Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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The City of San Diego (the City) appealed a judgment in a lawsuit filed by Citizens for South Bay Coastal Access (Plaintiff), which challenged the City's issuance of a conditional use permit allowing it to convert a motel that it recently purchased into a transitional housing facility for homeless misdemeanor offenders. Specifically, the City contended the trial court erred by ruling that the City was required to obtain a coastal development permit for the project because the motel was located in the Coastal Overlay Zone as defined in the City's municipal code. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in concluding that a coastal development permit was required under state law regulations promulgated by the California Coastal Commission (the Commission). Because the Commission certified the City's local coastal program, those provisions applied here rather than the Commission's regulations. "Under the City's local coastal program, the project is exempt from the requirement to obtain a coastal development permit because it involves an improvement to an existing structure, and no exceptions to the existing- structure exemption are applicable." Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment. View "Citizens for South Bay Coastal Access v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Junaid Lateef appealed a judgment entered in favor of the City of Madera (city) and the Madera City Council (city council) (collectively, respondents), which denied his petition for administrative mandamus and requests for declaratory and injunctive relief. At issue was the meaning of Madera Municipal Code section 10-3.1310(E), which set forth the minimum number of council votes required to overturn the Madera Planning Commission’s (commission) denial of an application for a conditional use permit: “A five-sevenths vote of the whole of the Council shall be required to grant, in whole or in part, any appealed application denied by the Commission.” Lateef appealed the denial of his application to the seven-member city council, which voted four-to-one to grant his appeal; however, one councilmember recused himself and another council seat was vacant. The city council denied Lateef’s appeal, ruling that he needed five votes (five-sevenths times the total membership of the council) to prevail. Arguing to the Court of Appeal, Lateef contended the city council was required to grant his appeal because the ordinance requires a five-sevenths vote of those councilmembers present and voting, and he received five-sevenths of the five votes that were cast, namely four votes. He also contended he was denied a fair trial because the recused councilmember and vacant seat were included as councilmembers when determining the number of votes needed to grant his appeal. Finding no merit to Lateef’s contentions, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Lateef v. City of Madera" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Court of Appeal was whether Riverside County, California could impose a tax on possessory interests in federally owned land set aside for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians or its members. In 1971, Court held that it could, holding in part that federal law did not preempt the tax. The tax was also upheld that year by the Ninth Circuit. Since then, the United States Supreme Court articulated a new preemption framework in considering whether states may tax Indian interests, and the Department of the Interior promulgated new Indian leasing regulations, the preamble of which stated that state taxation was precluded. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal concluded, as it did in 1971, this possessory interest tax was valid. View "Herpel v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

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The application called for a “tennis cabaña” with a guest room and bathroom, next to a tennis court on a 2.38-acre residential property. Neighbors objected that the cabaña was inconsistent with the neighborhood; was too close to an adjacent home: was an illegal second unit; violated a landscape condition imposed when the tennis court was approved; was too large, too close to neighboring residences; was inconsistent with the general plan and municipal code; that the hearing notices violated the Brown Act; and that the applicants had an unfair advantage because their architect was a Planning Commission member. The applicants cut the size to 1,100 square feet and increased the distance from the cabaña to a neighboring project, and improved landscaping. The Commission approved the project subject to conditions, including a landscape agreement and the prohibition on use as a secondary dwelling unit. The City Council denied an appeal. While approval was pending, the applicants’ attorney threatened to sue if the city denied the project; the Council discussed the threat of litigation during closed sessions. That a threat of litigation had been made was not noted in the agenda for any of the public meetings. Plaintiffs did not learn about the litigation threat or the discussions until after the project had been approved. The court of appeal affirmed. While the city improperly considered the application in closed sessions in violation of Gov. Code 54950 (Brown Act), there was no prejudice. View "Fowler v. City of Lafayette" on Justia Law

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Appellants Baldwin & Sons, Inc.; Baldwin & Sons, LLC; Sunranch Capital Partners, LLC; USA Portola Properties, LLC; Sunrise Pacific Construction; USA Portola East, LLC; USA Portola West, LLC; and SRC-PH Investments, LLC, all appealed an order compelling compliance with administrative subpoenas issued by the State Water Resources Control Board. Appellants were involved (or believed to be involved) in the construction of a large-scale development in the Portola Hills Community in Lake Forest, California. The State Board initiated an investigation into alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act and California's Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act occurring during construction activities. In connection with its investigation, the State Board issued subpoenas seeking Appellants' financial records. When Appellants refused to produce the requested financial records, the State Board sought a court order compelling compliance with the subpoenas. With the exception of tax returns, the trial court concluded that the information sought was relevant to the State Board's investigation and subject to disclosure pursuant to the investigative subpoenas. Appellants argued on appeal: (1) their financial records were not reasonably relevant to the State Board's investigation; (2) compelling production of their financial records violated their right to privacy; and (3) the protective order did not adequately protect against disclosure of their private financial information to third parties. The Court of Appeal rejected these claims and affirmed the challenged order compelling production of the Appellants' financial records subject to a protective order. View "State Water Resources Control Bd. v. Baldwin & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law

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The City of Desert Hot Springs (the City) tried to abate a public nuisance by serving the owner of a dilapidated hotel/motel with notice that it was required to correct numerous building and safety violations. When the owner failed to timely correct the violations or apply for a permit to raze the building, the City sought a declaration that the building constituted a nuisance and, pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 17980.7(c), requested the appointment of a receiver to oversee the building’s rehabilitation. Instead of addressing the notice and opportunity given to the owner of the hotel/motel and the proposed receiver’s qualifications, the trial court here questioned the viability of the proposed receiver’s financial and construction plan. And, having concluded the plan made no economic sense because the value of the property after its rehabilitation would not exceed the costs of rehabilitation plus the additional costs associated with appointment of a receiver, the court denied the City’s request and subsequently dismissed the action. The Court of Appeal concurred with the City which argued the court exceeded its authority under section 17980.7(c). Therefore, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for the trial court to reconsider the City’s request for appointment of a receiver. View "City of Desert Hot Springs v. Valenti" on Justia Law

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Stephen Taylor was convicted by jury of numerous sex offenses against his adopted daughters, Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. In total, the jury convicted him on 12 counts. The trial court sentenced him to prison for a one-year determinate term and an aggregate indeterminate term of 165 years to life. On appeal, Taylor argued the trial court erred by admitting expert testimony on child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, and instructing the jurors that they could use that evidence to evaluate the victims’ credibility. He also claimed the court made several sentencing errors: (1) by imposing two indeterminate terms under the former “One Strike” law for two offenses that occurred during a single occasion; (2) by imposing multiple punishments for four counts of aggravated sexual assault and four counts of lewd acts arising from the same facts; and (3) by imposing a restitution fine and court operations and facilities fees without an ability to pay hearing. The Court of Appeal agreed that the court erred by imposing multiple punishments on four counts of aggravated sexual assault (counts 1 through 4) and four counts of forcible lewd acts (counts 5 through 8) that arose from the same conduct. Accordingly, Taylor’s sentence was stayed on counts 5 through 8. The Court also agreed the court should hold an ability to pay hearing, at least as to the court operations and facilities fees. Therefore, the Court reversed the order imposing those fees and remanded for a hearing on Taylor’s ability to pay them. As to the restitution fine, Taylor forfeited his contention. The Court otherwise rejected Taylor’s arguments and affirmed. View "Holden v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The San Diego County (County) Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to the County's general land use plan, which would have allowed for the development of over 2,100 homes in a previously designated rural area of the County. Residents opposed to the change in land use circulated a referendum petition and gathered enough signatures to have the matter placed on an election ballot. To prevent an election, the land developer filed a petition for writ of mandate, contending the referendum petition was illegal and void as a matter of law. The court denied the writ petition. The issues this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review were: (1) whether the referendum petition complied with the full text requirement under Elections Code section 91471; and (2) the referendum petition's legality in challenging a single legislative act even though the Board of Supervisors executed several concurrent, associated legislative acts. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Molloy v. Vu" on Justia Law

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San Jose, a California charter city, enacted a policy for the sale of surplus city-owned land. Plaintiffs, low-income city residents, claimed that the policy violated the Surplus Land Act (Gov. Code 54220-54233), which prioritizes the use of surplus city-owned land for affordable housing purposes. The city policy includes several exceptions to that priority. The trial court disagreed, finding that in regulating how local government disposes of surplus property for the benefit of its residents, the Surplus Land Act addresses a decidedly municipal affair, not a statewide concern, and under the state Constitution does not preempt the city’s policy. The court of appeal reversed. The Surplus Land Act advances state land use policy objectives by mandating a uniform approach to the disposition of local government land that is no longer needed for government use. By requiring municipalities to prioritize surplus land for the development of low- and moderate-income housing, the statute addresses the shortage of sites available for affordable housing development as a matter of statewide concern. Because the statute also narrowly tailors the restrictions on local government to avoid unnecessary interference in the locality’s affairs, it meets the test for statewide preemption. View "Anderson v. City of San Jose" on Justia Law

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The “Hillside Residential” designation in the Richmond General Plan 2030 included single-family housing and clustered multifamily residential on developable parcels below the 400-foot elevation with a density of up to five dwelling units per acre. The Initiative was filed in 2016. Pursuant to Elections Code 9215, the city adopted the initiative without alteration. The Initiative limited development and land use in the “Initiative Area," (38 parcels), prohibiting all residential development. The minimum parcel size is 20 acres; the maximum floor area for all buildings in a parcel is 10,000 square feet; and, if residences and residential accessory buildings are permitted, they may not exceed 5,000 square feet of the 10,000 square-foot maximum. The initiative provided that if a court found the "prohibition on residential use constitutes a taking," one single-family home may be built on each parcel (20 acres). The initiative included specific general plan amendments, "to avoid inconsistency with state housing law” and reduced the city’s developable land for residential and mixed-use development from 228 acres to 148 acres. Landowners sued. The trial court concluded the initiative was inconsistent with the general plan and could not be given effect. The court of appeal agreed that the initiative caused the general plan to become impermissibly inconsistent but disagreed as to the appropriate remedy. The court directed the trial court to order the city to cure the inconsistency. View "Denham, LLC v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law