California Land Use & Development Law Report

Legal Commentary on Planning and Development

The First Appellate District held that tribal sovereign immunity bars a quiet title action to establish a public easement for coastal access on property owned by an Indian tribe. Self v. Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community, 60 Cal. App. 5th 209 (2021). The Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria is a federally recognized Indian tribe in Humboldt County, California. The Tribe purchased coastal property in fee simple absolute and applied to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to take the property into trust for the benefit of the Tribe. Plaintiffs, two nontribal individuals who used the property to access…
A developer established a probability of prevailing on its claims for malicious prosecution where the evidence showed that the neighboring owner lacked probable cause for pursuing CEQA litigation and acted with malice. Dunning v. Johnson, 64 Cal. App. 5th 156 (2021). Clews Horse Ranch sued to challenge a decision by the City of San Diego to approve Cal Coast’s construction of a private secondary school adjacent to its commercial horse ranch and equestrian facility. Clews claimed the city’s use of a mitigated negative declaration instead of an EIR violated CEQA because the project would have significant impacts on historical resources,…
The U.S. Supreme Court held that property owners do not have to comply with state administrative processes to obtain a final decision before bringing a takings claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 when the government’s position is clear. Pakdel v. City and County of San Francisco, 594 U.S. __ (June 28, 2021). Petitioners were partial owners of a multi-unit residential building in San Francisco that was organized as a tenancy-in-common. When purchasing an interest in the property, they agreed to work with the other owners to convert their interests into a condominium-style ownership arrangement. The City approved the conversion…
A California Court of Appeal held that the Coastal Commission and the Department of Housing and Community Development have concurrent jurisdiction over mobilehomes located in the coastal zone and that proper notice of a public hearing is sufficient to meet notice requirements for approval due to agency inaction under the Permit Streamlining Act.  Linovitz Capo Shores LLC v. California Coastal Commission, No. G058331 (4th Dist. June 25, 2021). Appellants, who were owners of beachfront mobilehomes, obtained permits from HCD to remodel and add second stories to their structures. After renovations were completed, the Coastal Commission issued notices stating that…
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently invalidated a 2016 rule that required a 30-day notice to affected state fish and wildlife agencies prior to filing a petition to list a species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Friends of Animals v. Haaland, 997 F.3d 1010 (9th Cir. 2021). Section 4(b)(3) of the Endangered Species Act allows interested persons to petition the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to list a species as threatened or endangered. To the maximum extent practicable, within 90 days after receiving a listing petition, the Services must “make…
Evidence about past wildfires and the risk of future wildfires impacting residents near a proposed project does not require the lead agency to prepare an environmental impact report unless there is substantial evidence supporting a fair argument that the project may exacerbate existing wildfire hazards. Newtown Preservation Society v. County of El Dorado, No. C092069 (3rd Dist., June 16, 2021). The case involved the replacement of a bridge over South Fork Weber Creek in El Dorado County. The county would acquire a temporary easement over a property near the existing bridge to build a temporary evacuation route during project…
The California Court of Appeal held that 2016 amendments to the San Diego City Charter did not require the City to obtain voter approval prior to entering into a lease revenue bond transaction with the Public Facilities Financing Authority of the City of San Diego.  San Diegans for Open Government v. Public Facilities Financing Authority of the City of San Diego, No. D075157 (4th Dist., April 19, 2021). In 2016, San Diego voters approved amendments to the City Charter relating to bond issuance. One such amendment modified Section 90.1 to allow the City Council to authorize the issuance of…
A California Court of Appeal held that longstanding use of a landowner’s property for access and parking by residents of the adjacent lot had established a prescriptive easement. Husain v. California Pacific Bank, 61 Cal.App.5th 717 (2021). For many years the landowner’s and neighbor’s properties had been held under common ownership and used for residences. One property (the “El Camino” property) was developed with a large apartment complex and an underground parking garage, while the other property (the “Willow” property) was developed with a duplex and a surface parking lot.  Former owners had obtained local approval of a nonconforming use…
A city’s ban on short-term vacation rentals in the coastal zone constitutes “development” under the California Coastal Act. Therefore, the Coastal Commission must first approve a coastal development permit, an amendment to the city’s certified local coastal program, or an amendment waiver before such a ban can be imposed. Kracke v. City of Santa Barbara, 63 Cal. App. 5th 1089 (2021). Until 2015, the City of Santa Barbara allowed short-term vacation rentals as long as the owner registered the unit with the city, obtained a business license, and paid transient occupancy taxes. In 2015, the City Council directed its staff…
A court of appeal invalidated a water district’s adopted rate increases, concluding that the district failed to meet its burden under Proposition 218 of establishing that the increases did not exceed the cost of providing the water service. KCSFV I, LLC v. Florin County Water District, No. C088824 (3rd Dist., May 28, 2021). Following a hearing, the Board of Directors of the Florin County Water District voted to increase its water rates by 50 percent. Data presented by staff at the hearing showed that revenues would exceed expenditures in each of the four years following the rate increase, culminating in…