Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Defendants-respondents the City of Davis (City) and the City Council of the City of Davis (City Council) approved a conditional use permit authorizing the use of a single family home in a residential zoning district as professional office space for three therapists. Petitioner-appellant and next door neighbor Michael Harrington, filed a petition for an administrative writ of mandate asking the trial court to set aside the conditional use permit. The trial court denied the petition. Harrington appealed, arguing: (1) the conditional use permit violated an ordinance prohibiting parking in the front yard setback; (2) the issuance of the conditional use permit resulted in a change in occupancy triggering accessible parking requirements under the California Building Standards Code (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 24, pt. 2); (3) the conditional use permit contemplated alterations triggering the accessible parking requirements; (4) the City Council failed to make sufficient findings to support a conclusion that compliance with accessible parking requirements would be technically infeasible, and the findings are not supported by substantial evidence; and (5) the City Council failed to make sufficient findings to support a conclusion that the permitted use is consistent with the zoning designation, and the findings are not supported by substantial evidence. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded: (1) the conditional use permit did not require parking in the front yard setback; (2) the City’s reasonable construction of the Building Code is entitled to deference, and its determination that the issuance of the conditional use permit did not result in a change in occupancy is supported by substantial evidence; (3) Harrington forfeited the argument that the conditional use permit contemplated alterations within the meaning of the Building Code; (4) technical infeasibility findings were not necessary, as the City Council did not rely on that theory; and (5) the City Council’s consistency findings were legally sufficient and supported by substantial evidence. View "Harrington v. City of Davis" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Council of California (Government Code 70321) prepared an environmental impact report (EIR, California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, 21000)) in connection with the consolidation of El Dorado County courthouse operations from two buildings, one of which is a historic building in downtown Placerville, into a single new building on the city’s outskirts, less than two miles away. Although the draft EIR addressed the possible economic impact of moving judicial activities from the downtown courthouse, it concluded the impact was not likely to be severe enough to cause urban decay in downtown Placerville. The League contended this conclusion was not supported by substantial evidence, given the importance of the courthouse to downtown commerce. The trial court and court of appeal upheld certification of the EIR. The court noted that the new construction will not result in a competitor to siphon business from downtown, but will leave behind a building that can be filled with other activities producing a level of commerce similar to that removed by the relocation, thereby mitigating the impact of the relocation. There was substantial evidence to support the draft EIR’s conclusion that urban decay is not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the project. View "Placerville Historic Preservation League v. Judicial Council of California" on Justia Law

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The 7,517-square-foot lot, on the south side of Telegraph Hill bordering the Filbert Street steps, was unimproved except for a small uninhabitable 1906 cottage. Four other buildings were demolished in 1997. The developers intend to restore the existing 1.000-square-foot cottage and build a three-story over basement building with three units ranging from 3,700-4,200 square feet apiece. A new curb cut along Telegraph Boulevard will provide access to a basement with three off-street parking spaces. The front of the building, bordering the Filbert Street steps, is designed to appear as three separate single-family homes, each below the 40-foot height limit as they step down the hill. The San Francisco Planning Department determined the project was statutorily exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code, 21000 (CEQA), because it fell within classes of projects that were determined not to have significant effects on the environment: restoration or rehabilitation of deteriorated structures; a residential structure totaling no more than four dwelling units. The Planning Commission approved a conditional use authorization. The Board of Supervisors, superior court, and court of appeal upheld the approvals. No CEQA review was necessary because the project was categorically exempt from review and no unusual circumstances exist to override the exemptions on the basis the project will have a significant effect on the environment. View "Protect Telegraph Hill v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Vallejo’s zoning code does not recognize medical marijuana dispensaries as a permitted land use. An unpermitted use is “a public nuisance.” Vallejo recently adopted Ordinance No. 1715 granting limited immunity to medical marijuana dispensaries that meet various requirements, including the past payment of local business taxes. NCORP4, a nonprofit corporation, operates a Vallejo medical marijuana dispensary. Vallejo denied NCORP4’s application for limited immunity for failure to pay taxes, among other reasons, but the dispensary continues to operate. The city sought to enjoin the dispensary as a public nuisance. The trial court denied the city a preliminary injunction, concluding that the ordinance improperly conditioned immunity upon past payment of business taxes. The court of appeal reversed. State law permitting medicinal marijuana use and distribution does not preempt “the authority of California cities and counties, under their traditional land use and police powers, to allow, restrict, limit, or entirely exclude facilities that distribute medical marijuana, and to enforce such policies by nuisance actions.” Local governments may rationally limit medical marijuana dispensaries to those already in operation and compliant with prior law as past compliance shows a willingness to follow the law, which suggests future lawful behavior. View "City of Vallejo v. NCORP4, Inc." on Justia Law

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The State Water Resources Control Board (Wat. Code, 174(a)) has permitting authority, limited to surface water and to “subterranean streams flowing through known and definite channels.” It does not have authority over “percolating groundwater” that is not part of a subterranean stream, which is regulated by local agencies. It has authority to prevent the unreasonable or wasteful use of water regardless of its source. Living Rivers unsuccessfully sought a writ of mandate to compel the Board to rescind its approval of a policy designed to maintain instream flows in coastal streams north of San Francisco. Living Rivers alleged several violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA; Public Res. Code, 21000) relating to the indirect environmental effects of surface water users switching to groundwater pumping as a result of the policy. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that a revised supplemental environmental declaration’s (RSED) conclusion that increased groundwater pumping was uncertain or unlikely was in conflict with the Board’s finding that groundwater pumping could have significant effects on the environment; the RSED did not adequately describe or discuss the adoption of the Subterranean Stream Delineations as a mitigation measure; and the RSED’s stated reasons for finding the Subterranean Stream Delineations infeasible were erroneous as a matter of law. View "Living Rivers Council v. State Water Resources Control Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs and appellants Luz Solar Partners Ltd., III; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., IV; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., V; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VI; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VII; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VIII and Harper Lake Company VIII; and Luz Solar Partners Ltd., IX and HLC IX (collectively “Luz Partners”) challenged the assessment of real property improved with solar energy generating systems (SEGS units) for tax years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. They contended that defendants-respondents San Bernardino County (County) and the Assessment Appeals Board of San Bernardino County (Appeals Board) erroneously relied on the State of California Board of Equalization’s (Board) incorrect interpretation of the applicable statutes governing the method of assessing the value of the property. Finding that the Board correctly interpreted the applicable law in setting forth the method of assessing the value of the solar properties, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Luz Solar Partners Ltd. v. San Bernardino County" on Justia Law

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The 4.75-acre Laurel Way site is in a hillside canyon, is steeply sloped, and contains a private, dead end street that is only partially paved. Redwood City divided its proposed development into a first phase, involving paving the roadway, installing utilities and sewer connections, landscaping, and drainage infrastructure, and a second phase, involving the construction of residences on the lots. The second phase is not to commence until the first phase is complete and approved. In 2006, the developer sought a planned development permit (PDP). The city held several workshops and public meetings then circulated a draft environmental impact report (EIR). In 2010, the planning commission certified a final EIR, adopting findings for mitigation measures, including a mitigation monitoring program. In 2013, the commission approved the PDP for the infrastructure improvements with 63 conditions. The approved project contemplates up to 16 new houses; there are two existing houses. The appeals court reinstated the PDP approval. The trial court abused its discretion by failing to evaluate the legal status of the 18 lots under the Subdivision Map Act (Gov. Code 66410). The PDP does not cover the development of individual lots, so issues regarding the legal status of the individual lots under the SMA are not ripe for judicial review. View "Save Laurel Way v. City of Redwood City" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sought a writ of mandate regarding their efforts to place a referendum on the ballot concerning a resolution passed by the City of San Bruno, approving the sale of real property, the former U.S. Navy facility, to a hotel developer. There has been previous redevelopment of the site and the hotel property is only one-and-one-half acres. The trial court held that the subject resolution constituted an administrative act and was therefore not subject to referendum. The court of appeal affirmed. The city is not acquiring land for any municipal purpose, and is not appropriating any of its own funds in connection with the real estate transaction; it sold land to a private developer for a profit and is not providing any subsidy to the developer. The property will not house any municipal buildings or be used to serve any municipal function. The sale simply implements prior legislative acts, amendments to the city’s Specific Plan to permit the development of the property. View "San Bruno Committee for Economic Justice v. City of San Bruno" on Justia Law

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South San Francisco approved a conditional-use permit allowing an office building to be converted to a medical clinic for use by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. The city determined that its consideration of the permit was categorically exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code section 21000 (CEQA). Respect Life challenged the determination. The trial court and court of appeal upheld the determination, rejecting arguments that the permit’s consideration is not exempt from CEQA because the unusual circumstances exception to CEQA’s categorical exemptions applies. By pointing only to evidence that the permit will lead to protests, Respect Life failed to establish that the city prejudicially abused its discretion by making an implied determination that there are no unusual circumstances justifying further CEQA review. View "Respect Life South San Francisco v. City of South San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Attards own an undeveloped 5-acre parcel in unincorporated Contra Costa County (Fish Ranch Road) on the north side of Highway 24, near the east portal of the Caldecott Tunnel, approximately one mile west of Orinda. The property is designated open space in the county’s general plan, its zoning allows the construction of one single family home. They also own two parcels constituting the 3-acre Old Tunnel Road property near the tunnel's east portal, on the opposite side of Highway 24. The chief barrier to the development of the properties was sewage treatment. In 2005, the Attards contracted with the state Department of Transportation, agreeing to reconstruct the tunnel’s sewage disposal system and pay for upkeep, in return for the right to connect the properties. The tunnel then had a single restroom, served by a septic system. Although they failed to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals, the county issued a permit for construction of an 8400-square-foot home. Before the county discovered its error and notified the Attards, they made substantial progress toward installing a foundation. The county revoked the permits. The court of appeal affirmed the rejection of their petition for mandamus, rejecting claims of vested rights and equitable estoppel; that the Attards were exempt from local regulatory authority because of sovereign immunity; and that they were denied due process by the evident bias of one Board member. View "Attard v. Board of Supervisors of Contra Costa County" on Justia Law