Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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When a lease of federal lands includes an option to extend its term and the tax assessor reasonably concludes that the option will likely be exercised, the value of the leasehold interest is properly based on the extended term. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of dismissal entered after the trial court sustained without leave to amend the County's demurrer to Glovis's complaint for refund of property taxes. The court held that the terms of the lease evidenced the parties' mutual intent to grant Glovis the option to extend its possession of the Navy's property past the initial five-year term; the lease clearly and explicitly gave Glovis the exclusive right to lease the Navy's property under 2028; and there was no language permitting the Navy to withdraw or revoke its offer. The court independently reviewed whether to use extrinsic evidence to interpret the lease and held that there was no need to do so in this case. Finally, the court rejected Glovis's contention that the assessor erred when he determined it was reasonable to assume the option will be exercised. View "Glovis America, Inc. v. County of Ventura" on Justia Law

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Tri Palms Unified Owners Association (the Association) was a group of homeowners in the Tri-Palms Estates. There was a recreation facility adjacent to the Tri-Palms Estates, and homeowners paid a fee for that recreation facility. In 2014, in bankruptcy proceedings, Kort & Scott Financial Group, LLC (K&S) was the successful bidder on the recreation facility. The Association entered into a settlement agreement with K&S. As a result of the Agreement, some members of the Association were required to pay an increased fee for the recreation facility. In 2016, Alex Cheveldave and Richard Davis, who were members of the Association, sued the Association, K&S, and Shenandoah Ventures, L.P., arguing that the Association did not have standing to enter into the Agreement. The Association filed an anti-SLAPP motion which the trial court granted. Cheveldave argued on appeal of that judgment the trial court erred by granting the anti-SLAPP motion. After review of the trial court record, the Court of Appeal determined Cheveldave established his case had "minimal merit," and the trial court erred by granting the anti-SLAPP motion. View "Cheveldave v. Tri Palms Unified Owners Assn." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants The Inland Oversight Committee (IOC), CREED-21, and Highland Hills Homeowners Association (HOA) filed the underlying lawsuit in 2015, contending that proposed changes to a Highland Hills development project violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and certain provisions of the Water Code. Real party in interest and respondent First American Title Insurance Company (First American) was the developer that proposed the changes at issue. Defendant-respondent City of San Bernardino (the City) approved the changes under an expedited procedure for minor modifications. The expedited procedure was incorporated into a stipulated judgment in a previous lawsuit regarding the development brought by HOA against the City and the former developer (First American’s predecessor in interest) concerning the development. This case was the second appeal regarding the same proposed changes. In a related but separate lawsuit, HOA challenged the trial court’s order confirming that the proposed changes constituted minor modifications appropriately approved under the above-mentioned expedited procedure. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order. Now in this case, plaintiffs appealed judgment entered against them after the trial court sustained without leave to amend the City’s and First American’s demurrer to plaintiffs’ first amended petition for writ of mandate and complaint. Applying the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, the trial court found that plaintiffs’ CEQA claims were barred by the preclusive effect of HOA’s previous lawsuit, and that judicially noticeable documents showed the City did not violate the Water Code. Finding no reversible error to that judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "The Inland Oversight Committee v. City of San Bernardino" on Justia Law

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The city’s General Plan policy LU-7 encourages new neighborhood commercial facilities and supermarkets to be located to maximize accessibility to all residential areas. Wal-Mart proposed to expand its store to add 36,000 square feet for a 24-hour grocery/supermarket. The city's draft environmental impact report (EIR) concluded the project was “consistent” with LU-7, stating: “There are no existing grocery stores within a 1-mile radius …project would install bicycle storage facilities and enhance pedestrian facilities to improve accessibility.” Objectors claimed that the project would close existing neighborhood-serving grocery stores, is located in a large commercial area, and would contribute to an over-concentrated area. The planning commission declined to approve the original EIR, citingPolicy LU-7. The city council granted an appeal. Previous litigation concerned noise and traffic impacts and resulted in a revised EIR and reapproval. Opponents then challenged the approval based on the General Plan. The trial court concluded the petition was barred by res judicata and the statute of limitations and that substantial evidence supported the approval. The court of appeal affirmed. The project is in a new growth area with increasing residential communities and is located at least a mile from the next closest supermarket but it may place stress on other local supermarkets. Considering the evidence as a whole, the decision was not palpably unreasonable, and did not exceed the city’s “broad discretion.” View "Atwell v. City of Rohnert Park" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Amy Arlene Turner and Joseph Zeleny sought damages from defendant Seterus, Inc. (Seterus) in their wrongful foreclosure lawsuit on the theory that Seterus had “frustrated [their] lawful attempt, pursuant to [Civil] Code [section] 2924c, to cure their default more than five days prior to the noticed foreclosure sale.” The trial court sustained Seterus’s demurrer to their third amended complaint without leave to amend. On appeal, plaintiffs contended the trial court erred. The Court of Appeal agreed in part and reversed the judgment with instructions to the trial court to vacate its order sustaining Seterus’ demurrer to the third amended complaint in its entirety without leave to amend and to instead enter a new order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend as to the causes of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract, and overruling the demurrer as to the causes of action for intentional and negligent misrepresentation, negligence, wrongful foreclosure, and unlawful business practices. View "Turner v. Seterus, Inc." on Justia Law

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Farima Kushesh-Kaviani (Wife) and Wishtasb Kushesh (Husband) were married in January 2010. The marriage did not last. Their only child was born in April 2011, and the couple separated within two weeks of his birth. Husband filed for dissolution in late August 2011. During the marriage the couple lived in Husband’s separate property condominium in Laguna Niguel; however, the property at issue in this appeal was one called “unit 13k” three doors down from the Laguna Niguel condo. It was acquired about four months into the marriage. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeals' review centered on whether an intefspousal transfer grant deed (ITGD) met the requirements for a transmutation of the character of marital property under Family Code section 852. The trial court determined the ITGD in this case did not contain the requisite language to effectuate a transmutation. The Court of Appeal disagreed, however: the standard ITGD expresses an intent to transfer a property interest from one spouse to another. The document at issue here met all of the necessary features of an intefspousal transfer. The Court therefore reversed the trial court, and remanded this matter for further proceedings as to whether the beneficially-interested spouse here dispelled any presumption of undue influence that might have arisen giving rise to this ITGD. View "In re Marriage of Kushesh & Kushesh-Kaviani" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff's foreclosure action was dismissed, the trial court ordered plaintiff to pay attorney fees to defendants, finding certain provisions in the deed of trust she signed authorized the fee award. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the deed of trust authorized the addition of attorney fees to the loan amount, not a separate award to pay fees. The court also held that the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act provided no independent basis for ordering plaintiff to pay attorney fees. Accordingly, the trial court's order compelling plaintiff to pay attorney fees was reversed and the matter remanded. View "Chacker v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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In a wrongful foreclosure action, the Court of Appeal reversed the award of attorney's fees to Nationstar Mortgage that was based on a clause in the deed of trust. The court held that the clause at issue was not an attorney's fee provision. The court also held that simply pleading a right to attorney's fees was not a sufficient basis to judicially estop a party from challenging the opposing party's alleged contractual basis for an award of attorney's fees. Therefore, the trial court erred in relying on judicial estoppel as an alternative basis for its fee award. View "Hart v. Clear Recon Corp." on Justia Law

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Francis Bottini, Jr., Nina Bottini, and the Bernate Ticino Trust (the Bottinis) applied to the City of San Diego for a coastal development permit (CDP) to construct a single-family home on a vacant lot in La Jolla. City staff determined that the Bottinis' proposed construction project was categorically exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act, but the City Council of San Diego reversed that determination. In reaching its decision, the City Council found that full environmental review was necessary because the Bottinis had removed a 19th century cottage from the lot on which they planned to build their residence shortly before they applied for a CDP. The City had previously voted against designating that cottage as a historical resource, declared that the cottage was a public nuisance, and authorized the Bottinis to demolish the cottage. Nevertheless, after the cottage's demolition, the City Council declared the cottage "historic," concluded that the cottage's demolition must be considered part of the Bottinis' project for purposes of CEQA, and found that there was a reasonable possibility that CEQA's "historical resources" and "unusual circumstances" exceptions applied to the Bottinis' construction project, thus requiring full environmental review. The Bottinis filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandamus seeking to compel the City Council to set aside its decision, as well as a complaint for damages against the City, based on alleged violations of the takings, due process, and equal protection clauses of the California Constitution. The City moved for summary judgment on the Bottinis' constitutional causes of action. The court granted the Bottinis' petition concluding the demolition of the cottage was not a component of the Bottinis' construction project and, as a result, the City Council's determination that the project was not categorically exempt from CEQA review lacked substantial evidentiary support. The court also granted the City's motion for summary judgment on the Bottinis' constitutional claims. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. View "Bottini v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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This appeal challenged the trial court’s denial of a special motion to strike pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, the anti-SLAPP statute,, directed at a cross-complaint asserting causes of action arising from a civil enforcement action brought by Feather River Air Quality Management District against Harmun Takhar for multiple violations of state and local air pollution laws. Specifically, this case involved dust. Takhar owned a piece of property in Yuba County. In June 2014, he began the process of converting that property from pasture land to an almond orchard. This process required the clearing, grading, and disking of the land in order to prepare the site for planting. The earthwork generated dust that was carried from Takhar’s property and deposited onto neighboring properties. These neighboring property owners complained to the District. District staff contacted Takhar, informed him the dust emissions were impacting neighboring properties causing a public nuisance, and requested he take reasonable precautions to prevent the dust from reaching the affected properties, such as waiting for the wind to change directions before engaging in earthwork. Violations were ultimately imposed, and an offer to settle the civil penalties was made. Takhar did not take the District up on its settlement offer and instead continued with his clearing activities. The District then brought a civil enforcement action against Takhar. The Court of Appeal concluded Takhar did not demonstrate he qualified for an exemption to the anti-SLAPP statute. The causes of action alleged in Takhar’s cross-complaint arose from protected petitioning activity and he did not establish a probability of prevailing on the merits of these claims. The Court therefore remanded the matter to the trial court with directions to grant the anti-SLAPP motion and dismiss the cross-complaint. View "Takhar v. California ex rel. Feather River Air Quality Management Dist." on Justia Law