California Land Use & Development Law Report

Legal Commentary on Planning and Development

Senate Bill 35 (Government Code section 65913.4) was enacted in 2017 as part of an effort by the State Legislature to increase housing production. The law compels local agencies, including charter cities, to issue streamlined approvals for qualifying multifamily residential projects, even, at times, where a project conflicts with a local ordinance. In Ruegg & Ellsworth v. City of Berkeley, the court rejected Berkeley’s claim that SB 35 impermissibly interfered with the constitutional “home rule” authority over historic preservation granted to charter cities. No. A159218 (1st Dist. Apr. 20, 2021). The decision represents the first published opinion to uphold…
Multiple applications for a development project are not required where the first permit denial makes clear that no development of the property would be allowed under any circumstance. Felkay v. City of Santa Barbara, No. B304964 (2nd Dist., March 18, 2021). Felkay purchased an ocean-front lot with the intention of building a residence. The planning commission rejected the application for the residence finding that it violated City Policy 8.2 which prohibits any development on the bluff face regardless of size. On appeal to the City Council, the City found that Felkay’s takings claim was not ripe because Felkay had…
Three months ago, the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld a Coastal Commission fine of $1 million on homeowners who performed major reconstruction on their Malibu home without obtaining coastal permits and refused to halt construction after notification of the violation by Commission staff. (See our report: Coastal Commission Order to Homeowners to Remove Seawall and Pay $1 Million Fine Upheld). Now, the Second District Court of Appeal has upheld a Commission penalty of $4,185,000 on Malibu homeowners who refused to remove structures that blocked a public access easement granted to the Coastal Commission by a prior owner of…
A City municipal transit agency did not violate equal protection, substantive due process or state anti-age discrimination laws when it disfavored some taxi cab medallion holders from accessing lucrative airport pickups because, among other things, the law was rationally related to legitimate government interests. San Francisco Taxi Coal. v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, 979 F.3d 1220 (9th Cir. 2020). Taxi cabs that operate in San Francisco and pick up riders from the San Francisco International Airport are regulated by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). Among other things, the SFMTA issues taxi cab medallions that allow the…
A challenge to a water district’s increase in its ad valorem property tax was untimely under the 60-day statute of limitations in the validation statutes. Coachella Valley Water District v. Superior Court (Roberts), No. E074010 (4th Dist., March 9, 2021). Code of Civil Procedure sections 860-870 provide for accelerated procedures for determining the validity of certain bonds, assessments and agreements entered into by public agencies. Referred to as the validation statutes, they allow a public agency to file an action to promptly determine the validity of any of the agency’s acts that fall within the scope of their provisions.…
The Ninth Circuit reversed a conviction for three counts of violations under the Clean Water Act because the district court failed to instruct the jury that the defendant needed to knowingly discharge material “into water” to convict. United States v. Lucero, No. 19-10074 (9th Cir. March 4, 2021). In the summer of 2014, Lucero executed a scheme under which he charged construction companies to dump dirt and debris on lands near the San Francisco Bay, including wetlands and a tributary subject to the Clean Water Act. Although Lucero admitted to “walking the land” where the dumping happened, the period…
The Court of Appeal held that an agreement obligating a developer and city to indemnify LAFCO against claims arising from its annexation decision lacked consideration because the agreement simply required LAFCO to do what it was already obligated to do by statute. San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission v. City of Pismo Beach, No. B296968 (2nd Dist., March 3, 2021). The City of Pismo Beach approved a 252-unit residential subdivision and the City and developer applied to the San Luis Obispo LAFCO to annex the property. The LAFCO application signed by the City and developer included an agreement…
The state was required to reimburse municipalities for the cost of state-mandated trash receptacles at transit stops because local governments lacked authority under Proposition 218 to impose fees either on transit agencies or on owners of adjacent property to recover such costs. Department of Finance v. Commission on State Mandates, No. B292446 (2nd Dist., Jan. 4, 2021). The Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region issued a permit authorizing the County of Los Angeles and certain cities (collectively, the Operators) to operate stormwater drainage systems. The permit required the Operators to (1) install and maintain trash receptacles at…
Another court of appeal has held that local special taxes adopted by a citizen-sponsored initiative do not require two-thirds voter approval.  Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. City and County of San Francisco, No. A157983 (1st Dist., Jan. 27, 2021, as modified Feb. 22, 2021). In June 2018, 51 percent of San Francisco voters passed the “Universal Childcare for San Francisco Families Initiative.” This initiative proposed a tax on certain commercial rents to fund early childcare and education.  The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association brought suit challenging the initiative, claiming that Proposition 13 (1978), Proposition 218 (1996) and the San Francisco…
The Court of Appeal held that a landowner’s petition for “exclusion” under the Subdivision Map Act seeking orders declaring a parcel map void and restoring the historical lot lines was barred under the doctrine of laches. Decea v. City. of Ventura, 59 Cal. App. 5th 1097 (2021). Decea bought a house in the Lake Sherwood community of Ventura County in 2007. The house sat within “Parcel A” on a map recorded by a former owner in 1974. The 1974 map also included historical lot lines from a subdivision map recorded by the original developers in 1923. Parcel A overlaid three…