Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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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

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Santa Rosa decided to turn a 69-bed defunct hospital into the "Dream Center" to house 63 people, ages 18-24, and provide individual and family counseling, education and job training, a health and wellness center serving the community for ages five through 24, and activities for residents, including a pottery throwing area, a half-court basketball area, and a garden. Neighbors challenged the project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000), arguing that noise impacts required preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR). The city issued a negative declaration, indication that the project would not have a significant environmental effect and an EIR would not be required. On appeal, the neighbors focused on traffic noise from the south parking lot adjacent to the Dream Center, and noise from the residents’ outdoor recreational activities. The court of appeal affirmed, finding no substantial evidence that there would be a significant noise impact from those sources. The predicted parking lot noise impacts are largely hypothetical, given the city’s parking restrictions in that lot; neighbors' impact calculations were based on data from a different project that cannot reasonably be applied to the Dream Center. An argument that the noise from residents’ outdoor activities would constitute a significant environmental impact was also based on a flawed analysis. View "Jensen v. City of Santa Rosa" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of a petition for writ of mandate in an action challenging the Department's citation of Lamar for violating County zoning ordinances. After a billboard owned by Lamar was blown over in a windstorm, Lamar argued that it was authorized to rebuild the billboard without interference by local authorities. The court held that the billboard's reconstruction was properly subject to the County's permitting requirements and Los Angeles County Code section 22.56.1510 did not exempt the billboard from the County's permitting requirements. View "Lamar Advertising Co. v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of a petition for writ of mandate in an action challenging the Department's citation of Lamar for violating County zoning ordinances. After a billboard owned by Lamar was blown over in a windstorm, Lamar argued that it was authorized to rebuild the billboard without interference by local authorities. The court held that the billboard's reconstruction was properly subject to the County's permitting requirements and Los Angeles County Code section 22.56.1510 did not exempt the billboard from the County's permitting requirements. View "Lamar Advertising Co. v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Before San Francisco Ordinance 286-13 was adopted in 2013, the Planning Code generally prohibited the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of “nonconforming units,” which are legal residential housing units that exceed the currently-permitted density for the zoning district in which they are located. The 2013 amendment permits the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of nonconforming residential units in zoning districts where residential use is principally permitted, if the changes do not extend beyond the “building envelope” as it existed on January 1, 2013. A waiting period of five to 10 years applies for changes to units where a tenant has been evicted employing Administrative Code grounds for evicting a non-faulting tenant, including section 37.9(a)(13), which allows an owner to evict tenants to remove residential units from the rental market in accordance with the Ellis Act. The Ellis Act prohibits local governments from “compel[ling] the owner of any residential real property to offer, or to continue to offer accommodations in the property for rent or lease.” Gov. Code 7060(a). The trial court upheld the amendment. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the ordinance is preempted by the Ellis Act because it requires an owner who exercises Ellis Act rights to wait years before being eligible for a permit to make alterations. View "Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Before San Francisco Ordinance 286-13 was adopted in 2013, the Planning Code generally prohibited the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of “nonconforming units,” which are legal residential housing units that exceed the currently-permitted density for the zoning district in which they are located. The 2013 amendment permits the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of nonconforming residential units in zoning districts where residential use is principally permitted, if the changes do not extend beyond the “building envelope” as it existed on January 1, 2013. A waiting period of five to 10 years applies for changes to units where a tenant has been evicted employing Administrative Code grounds for evicting a non-faulting tenant, including section 37.9(a)(13), which allows an owner to evict tenants to remove residential units from the rental market in accordance with the Ellis Act. The Ellis Act prohibits local governments from “compel[ling] the owner of any residential real property to offer, or to continue to offer accommodations in the property for rent or lease.” Gov. Code 7060(a). The trial court upheld the amendment. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the ordinance is preempted by the Ellis Act because it requires an owner who exercises Ellis Act rights to wait years before being eligible for a permit to make alterations. View "Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The City filed a nuisance abatement action against several businesses and individuals related to medical marijuana dispensaries, which were prohibited by the Pasadena Municipal Code (PMC). Defendants in that action then filed suit against the City, and these two cases were deemed related. The trial court granted the City's request for injunctions, prohibiting defendants from operating their medical marijuana dispensaries in the City. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the PMC states that medical marijuana dispensaries were not permitted, and that non-permitted uses were a nuisance; because defendants operated medical marijuana dispensaries, which was prohibited, and the PMC stated that the operation of a prohibited use was a nuisance, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by finding that the dispensaries were nuisances per se under the PMC; because defendants did not challenge ordinance 7018 within the 90-day period allowed by Government Code section 65009, subdivision (c)(1)(B), their procedural challenge was time-barred; and defendants have not set forth any persuasive arguments that the legal actions here were not authorized by the City Council. View "Urgent Care Medical Services v. City of Pasadena" on Justia Law

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The City filed a nuisance abatement action against several businesses and individuals related to medical marijuana dispensaries, which were prohibited by the Pasadena Municipal Code (PMC). Defendants in that action then filed suit against the City, and these two cases were deemed related. The trial court granted the City's request for injunctions, prohibiting defendants from operating their medical marijuana dispensaries in the City. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the PMC states that medical marijuana dispensaries were not permitted, and that non-permitted uses were a nuisance; because defendants operated medical marijuana dispensaries, which was prohibited, and the PMC stated that the operation of a prohibited use was a nuisance, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by finding that the dispensaries were nuisances per se under the PMC; because defendants did not challenge ordinance 7018 within the 90-day period allowed by Government Code section 65009, subdivision (c)(1)(B), their procedural challenge was time-barred; and defendants have not set forth any persuasive arguments that the legal actions here were not authorized by the City Council. View "Urgent Care Medical Services v. City of Pasadena" on Justia Law

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While a public entity may be liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions of public property, the entity may avoid liability through the affirmative defense of design immunity. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment, holding that Caltrans established, as a matter of law, the affirmative defense of design immunity. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that a public official’s approval of a design does not constitute an exercise of discretionary authority under Government Code section 830.6 if the official admits that he or she never actually considered whether to utilize the safety feature the plaintiff asserts would have prevented his or her injuries. Rather, the court held that the evidence established the shoulder that was actually constructed was the result of or conformed to a design approved by the employee vested with discretionary authority, which provided a basis for concluding any liability for injuries caused by the absence of rumble strips was immunized by section 830.6. View "Rodriguez v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law