Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Plaintiffs appealed the trial court's denial of their mandate petition and grant of judgment on the pleadings on their inverse condemnation and civil rights causes of action. Plaintiffs' claims arose when the city granted them permission to build a home on a 40 acre parcel of land in the Hollywood Hills, but did not approve their request for nearly 80,000 cubic yards of grading. The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that the trial court did not err in denying the petition for writ of mandate because the city did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiffs' request for a deviation from the Baseline Hillside Ordinance's grading requirements. The court also held that the trial court properly granted the city's motion for judgment on the pleadings because plaintiffs' claims were not ripe. In this case, the city has neither rendered a final decision nor precluded all development of the property. Rather, the city granted plaintiffs permission to build a single-family home, accessory buildings, and retaining walls. Although the trial court denied plaintiffs' original grading request, it neither definitively limited plaintiffs to 3,300 cubic yards of fill nor precluded plaintiffs from submitting another, more modest, development proposal. View "York v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Quarry produced alsphaltic concrete from material minded on-site and imported sand, in eastern San Rafael. It became a nonconforming use in 1982, when the property was rezoned for commercial and residential use. In 2010, following environmental review of the Quarry’s operations under the California Environmental Quality Act, the county amended the existing mining permit but expressly prohibited importing “gravel, used asphalt concrete or concrete for recycling, or dredged non-sand material.” In 2013, the Quarry obtained a two-year modification to allow the importation of asphalt grindings to be processed on-site for the production of asphaltic concrete. The superior court dismissed a challenge to the amendment as allowing an increase, enlargement, and/or intensification of the nonconforming use, prohibited by the Marin County Code, for failure to file an administrative appeal with the Mining and Geology Board. The county extended the amendment for two-to-four years. The Mining Board rejected objections. The trial court ordered the county to set aside the amendment. The court of appeal affirmed. The Quarry failed to show that the importation and processing of asphalt grindings is required for, or reasonably related to, the existing nonconforming use or that a denial of the request to do so would restrict a vested right. The activity constitutes an impermissible extension or enlargement of the nonconforming use, prohibited by the zoning ordinance, so the county lacked authority to approve the amendment. View "Point San Pedro Road Coalition v. County of Marin" on Justia Law

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Forest City proposed a four-acre mixed-use development, bounded by Mission, Fifth, Howard, and Mary Streets. The area has eight existing buildings. The San Francisco Planning Department released its draft environmental impact report (DEIR) in 2014, describing two options. Both would have new active ground floor space, office use, residential dwelling units, and open space. Both would rehabilitate the Chronicle and Dempster Printing Buildings, demolish other buildings, and construct four new buildings. The DEIR discussed nine alternatives, rejecting five as infeasible, and concluding that a preservation alternative was environmentally superior because it would “achieve some of the project objectives regarding the development of a dense, mixed-use, transit-oriented, job-creating project” but avoid the “irreversible impact” of demolishing the Camelline Building, avoid regional pollutant impact, and reduce the transportation and circulation impacts. The Planning Commission held an informational hearing, accepted public comments, and published its responses to public comments, comprising the final EIR. The Commission adopted CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act, Pub. Resources Code 21000) findings, a statement of overriding considerations, and a mitigation monitoring and reporting program; raised the shadow limit for Boeddeker Park; approved a design for development document; recommended amendments to the general plan, Planning Code, and zoning map; and recommended adoption of a development agreement. The Board of Supervisors, trial court, and court of appeal upheld the approvals. The project description was adequate under CEQA; opponents failed to show the EIR was deficient for failing to properly consider cumulative impacts. CEQA requires an EIR to reflect a good faith effort at full disclosure; it does not mandate perfection. View "South of Market Community etc. v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Ingraham filed a petition for writ of mandate alleging that a mixed-use commercial and affordable housing development project failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Then Ingraham filed an amended petition abandoning its CEQA claim and alleging instead that the city's failure to hold a hearing on its appeal violated a Los Angeles Municipal Code provision requiring the Area Planning Commission to hold a hearing prior to deciding an appeal. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment sustaining 7th & Witmer and the city's joint demurrer. The court rejected Ingraham's contention that the statute of limitations in Government Code section 65009(c)(1) did not apply because there was no "decision" on its appeal, no "legislative body" made a ruling, and absurd results would ensue if it did. The court held that the three-year general statute of limitations in Code of Civil Procedure section 338(a) could not be harmonized with the shorter, more specific limitations period in section 65009(c)(1). Therefore, section 65009(c)(1) was controlling in this case. View "1305 Ingraham, LLC v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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MTA filed suit against Yum Yum in eminent domain to take one of Yum Yum's donut shops that was in the path of a proposed rail line. The trial court determined that Yum Yum was not entitled to compensation for goodwill under Code of Civil Procedure section 1263.510, because Yum Yum unreasonably refused to relocate the shop to one of three sites MTA proposed at the entitlement trial. Based on section 1263.510's legislative history, accompanying Law Review Commission Comments, case law, and the general principles governing mitigation of damages, the Court of Appeal held that a condemnee is entitled to compensation for lost goodwill if any portion of that loss is unavoidable. The court held that a condemnee need only prove some or any unavoidable loss of goodwill to satisfy the condemnee's burden to demonstrate entitlement to compensation for goodwill under section 1263.510. In this case, the court held that the trial court erred in finding that Yum Yum's failure to mitigate some of its loss of goodwill precluded compensation for any loss of goodwill. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for a jury trial on the value of the lost goodwill. View "Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority v. Yum Yum Donut Shops" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Richmond issued the city's first medical marijuana collective permit to RCCC. Other permits were later issued to the defendants. The ordinance governing the permits was amended in 2014, to reduce the number of dispensary permits from six to three, and to provide that if a permitted dispensary did not open within six months after the issuance of a permit, the permit would become void. RCCC lost its permit. RCCC sued, claiming that defendants, acting in concert, encouraged and paid for community opposition to RCCC’s applications and purchased a favorably zoned property. Defendants filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, which provides that a claim 'arising from any act of that person in furtherance of the person’s right of petition or free speech ... in connection with a public issue shall be subject to a special motion to strike," unless the court determines that the plaintiff has established a probability of success on the merits. One defendant admitted: “Our group declared war on RCCC. We conspired to prevent RCCC from getting any property in Richmond.“ The court ultimately determined that the defendants failed to show how the allegations were protected activity and denied the anti-SLAPP motion. The court of appeal affirmed, stating that the appeal had no merit and will delay the plaintiff’s case and cause him to incur unnecessary attorney fees. View "Richmond Compassionate Care Collective v. 7 Stars Holistic Foundation, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged a Monterey County ordinance limiting to four the number of roosters that can be kept on a property without a permit. A permit application must include a plan describing the “method and frequency of manure and other solid waste removal,” and “such other information that the Animal Control Officer may deem necessary.” A permit cannot be issued to anyone who has a criminal conviction for illegal cockfighting or other crime of animal cruelty. The ordinance includes standards, such as maintaining structurally sound pens that protect roosters from cold and are properly cleaned and ventilated and includes exemptions for poultry operations; members of a recognized organization that promotes the breeding of poultry for show or sale; minors who keep roosters for an educational purpose; and minors who keep roosters for a Future Farmers of America project or 4-H project. The court of appeal upheld the ordinance, rejecting arguments that it takes property without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment; infringes on Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce; violates the Equal Protection Clause; is a prohibited bill of attainder; and violates the rights to privacy and to possess property guaranteed by the California Constitution. View "Perez v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

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The city approved the agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), authorizing the removal of up to 272 trees within its local natural gas pipeline rights-of-way. The staff report explains that this is a Major Tree Removal Project, requiring a tree removal permit and mitigation for the removed trees. PG&E was willing to provide requested information and mitigation but claimed to be exempt from obtaining any discretionary permits. “To ensure that the [community pipeline safety initiative] can move forward and to protect the public safety, PG&E and City staff have agreed to process the ... project under [Code] section 6-1705(b)(S). This section allows the city to allow removal of a protected tree ‘to protect the health, safety and general welfare of the community.’“ Opponents sued, alleging violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000), the planning and zoning law, the general plan, and the tree ordinance, and the due process rights of the petitioners by failing to provide sufficient notice of the hearing. PG&E argued that the suit was barred by Government Code 65009(c)(1)(E), which requires an action challenging a decision regarding a zoning permit to be filed and served within 90 days of the decision. The original petition was timely filed but not served until after the deadline. The trial court dismissed without leave to amend. The court of appeal affirmed as to the ordinance claims but reversed with respect to CEQA. View "Save Lafayette Trees v. City of Lafayette" on Justia Law

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Berkeley approved the construction of three houses on adjacent parcels in the Berkeley Hills, citing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Pub. Resources Code, 21000 exemption for “up to three single-family residences” in urbanized areas. Plaintiffs opposed the approval, citing the “location” exception: “a project that is ordinarily insignificant in its impact ... may in a particularly sensitive environment be significant … where the project may impact on an environmental resource of hazardous or critical concern where designated.” The projects were within the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone and in a potential earthquake-induced landslide area mapped by the California Geologic Survey. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the petition for writ of mandate. Giving meaning to the phrase “environmental resource,” the location exception was not intended to cover all areas subject to such potential natural disasters as a matter of law; it applies “where the project may impact on an environmental resource.” The exception reflects a concern with the effect of the project on the environment, not the impact of existing environmental conditions (such as seismic and landslide risks) on the project or future residents Plaintiffs produced no evidence that construction of the three proposed residences would exacerbate existing hazardous conditions or harm the environment View "Berkeley Hills Watershed Coalition v. Berkeley" on Justia Law

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The parties own neighboring parcels in Mendocino County. The scenic sand dunes of MacKerricher State Park are behind the parcels. Respondents historically accessed the dunes via a path that runs along the parties’ property line, then crosses appellant’s property, and then crosses the parcel of another neighbor. In 2015, appellant erected a fence that blocked respondents’ access to the dunes via the property line path. Respondents sued.. The trial court granted respondents a prescriptive easement allowing them and their invitees (including Airbnb guests) to use the path. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting appellant’s argument that the easement is a public easement prohibited by Civil Code section 1009, which provides that, because it is “in the best interests of the state to encourage owners of private real property to continue to make their lands available for public recreational use,” and because owners who allow “members of the public to use, enjoy or pass over their property for recreational purposes” risk loss of the property rights, “no use of such property by the public .... shall ever ripen to confer upon the public or any governmental body or unit a vested right to continue to make such use permanently, in the absence of an express written irrevocable offer of dedication.” View "Ditzian v. Unger" on Justia Law