Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Plaintiff Sacramentans for Fair Planning contended the City of Sacramento violated zoning law and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it approved entitlements for real party 2500 J Owners, LLC, to construct a high-rise condominium building in the City’s Midtown area. The project was not consistent with the general plan and zoning code standards for building intensity and height. But the City approved it pursuant to a general plan policy authorizing more intense development than zoning otherwise allowed if the project provided a significant community benefit. The City also conducted a streamlined CEQA review. CEQA authorized the less intense review for a type of residential mixed-use development such as the proposed project which, because of its proximity to mass transit services, may help reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by generating less use of motor vehicles. In a petition for writ of mandate, plaintiff argued that approving the project under the general plan policy violated constitutional law and an implied-in-law zoning contract that required identical uses in a zoning district to be treated uniformly and prohibited a delegation of legislative authority without sufficient standards to govern its use. Plaintiff also claimed the City violated CEQA because the streamlined review did not analyze all of the project’s environmental effects. The trial court denied plaintiff’s petition. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order and judgment. View "Sacramentans for Fair Planning v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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January 13, 2017, a Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department engineer inspected respondent’s property and observed inadequate and unpermitted retaining walls, one of which directed water to a single point directly above a failed 25-foot bank that had deposited five cubic yards of earth onto Riverview Drive. Unpermitted grading and terracing had contributed to bank failure and deposit of material into a nearby watercourse. On January 19, a rainstorm caused a four-foot wall of mud to slide onto Riverview Drive. Respondent moved earthen materials from the road, resulting in the runoff of materials into a local stream and on neighboring private property. Respondent believed his actions either did not require permits or were emergency measures. Respondent failed to comply with an administrative order requiring him to abate the code violations and pay abatement costs and civil penalties. Sonoma County filed suit. Respondent did not file a responsive pleading. The court entered a default judgment that ordered penalties significantly lower than ordered by the administrative hearing officer. The court of appeal reversed the order imposing civil penalties at the rate of $20 per day and directed the court to modify its judgment to require payment at $45 per day. That provision of the court’s order altered a final administrative order, was entirely unexplained, and provided respondent with a windfall he did not request. View "County of Sonoma v. Gustely" on Justia Law

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Kahan purchased property in Richmond at a foreclosure sale. Shortly before the sale, the city had recorded a “special assessment” lien against the property for unpaid garbage collection fees, pursuant to a municipal ordinance. When Kahan sold the property, he had to pay the delinquent garbage fees plus administrative charges and escrow fees to obtain a release of the lien. Kahan filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the city has no authority to levy “special assessments” for garbage collection charges that are “user fees” under state law and that the ordinance purporting to authorize such assessments violates state laws on lien priority. He also argued that the city’s action violated its ordinance because a garbage lien may not attach if a “bona fide encumbrancer for value” has placed a lien on the property before the garbage lien is recorded. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Treatment of delinquent garbage fees as a special assessment and the recording of a lien are expressly authorized by Government Code 25831, even if garbage fees are user fees. Government Code sections 25831 and 38790.1 expressly authorize the super-priority status accorded the garbage lien, so the ordinance is consistent with statutory lien priority law. The bona fide encumbrancer exception does not apply. View "Kahan v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law

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The Mitigation Fee Act (Gov. Code 66000) authorizes local agencies to impose fees on development projects to defray the cost of public facilities needed to serve the growth caused by the project if the fees are reasonably related to the burden caused by the development. Boatworks challenged Alameda's development fee ordinance. The trial court concluded the fees are excessive and constitute invalid exactions by imposing on new residents the purported cost of acquiring land for parks, although the city does not need to buy new parkland, and found that the city erred by including in its inventory of current parks two parks that were not yet open and by categorizing certain areas as parks rather than (less expensive) open space. The court of appeal reversed in part, holding that the city can properly include Shoreline Park, Osborne Model Airplane Field and two boat ramps in its inventory of parks. With respect to development fees for parks and recreation, the court stated that a fee based in significant part on costs the city will not incur, because it has already acquired ample land at no cost, does not have a “reasonable relationship to the cost of the public facility attributable to the development.” View "Boatworks, LLC v. Alameda" on Justia Law

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After Huntington Park enacted and extended an urgency ordinance that imposed a temporary moratorium on charter schools while it considered amending its zoning code, the Association petitioned for writ of mandate seeking an order directing Huntington Park to invalidate approval of the ordinance on the ground it violated, among other things, the Planning and Zoning Law. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of the petition and held as a matter of law that the ordinance was invalid because the findings contained therein of "numerous inquiries and requests for the establishment and operation of charter schools" did not amount to a "current and immediate threat" as required by section 65858, subdivision (c) to enact an urgency ordinance. View "California Charter Schools Assn. v. City of Huntington Park" on Justia Law

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The Mitigation Fee Act, Government Code 66000-66003, requires local agencies seeking to impose fees on private developers as a condition of approval of a development, to determine how there is a “reasonable relationship” between the type of development project, the fee’s use, and the need for the public facilities. The developer of a 100-unit agricultural employee housing complex in Monterey County’s Salinas Union High School District designed the project to accommodate 200-800 seasonal farmworker employees in dormitory-like apartments during the growing season. The project description stated that it was designed for “agricultural employees only, without dependents.” A report prepared for the county board of supervisors found that the project would “not have an adverse impact on schools.” The board approved the project, adopted a mitigated negative declaration under CEQA, and approved a combined permit, subject to conditions, which described the development for “agricultural employees only without dependents.” When the developer applied for project approval, the District adopted an impact fee on new residential construction of $3 per square foot. The court of appeal reversed the trial court, finding that the statutes do not require a school district to separately analyze the impact of a unique subtype of residential construction not contemplated in the statute. To hold otherwise would disrupt the school district’s quasi-legislative authority to impose prospective, district-wide fees based upon development type. View "Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods v. Salinas Union High School District" on Justia Law

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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