Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of Westsiders' petition for writ of mandate seeking to invalidate an amendment to the Los Angeles General Plan, which changed the land use designation of a five-acre development site from Light Industrial to General Commercial. The court held that the City's interpretation of its own charter was entitled to great weight and respect unless shown to be clearly erroneous and must be upheld if it has a reasonable basis; the City satisfied the "significant social, economic, or physical, identity" test; Westsiders failed to show that the City violated the Charter by amending the General Plan for the project; the City was not required to make explicit findings that the lot constituted a "geographic area" or that " the lot has a significant economic or physical identity;" and Westsiders waived its spot zoning argument. View "Westsiders Opposed to Overdevelopment v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-respondent San Diego Unified Port District (District) unsuccessfully asked defendant-appellant California Coastal Commission (Commission) to certify an amendment of District's port master plan to authorize hotel development in the East Harbor Island subarea, including construction of a 175-room hotel by real party in interest Sunroad Marina Partners, LP (Sunroad). District filed a petition for peremptory writ of mandate challenging Commission's denial of certification, and the trial court in January 2017 issued the writ, finding Commission violated provisions of the California Coastal Act of 1976 and "impermissibly set policy" by setting a maximum rental rate or fixing room rental rates. Commission did not appeal that ruling, but reheard District's application and again denied certification, finding the master plan amendment lacked sufficient specificity to adequately protect lower cost visitor and public recreational opportunities, including overnight accommodations. On objections by District and Sunroad, the trial court in August 2017 ruled that Commission had essentially conditioned its certification on the provision of lower cost overnight accommodations, which "infring[ed] on the wide discretion afforded to the District to determine the contents of land use plans and how to implement those plans." The court ruled that Commission acted in excess of its jurisdiction and did not proceed in the manner required by law. Commission appealed the August 2017 postjudgment order, contending it complied with the writ, but afterwards, in the face of Port's and Sunroad's objections, the trial court expanded the writ's scope, thereby exceeding its jurisdiction. Commission asked the Court of Appeal to find it complied with the writ as issued, reverse the order sustaining District and Sunroad's objection, and direct the trial court to discharge the writ. Furthermore, the Commission contended it properly denied District's proposed amendment on remand. The Court of Appeal narrowly reviewed the correctness of the trial court's postjudgment ruling that Commission exceeded its jurisdiction or acted contrary to law in denying certification of District's proposed master plan amendment. Doing so, the Court held the trial court erred by relying in part on provisions of the Act governing a local government's authority and imposing limits on Commission's jurisdiction with respect to local coastal programs, which did not pertain to port master plans or master plan amendments. Furthermore, the Court concluded the lower court engaged in an impermissibly broad interpretation of a provision of the Act barring Commission from modifying a master plan amendment as a condition of certification. View "San Diego Unified Port Dist. v. Cal. Coastal Commission" 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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Landowners challenged a 1978 building moratorium based on the resurgence of an ancient landslide, seeking to build a residence in an area of Rancho Palos Verdes. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment for the city, holding that Monks v. City of Rancho Palos Verdes, (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 263 (Monks II), was not dispositive in this case, and neither the landowners' arguments nor the court's review of the moratorium in the city's municipal code revealed a facial constitutional infirmity. The court rejected landowners' contention that Monks II absolved them of the responsibility for exhausting administrative remedies under the doctrine of stare decisis; exhaustion of administrative remedies would not be futile; and the expense of applying for an exclusion from the city's building moratorium did not excuse the landowners from that administrative process. View "Black v. City of Rancho Palos Verdes" on Justia Law

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Real parties in interest Carlton and Raye Lofgren, as Trustees of the Lofgren Family Trust and the Lofgren 1998 Trust (the Lofgrens), sought a residential development permit to build six single-family homes on a parcel of just over 11 acres in Riverside. After respondent City of Riverside (the City) approved the permit and issued a negative declaration stating the development did not require environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Friends of Riverside’s Hills (FRH) filed a petition for a writ of mandate challenging that decision. FRH alleged the City was required to conduct a CEQA Environmental Impact Review (EIR) of the development because it violated certain land use provisions in the City’s municipal code. FRH also alleged the City abused its discretion by approving a project that violated its own land use provisions. The trial court denied FRH’s petition. The Court of Appeal found no evidence of the alleged land use violations, and affirmed the judgment. View "Friends of Riverside's Hills v. City or Riverside" on Justia Law

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After a challenge to its 2004 general plan, San Francisco, acting under court order, prepared an environmental impact report (EIR) pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) and approved revisions of the housing element of its general plan. The 2009 Housing Element examined the type, amount, and affordability of new construction needed, as determined by the Association of Bay Area Governments, which determined that San Francisco’s fair share of the regional housing for January 2007 through June 2014 would be 31,190 units, or about 4,160 units per year. The stated goal was to “alleviate a tight housing market.” In certifying the EIR, the planning department notified the public that the 2009 Housing Element, by encouraging housing near transit lines, will have a single, significant, unavoidable environmental impact on transit that cannot be mitigated to a level of insignificance. Opponents filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the adequacy of EIR. The trial court denied relief. The court of appeal affirmed. The EIR addresses mitigation measures proposed by the opponents. The Housing Element EIR adequately analyzed the impacts on water, traffic, land use, and visual resources by using the future conditions projected by ABAG, rather than analyzing the existing conditions. View "San Franciscans for Livable Neighborhoods v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's ruling that the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because the city treated the creation of a new subzone as follow-on to its prior, initial approval of a Target store rather than as an entirely new "project" under CEQA. The court held that the city's ordinance should be examined under Public Resources Code section 21166, and that the city complied with CEQA in proceeding by way of an addendum to the prior environmental impact report because substantial evidence supported the city's finding that the specific plan amendment would not have any reasonably foreseeable environmental consequences beyond the construction of the Super Target store. The court also held that the ordinance constituted "spot zoning," but that it was permissible because the city did not abuse its discretion in finding that its amendment to the specific plan was in the public interest and compatible with the general plans of which it was a part. View "Citizens Coalition Los Angeles v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Fremont approved a development project in its Niles historical district, which is characterized by unusual trees and historic buildings. The historic overlay district was intended to preserve its “small town character.” The six-acre site was vacant; the developer proposed building 85 residential townhomes in its southern portion and mixed residential and retail in the northern portion. Opponents objected that some three-story buildings might block hill views; to the architectural style and choice of colors and materials on building exteriors; and to the Project’s density as a generator of traffic and parking problems. The city adopted a mitigated negative declaration under the California Environmental Quality Act, rather than prepare an environmental impact report, finding the Project as mitigated would have no significant adverse environmental impact. The trial court granted the objectors’ petition and ordered the city to vacate its approvals "absent compliance with CEQA in the preparation of an EIR.” The court of appeal affirmed, stating the Project’s compatibility with the historical district is properly analyzed as aesthetic impacts. Substantial evidence supports a fair argument of a significant aesthetic impact and a fair argument of significant traffic impacts, notwithstanding a professional traffic study concluding the anticipated adverse impacts fell below the city’s predetermined thresholds of significance. View "Protect Niles v. City of Fremont" on Justia Law

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Ahmed operated a business selling medical marijuana products in Livermore, which has an ordinance that prohibits marijuana dispensaries. The city issued an administrative citation and ordered him to cease operations. Undercover officers subsequently purchased a small quantity of marijuana from Ahmed after being required to sign a membership agreement and produce identification, state medical marijuana cards, and physicians’ recommendations. Police searched Ahmed’s business and seized financial records, approximately $26,000 in cash, 18 pounds of marijuana, and 37 ounces of marijuana oils, wax, and edibles. They executed search warrants for Ahmed’s bank records, which reflected several cash deposits of between $1,000 and $11,000 and several purchases for personal rather than business purposes. Ahmed was charged with possession of marijuana for sale, money laundering, and transportation of marijuana. The prosecution successfully moved to preclude Ahmed from raising a medical marijuana defense. The judge instructed the jury that “[t]he law allows local jurisdictions to enact ordinances to regulate use of its land, including the authority to provide that facilities for distribution of medical marijuana will not be permitted to operate within its borders.” The court of appeal reversed Ahmed’s conviction. The court’s ruling barring Ahmed’s medical marijuana defense violated his constitutional right to present a defense. A local government's power over land use within its borders does not extend to, in effect, nullify a statutory defense to violations of state law. View "People v. Ahmed" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Yvonne Reid and Serena Wong sued defendants the City of San Diego (City) and the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD) in a putative class action complaint, challenging what they allege is "an illegal hotel tax." The trial court sustained Defendants' demurrer without leave to amend on statute of limitations and other grounds. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding some of the causes of action were time-barred and the remainder failed to state facts constituting a cause of action. View "Reid v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law