apartment building, petitioners sought a writ of administrative mandamus seeking to compel the project's approval. The trial court denied the petition, ruling that the project did not satisfy the City's design guidelines for multifamily homes and that, to the extent the Housing Accountability Act (HAA), Government Code section 65589.5, required the City to ignore its own guidelines, it was an unconstitutional infringement on the City's right to home rule and an unconstitutional delegation of municipal powers.The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the design guideline the City invoked as part of its reason for rejecting this housing development is not "objective" for purposes of the HAA, and so cannot support the City's decision to reject the project. Furthermore, because the HAA checks municipal authority only as necessary to further the statewide interest in new housing development, the HAA does not infringe on the City's right to home rule. The court rejected the City's remaining constitutional arguments. The trial court shall issue a writ of mandate directing the City to (1) vacate its February 5, 2018 action upholding the Planning Commission's decision to deny the application, and (2) reconsider the challenge to the Planning Commission's decision. View "California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund v. City of San Mateo" on Justia Law

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A reverse validation action was brought by petitioners Bonnie Wolstoncroft, William Unkel, and Michael Wilkes against the County of Yolo (County) to challenge the County’s plan to continue water service to 95 residences within the North Davis Meadows County Service Area (County Service Area) by replacing two aging groundwater wells with the City of Davis’s (City) water supply. Under this plan, North Davis Meadows residents would pay substantially higher water rates to pay for the project. The County considered the increased water rates to be property-related fees and noticed a Proposition 218 (as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996)) hearing. More than five months after the County adopted its resolution, but before the deadline contemplated by the parties’ tolling agreement, petitioners filed their action in superior court. The trial court rejected petitioners’ argument that the increased levy constituted an assessment for which majority approval was required by Proposition 218. The trial court also rejected petitioners’ contentions that the County wrongfully rejected protest votes it claimed not to have received or received in an untimely manner. After review of petitioners' arguments on appeal, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court correctly determined that the levy constituted a property-related fee under Proposition 218. "The fact that maintaining adequate water supply requires switching water sources does not turn the fee into an assessment. Thus, the County properly employed the majority protest procedure under article XIII D, section 6." Further, the Court concluded that even if the trial court erred in denying petitioners’ motion to augment the record with declarations regarding two mailed protest votes, petitioners’ evidence would not prove timely compliance with the protest procedure. Without the protest votes for which only evidence of mailing was tendered, the protest lacked a majority. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Wolstoncroft v. County of Yolo" on Justia Law

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Pacific Harmony Grove Development, LLC and Mission Valley Corporate Center, Ltd. (Owners) appealed the judgment entered in a condemnation case following the first phase of a bifurcated trial at which the trial court resolved certain legal issues concerning how to value the condemned property. The City of Escondido (City) sought to acquire by condemnation from Owners a 72-foot-wide strip of land (the strip) across a mostly undeveloped 17.72-acre parcel (the Property) to join two disconnected segments of Citracado Parkway. The City argued that the strip should have been valued under the doctrine from City of Porterville v. Young, 195 Cal.App.3d 1260 (1987). Owners argued the Porterville doctrine did not apply, and that the court should have instead applied the “project effect rule.” After a four-day bench trial, the court issued a comprehensive statement of decision ruling in the City’s favor on all issues. Owners appealed, contending the trial court erred by finding the Porterville doctrine applied, the project effect rule did not, and the City was not liable for precondemnation damages. After review, the Court of Appeal concurred with the City’s position and affirmed the judgment. View "City of Escondido v. Pacific Harmony Grove Development" on Justia Law

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In 2018, faced with the “impending loss of the Raiders to Las Vegas and the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco,” the Legislature sought to facilitate “a new baseball park” at the Howard Terminal site in Oakland. The Project would create many high-wage, highly skilled jobs and present “an unprecedented opportunity to invest in new and improved transit and transportation infrastructure and implement sustainability measures.”Assembly Bill 734 is special legislation applicable solely to the Project. Pursuant to Public Resources Code section 21168.6.7, the baseball park and any nonresidential construction in the Project must achieve LEED gold certification, and residential construction must achieve either LEED gold certification or “the comparable GreenPoint rating, including meeting sustainability standards for access to quality transit.” The project must also achieve greenhouse gas neutrality, reduce by 20 percent the collective vehicle trips, and offer a “comprehensive package of community benefits.” Section 21168.6.7 requires certification by the Governor that the Project meets all those criteria to qualify for expedited administrative and judicial review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Objectors argued that the Governor’s authority to certify the project expired on January 1, 2020. The trial court and court of appeal upheld the Governor’s ongoing certification authority. On February 11, 2021, the Governor certified the Howard Terminal Project for expedited CEQA review. View "Pacific Merchant Shipping Association v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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San Francisco obtained fee title to an 80-foot strip of land by grant deed in 1951 from the plaintiffs' grandparents to construct an underground pipeline for the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System. The deed reserved to the plaintiffs’ family the right to use the surface of the property for pasturage and the right to construct roads and streets “over and across” the property “but not along in the direction of the City’s pipe line or lines.” The property has served since the 1960s as a paved parking lot for commercial uses on plaintiffs’ properties on either side of the pipeline. When a dispute arose about whether parking and related circulation was authorized under the deed versus under a revocable permit issued by San Francisco in 1967, the plaintiffs filed a quiet title action.On remand, the trial court concluded that the deed authorized plaintiffs to use the pipeline property for ornamental landscaping, automobile access, circulation, and parking. The court of appeal agreed that the deed authorizes ornamental landscaping, the three existing paved roads running across the pipeline property, and the use of the property to access auto mechanic service bays. While some degree of parking incidental to those authorized uses may be allowed, the express language of the deed does not allow the plaintiffs’ current use of the pipeline property as a parking lot. View "Pear v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Gary and Bella Martin appealed after the trial court granted in part and denied in part their petition for writ of administrative mandate to challenge the imposition of certain special conditions placed on the development of their property - a vacant, oceanfront lot in Encinitas - by the California Coastal Commission (Commission). The Commission also appealed the judgment. The Martins’ challenged a condition requiring them to eliminate a basement from their proposed home, while the Commission challenged the trial court’s reversal of its condition requiring the Martins to set back their home 79 feet from the bluff edge. Because the Court of Appeal agreed with its own recent decision in Lindstrom v. California Coastal Com., 40 Cal.App.5th 73 (2019) interpreting the same provisions of the Encinitas Local Coastal Program (LCP) and Municipal Code at issue here, the trial court’s invalidation of the Commission’s setback requirement was reversed. The trial court’s decision to uphold the basement prohibition was affirmed. View "Martin v. Cal. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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Appellants owned beachfront mobilehomes in Capistrano Shores Mobile Home Park located in the City of San Clemente. Each of their mobilehomes was a single-story residence. Between 2011 and 2013, appellants each applied for, and received, a permit from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to remodel their respective mobilehome. Appellants also applied for coastal development permits from the Coastal Commission. Their applications expressly indicated they were not addressing any component of the remodels for which they obtained HCD permits, including the addition of second stories. Rather, their coastal development permit applications concerned desired renovations on the grounds surrounding the mobilehome structures, including items such as carports, patio covers, and barbeques. Appellants completed their remodels at various times between 2011 and 2014. The parties disputed whether appellants received, prior to completion of construction, any communication from the Coastal Commission concerning the need for a coastal development permit for their projects.In February 2014, the Coastal Commission issued notices to appellants that the then-complete renovation of their residential structures was unauthorized and illegal without a coastal development permit. Faced with a potential need to demolish, at minimum, completed second-story additions to their mobilehomes, appellants unsuccessfully petitioned for a writ of mandate declaring that the coastal development permits were deemed approved by operation of law under the Permit Streamlining Act. In denying the petition, the trial court concluded the Coastal Commission had jurisdiction to require appellants to obtain coastal development permits and the prerequisite public notice to deemed approval under the Streamlining Act did not occur. Appellants contended on appeal that the trial court erred in both respects. The Court of Appeal concluded appellants’ writ petition should have been granted. "The Coastal Commission has concurrent jurisdiction with the California Department of Housing and Community Development over mobilehomes located in the coastal zone. Thus, even though appellants obtained a permit from the latter, they were also required to obtain a permit from the former. The Coastal Commission’s failure to act on appellants’ applications for costal development permits, however, resulted in the applications being deemed approved under the Streamlining Act." Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the matter with directions to the trial court to vacate the existing judgment and enter a new judgment granting appellants’ petition. View "Linovitz Capo Shores LLC v. California Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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In a California Environmental Quality Act (Act) challenge, the issue presented concerned the adoption of a mitigated negative declaration for and approval of the Newtown Road Bridge at South Fork Weber Creek Replacement Project (the project) by respondents El Dorado County (County) and its board of supervisors (collectively, respondents). The proposed project would replace an existing bridge. Petitioners Newtown Preservation Society, an unincorporated association, and Wanda Nagel (collectively, petitioners) challenged the mitigated negative declaration, arguing, among other things, the project might have significant impacts on fire evacuation routes during construction and, thus, the County was required to prepare an environmental impact report. The trial court upheld the mitigated negative declaration. Petitioners appealed, arguing the trial court erred in upholding the mitigated negative declaration because: (1) substantial evidence supported a fair argument of potentially significant impacts on resident safety and emergency evacuation; (2) the County impermissibly deferred analysis of temporary emergency evacuation impacts; (3) the County impermissibly deferred mitigation of such impacts; and (4) the County deferred analysis of impacts pertaining to construction of a temporary evacuation route. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal concluded petitioners’ framing of the fair argument test in terms of the project having “potentially significant impacts on resident safety and emergency evacuation” was erroneous. Petitioners thus failed to carry their burden of showing substantial evidence supported a fair argument of significant environmental impact in that regard. In the unpublished portion of the opinion, the Court concluded the County did not impermissibly defer mitigation and decline to consider the two remaining arguments. Finding no merit in petitioners’ contentions, judgment was affirmed. View "Newtown Preservation Society v. County of El Dorado" on Justia Law

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El Dorado County voters adopted Measure E in June 2016. Measure E’s stated purpose was to end the practice of “paper roads.” Prior to Measure E, if a project requiring discretionary approval would increase traffic beyond certain thresholds, the project could be approved so long as the developer contributed its proportional share of traffic impact fees to cover the cost of future road improvements, and so long as the necessary traffic-mitigating improvements were included in the County’s 10- or 20-year (depending on the project type) Capital Improvement Program. Measure E sought to end the practice of developments going forward, while traffic-mitigating road improvements remained on paper. Soon after Measure E passed, plaintiff-appellant Alliance For Responsible Planning petitioned for a writ of mandate as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking to have Measure E declared invalid. Alliance argued, among other things, that Measure E violated the unconstitutional conditions doctrine. Defendants Sue Taylor et al. (Taylor) appealed a judgment granting in part Alliance’s petition for a writ of mandate. On appeal, Taylor contended the trial court erred in: (1) prematurely considering the facial challenge; (2) granting Alliance’s petition as to certain policies implemented by Measure E; and (3) granting Alliance’s petition as to Measure E’s eighth implementation statement. Finding no reversible error in the trial court’s decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed judgment. View "Alliance For Responsible Planning v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the City's new enforcement policy of short-term vacation rentals (STVRs). The trial court granted plaintiff's petition for a writ of mandate enjoining the City's enforcement of the STVR ban in the coastal zone unless it obtains a coastal development permit (CDP) or a Local Coastal Program (LCP) amendment approved by the California Coastal Commission or a waiver of such requirement.The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the California Coastal Act of 1976 required the Commission's approval of a CDP, LCP amendment, or amendment waiver before the STVR ban could be imposed. Because there was no such approval, the trial court did not err by concluding that the STVR ban constituted a "development" under the Act. The court explained that the City cannot act unilaterally, particularly when it not only allowed the operation of STVRs for years but also benefitted from the payment of transient occupancy taxes. The court agreed with the trial court that the City cannot credibly contend that it did not produce a change because it deliberately acted to create a change in coastal zone usage and access. Finally, in regard to the City's argument that the Coastal Act exempts abatement of nuisances allegedly caused by STVRs, the City waived that issue by informing the trial court it was not "making the nuisance argument." Nor is the court persuaded that the political question and separation of powers doctrines apply. View "Kracke v. City of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law