Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment applying the Lamden judicial deference rule to the Board of Director's decision that defendants' operation of a vineyard was not a prohibited business or commercial use under the covenants, conditions, and restrictions of a homeowners association. In Lamden v. La Jolla Shores Clubdominium Homeowners Assn. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 249 (Lamden), the California Supreme Court cautioned courts to give judicial deference to certain discretionary decisions of duly constituted homeowners association boards. The court held that the trial court properly applied the judicial deference rule in this case. The court also affirmed the award of attorney fees and costs, and rejected claims of procedural error. View "Eith v. Ketelhut" on Justia Law

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Next Century purchased the Century Plaza Hotel in mid-2008, for $366.5 million. As of January 1, 2009, the property’s enrolled assessed value was $367,612,305. Next Century sought a reduction in the assessed value because the “global economic meltdown” had caused the property’s market value to drop significantly. The Los Angeles Assessment Appeals Board considered discounted cash flow (DCF) analyses that reflected a decline in value below the enrolled value. The Assessor did not attempt to defend the enrolled value. The Board rejected the Assessor’s DCF analysis as overstating the hotel’s 2006 net operating income. Next Century asserts that if the Assessor’s analysis were corrected, it would generally support Next Century’s proposed value. The Board also rejected Next Century’s proposed valuation and upheld the enrolled value, although no party thought it correctly reflected the property’s lien date value. Next Century sued for a tax refund. The court of appeal reversed a judgment in favor of the County. The Board’s rejection of Next Century’s valuation, without sufficient explanation, and with knowledge that the Assessor’s valuation analysis—if corrected— would result in a valuation significantly lower than the enrolled value, was arbitrary, as was its decision to leave in place an enrolled value that had been repudiated by the Assessor and was unsupported by any evidence. The Board’s cryptic findings are insufficient to bridge the analytic gap between the evidence and its conclusions. View "Next Century Associates v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and her sister inherited a San Jose house when their mother died in 2003. They took title as tenants-in-common. A recorded deed reflected that each owned an undivided 50 percent interest. Plaintiff lived in the home; her sister did not. In 2009, plaintiff’s sister granted her a life estate in the 50 percent interest that plaintiff did not already own. The deed reflecting that transfer was recorded. The 2009 transfer resulted in plaintiff having sole ownership rights for the rest of her life, with her sister regaining a 50 percent interest in the property on plaintiff’s death. Based on the 2009 transfer, the County reassessed the property’s value under a statute allowing for recalculation of a property’s tax basis upon a change in ownership. The new valuation resulted in a higher property tax bill. Plaintiff unsuccessfully requested a revised assessment on the ground that the creation of a life estate did not constitute a change in ownership. Plaintiff then sued, seeking a property tax refund. The court appeal affirmed a holding that the 2009 deed granting plaintiff a life estate constituted a change in ownership and the reassessment was in conformity with the law. View "Durante v. County of Santa Clara" on Justia Law

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Montecito neighbors had a dispute over an easement created by recording in 1994, which contained an unpaved road. The owner of the burdened property wanted the easement limited to historical use; a new owner of the other property wanted to use the road for construction traffic and asserted that he might pave the road. The trial court “interpreted” the easement, ruled that the easement was ambiguous, decided the case based upon extrinsic evidence of historic use, and added language limiting the easement. The court of appeal reversed and remanded with directions, noting that the use of the easement for construction traffic has become a moot issue. An ambiguity is not apparent from the “failure” to specify how frequently the road can be used or the type of vehicle allowed on the road, but ambiguity is not the test for admission of extrinsic evidence. A bona fide purchaser could reasonably rely on the language of the grant of the easement, which gave him “a use limited only by the requirement that it be reasonably necessary and consistent with the purpose[] for which the easement was granted,” i.e., “access, ingress, and egress to vehicles and pedestrians.” View "Zissler v. Saville" on Justia Law

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In 1998, the State Lands Commission granted Hanson’s predecessor 10-year leases, authorizing commercial sand mining from sovereign lands, owned by the state subject to the public trust, and managed by the Commission, under the Central San Francisco Bay, Suisun Bay, and the western Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. In 2006, Hanson requested extensions of several leases, but they expired before the Commission made its decision. The Commission granted four new 10-year leases covering essentially the same parcels in the San Francisco Bay. In 2012, opponents sought a writ of mandate to compel the Commission to set aside its approval of the project. In 2015, a different panel of the court of appeal found that the Commission’s environmental review of the project complied with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000), but that the Commission violated the public trust doctrine by approving the project without considering whether the sand mining leases were a proper use of public trust lands. The Commission reapproved the project; the court discharged a writ of mandate. The court of appeal affirmed. While the Commission erred by concluding that private commercial sand mining constitutes a public trust use of sovereign lands, there is substantial evidence that the project will not impair the public trust. View "San Francisco Baykeeper, Inc. v. State Lands Commission" on Justia Law

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The Alliance challenged the approval of a project comprising a fuel station, convenience store, and quick serve restaurant on The Alameda and the adoption of a mitigated negative declaration for the project. The Alliance sought to compel the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000). In March 2016, the trial court issued a “Peremptory Writ of Mandate of Interlocutory Remand for Reconsideration of Potential Noise Impacts,” requiring the city to set aside the resolutions, reconsider the significance of potential noise impacts, and take further action consistent with CEQA. The Alliance did not appeal from that decision but appealed from the December 2016 “Final Judgment on Petition for Writ of Mandamus,” which determined that the city’s supplemental return complied with the peremptory writ and with CEQA. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the March 2016 decision was the final judgment and the December 2016 decision was a post-judgment order. The court rejected claims that the city was required to prepare an EIR because there was substantial evidence in the record supporting a fair argument that the proposed project may have significant, unmitigated traffic and noise impacts and that the project violated the municipal code governing “formula retail businesses.” View "Alliance of Concerned Citizens Organized for Responsible Development v. City of San Juan Bautista" on Justia Law

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Rasooly unsuccessfully appealed a 2015 “Notice and Order to Repair or Demolish Structure" for his vacant Oakley building, then sought judicial review. The city agreed to rescind the Notice; Rasooly was to provide plans responsive to city comments and complete all required work by April 2017. Rasooly’s counsel said more time was required for the work. The city replied that at least stabilization work must be done within the time requested. Rasooly’s counsel did not respond. For several months, Rasooly and the city’s permit center manager communicated by e-mail. On March 1, 2017, the city issued a new notice and order that the property be repaired or demolished, physically posted the notice on the property, and sent it by certified mail to a post office box listed as Rasooly’s address on county tax rolls. The mailing was returned undelivered. After the 20-day period for administrative appeal lapsed, the city advised Rasooly’s attorney of the notice on April 4, 2017. On April 5, Rasooly filed suit. The city cited Rasooly’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of Rasooly's petition, finding that the city complied with the Code and rejecting an argument that the “nail & mail” procedures were constitutionally deficient in the absence of efforts at personal service. View "Rasooly v. City of Oakley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for unjust enrichment and conversion, alleging that it had no remedy at law against the original property owner after it lost the property in foreclosure, and that defendants had unjustly retained the full benefit of the reduction in taxes owed. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order sustaining defendants' demurrer to the conversion cause of action. However, the court reversed as to the unjust enrichment claim. The court held that the complaint stated sufficient facts that defendants knew or had reason to know of plaintiff's right and interest in a percentage of the tax refund, they benefited in the form of a reduced tax liability, and their retention of those benefits without payment to plaintiff was unjust. View "Professional Tax Appeal v. Kennedy-Wilson Holdings" on Justia Law

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Class actions are not allowed under the Right to Repair Act except in one limited context: to assert claims that address solely the incorporation into a residence of a defective component, unless that component is a product that is completely manufactured offsite. The Court of Appeal held that, because the claim here involved allegedly defective products that were completely manufactured offsite, the claim alleged under the Act could not be litigated as a class action. In this case, homeowners could not bring a class action asserting a claim under the Act against Kohler, the manufacturer of an allegedly defective plumbing fixture used in the construction of class members' homes. Therefore, the court granted Kohler's writ petition and issued a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its order to the extent it denied in part Kohler's anti-class certification motion and to enter a new order granting the motion in its entirety. View "Kohler Co. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Lloyd Copenbarger, as Trustee of the Hazel I. Maag Trust (the Maag Trust), sued Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, Inc. (MCWE) for declaratory relief and breach of a settlement agreement made to resolve various disputes, including an unlawful detainer action. MCWE was the lessee of a 50-year ground lease (the Ground Lease) of real property (the Property) in Newport Beach. The Property was improved with an office building and marina (the Improvements). The Ground Lease was set to terminate on December 1, 2018. In 2004, MCWE subleased the Property and sold all of the Improvements to NHOM (the Sublease). Starting in 2009, NHOM experienced cash flow problems due to “a shortage of rents.” In June 2011, MCWE commenced an unlawful detainer action against NHOM based on allegations NHOM failed to maintain and undertake required repairs to the Improvements. Six months later, the Maag Trust intervened in the UD Action as a party defendant under the theory that if NHOM were evicted and the Sublease terminated, then the Maag Trust’s security interest created by the Maag Deed of Trust would be destroyed. In August 2012, MCWE, Plaza del Sol, and the Maag Trust entered into a settlement agreement (the Settlement Agreement). The Maag Trust alleged MCWE breached the settlement agreement by failing to dismiss with prejudice the unlawful detainer action and sought, as damages, attorney fees incurred in that action from the date of the settlement agreement to the date on which MCWE did dismiss the action. Following a bench trial, the trial court found MCWE had breached the settlement agreement by not timely dismissing with prejudice the unlawful detainer action. As damages, the court awarded the Maag Trust attorney fees it claimed to have incurred during the relevant time period. On appeal, MCWE did not challenge the finding that its failure to dismiss the unlawful detainer action constituted a breach of the settlement agreement. Instead, MCWE made a number of arguments challenging the damages awarded. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment against MCWE because there was a wholesale failure of proof of the amount of damages on the part of the Maag Trust. Therefore, the Court reversed with directions to enter judgment in favor of MCWE on the Maag Trust’s complaint. View "Copenbarger v. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, Inc." on Justia Law