Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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The San Diego County (County) Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to the County's general land use plan, which would have allowed for the development of over 2,100 homes in a previously designated rural area of the County. Residents opposed to the change in land use circulated a referendum petition and gathered enough signatures to have the matter placed on an election ballot. To prevent an election, the land developer filed a petition for writ of mandate, contending the referendum petition was illegal and void as a matter of law. The court denied the writ petition. The issues this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review were: (1) whether the referendum petition complied with the full text requirement under Elections Code section 91471; and (2) the referendum petition's legality in challenging a single legislative act even though the Board of Supervisors executed several concurrent, associated legislative acts. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Molloy v. Vu" on Justia Law

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San Jose, a California charter city, enacted a policy for the sale of surplus city-owned land. Plaintiffs, low-income city residents, claimed that the policy violated the Surplus Land Act (Gov. Code 54220-54233), which prioritizes the use of surplus city-owned land for affordable housing purposes. The city policy includes several exceptions to that priority. The trial court disagreed, finding that in regulating how local government disposes of surplus property for the benefit of its residents, the Surplus Land Act addresses a decidedly municipal affair, not a statewide concern, and under the state Constitution does not preempt the city’s policy. The court of appeal reversed. The Surplus Land Act advances state land use policy objectives by mandating a uniform approach to the disposition of local government land that is no longer needed for government use. By requiring municipalities to prioritize surplus land for the development of low- and moderate-income housing, the statute addresses the shortage of sites available for affordable housing development as a matter of statewide concern. Because the statute also narrowly tailors the restrictions on local government to avoid unnecessary interference in the locality’s affairs, it meets the test for statewide preemption. View "Anderson v. City of San Jose" on Justia Law

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The “Hillside Residential” designation in the Richmond General Plan 2030 included single-family housing and clustered multifamily residential on developable parcels below the 400-foot elevation with a density of up to five dwelling units per acre. The Initiative was filed in 2016. Pursuant to Elections Code 9215, the city adopted the initiative without alteration. The Initiative limited development and land use in the “Initiative Area," (38 parcels), prohibiting all residential development. The minimum parcel size is 20 acres; the maximum floor area for all buildings in a parcel is 10,000 square feet; and, if residences and residential accessory buildings are permitted, they may not exceed 5,000 square feet of the 10,000 square-foot maximum. The initiative provided that if a court found the "prohibition on residential use constitutes a taking," one single-family home may be built on each parcel (20 acres). The initiative included specific general plan amendments, "to avoid inconsistency with state housing law” and reduced the city’s developable land for residential and mixed-use development from 228 acres to 148 acres. Landowners sued. The trial court concluded the initiative was inconsistent with the general plan and could not be given effect. The court of appeal agreed that the initiative caused the general plan to become impermissibly inconsistent but disagreed as to the appropriate remedy. The court directed the trial court to order the city to cure the inconsistency. View "Denham, LLC v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law

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The 86-acre Knights Valley parcel in rural Sonoma County is zoned “Land Extensive Agriculture,” which allows wineries and tasting rooms as conditional uses. The project is a two-story, 5,500-square-foot winery building with a 17,500-square-foot wine cave, wastewater treatment, water storage facilities, fire protection facilities, and mechanical areas, covering approximately 2.4 acres. The site contains two residences and 46 acres of vineyards. The nearby area is primarily vineyards. County staff reviewed reports considering impacts on geology, groundwater, wastewater, and biological resources, and concluded that, with recommended mitigation, the project would not have a significant effect on the environment. The county approved the use permit with conditions and adopted a mitigated negative declaration under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) and a mitigation monitoring program. The court of appeal upheld the approval. Opponents did not provide evidence that the project is reasonably likely to cause landslides or otherwise generate environmentally harmful releases of debris; that erosion from the project, particularly runoff from the cave spoils, will cause significant effects on Bidwell Creek and degrade the habitat for salmonids; or that the project’s groundwater use will significantly affect salmonids, groundwater supply in neighboring wells, and fire suppression. There was no substantial evidence that the winery will have a significant aesthetic impact or that there is a reasonable possibility the project, as conditioned, will significantly increase the risk of wildfires. View "Maacama Watershed Alliance v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal and cross appeal of a the trial court's ruling on a petition for writ of administrative mandate James and Karla Lindstrom (the Lindstroms) filed against the California Coastal Commission (the Commission) was a challenge to certain special conditions the Commission placed on its approval of the Lindstroms' plan to build a house on a vacant oceanfront lot on a bluff in Encinitas. The Commission appealed the trial court's disapproval of the special conditions requiring: (1) the home to be set back 60 to 62 feet from the edge of the bluff, instead of the 40-foot setback approved by the City of Encinitas (the City); and (2) a waiver by the Lindstroms of any right to construct a shoreline protective device, such as a seawall, to protect the home from damage or destruction from natural hazards at any time in the future. The Lindstroms cross-appealed the trial court's approval of the special conditions requiring: (1) removal of the home from the parcel if any government agency ordered it not be occupied due to a natural hazard; and (2) performance of remediation or removal of any threatened portion of the home if a geotechnical report prepared in the event the edge of the bluff recedes to within 10 feet of the home concludes that the home is unsafe for occupancy. The Court of Appeal concluded that with one exception, the Commission's imposition of the special conditions identified by the parties was within its discretion. Specifically, the condition requiring removal of the home from the parcel if any government agency orders that it not be occupied due to a natural hazard, including erosion or a landslide, as currently drafted, was overbroad, unreasonable and did not achieve the Commission's stated purpose in drafting it. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment and directed the trial court to enter a new judgment ordering the Commission to either delete the special condition or to revise it to more narrowly focus on its intended purpose. View "Lindstrom v. Cal. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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Defendant New Method Wellness, Inc. (New Method), ran a drug treatment facility and housed some of its patients in three residences (the Properties) located in residential zones within the City of Dana Point (Dana Point). Dana Point brought a nuisance action on the ground that this use of the Properties was not authorized by the relevant zoning ordinance. The court found the homes were being used as part of the drug treatment facility and issued an injunction. The Court of Appeal found the evidence showed the Properties were advertised as part of the drug treatment facility, the residents’ lives are highly regulated, defendant NMW Beds, LLC (NMW Beds) imposed 24-hour supervision, provided transportation to defendant New Method’s drug treatment facility, and recovery treatments were offered. By this, the Court concluded this evidence supported the court’s finding that this use of the Propertieswasis not authorized under Dana Point’s relevant zoning ordinance, nor under any exception to the zoning ordinance, and thus it constituted a nuisance per se. View "City of Dana Point v. New Method Wellness, Inc." on Justia Law

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After SCE filed suit for interference with easement and declaratory relief, defendant cross-complained, seeking damages for nuisance, trespass, and ejectment. The trial court found that SCE was granted floating easements over the property to access its electrical facilities; although the floating easements burdened the property at the time of creation, they did not become fixed easements until SCE and the property owners agreed on the access routes; at that point, SCE became the owner of an easement of reasonable width over each agreed-upon access route; and thus SCE was entitled to free access to those routes. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly determined that SCE owns easements over the agreed-upon access routes. The court also held that SCE did not forfeit its statute of limitations defense to the cross-claims. Furthermore, because the trial court's findings established that the alleged nuisance was permanent, defendant's challenge to the summary adjudication ruling was moot. View "Southern California Edison Co. v. Severns" on Justia Law

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Shirli Weiss, as trustee for her trust, applied under a local scenic view ordinance to compel a neighboring property owner to trim and maintain its landscaping. After the city denied her application, Weiss petitioned for an administrative writ of mandate in the superior court. The court dismissed the action because Weiss served the summons on the city more than 90 days after it denied her application. On appeal, Weiss challenged the applicability of Gov. Code section 65009. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Weiss v. City of Del Mar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit seeking to quiet title to two claimed easements within residential gated communities in which plaintiff has no ownership interest. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment in favor of plaintiff and held that the trial court erred by finding that the individual homeowners in the gated community were not indispensable parties to plaintiff's lawsuit, but nonetheless were bound by the judgment; by finding an express easement over all the private streets of Indian Springs; by providing an express easement or, alternatively, a prescriptive easement; by failing to make the necessary findings to support an equitable easement; and by determining that the Lenope property benefited plaintiff's ranch. Therefore, the court held that there were no enforceable easements over the private streets of the community, or over the Lenope roadway, and thus there was no basis for an award of damages or an injunction against any of the defendants, and no basis for the award of attorney fees. Furthermore, plaintiff's claims for nuisance, declaratory relief, and intentional interference with contractual relations also failed. View "Ranch at the Falls LLC v. O'Neal" on Justia Law

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Appellants petitioned the Commission to revoke a coastal development permit (CDP), alleging that MVF's CDP application contained intentional misrepresentations regarding approvals it received from the Los Angeles County Environmental Review Board (ERB), the California Water Resources Control Board (Water Board), and the California Department of Fish and Game (Fish and Game). After the Commission denied the petition, appellants petitioned the superior court for a writ of administrative mandate to set aside the Commission's decision. The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's denial of the petition and held that substantial evidence supported the Commission's determination that accurate or complete information would not have caused the Commission to act differently in ruling on MVF's CDP application. In this case, the Commission correctly interpreted and applied section 13105, subdivision (a), and substantial evidence supported the Commission's determination that although MVF's application contained intentional misrepresentations regarding the approvals by the ERB, Fish and Game, and the Water Board, the Commission would not have imposed additional conditions or denied the CDP if accurate information had been provided. View "Hubbard v. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law