William W. Abbott


Validation Lawsuit Doesn’t Always Immunize Plaintiff From Attack

In many situations, the settlement of a lawsuit is a flexible tool to resolve disagreements between parties and allow the participants to move on with their lives. A settlement with a public agency invokes slightly different considerations then a matter resolved exclusively through private parties. As previously noted in Trancas Property Owners Association v.

Flawed Engineering Report Dooms Prop. 218 Assessment

Assessments for services traditionally funded by property tax have faced an uphill battle after the passage of Proposition 218, the 1996 voter initiative that requires the local governments and special districts to seek voter approval for any proposed new or increased assessment before it could be levied. That hill has gotten steeper in the wake of a recent decision. 

Statute of Limitations Runs Out in Housing Element Dispute

A notable feature of California land use law, when compared to the overall body of civil law, is the relatively short filing period for bringing legal challenges. This constraint came into full view in Haro v. City of Solano Beach, in which the would-be builder of a mixed use development claimed that the city violated the terms of its own housing element.  

Judge Refuses to Grant EIR Severance for Project at CSU Fresno

An appellate court has directed a trial court to set aside all of a project’s approval because portions of an environmental impact report were found to be inadequate.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal declined to follow the practice of allowing severance of project approvals unaffected by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) violation. Instead, the court required that the project approval be set aside in its entirely once the CEQA violation was shown.

Church Wins Latest Round in San Leandro Zoning Dispute

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has aside a summary judgment in favor of a city in a dispute over a church’s request to relocate and develop an expanded church facility in an industrial park.

The unanimous three-judge appellate panel ruled that District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton’s decision in favor of the City of San Leandro was erroneous, and the Ninth Circuit sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. The Ninth Circuit did not rule on the merits of the case.

Proposed Bridge on Park Land Requires Voter Approval

An appellate court has blocked a proposed Santa Barbara housing subdivision because the city did not receive of voter approval of an access road and bridge on city-owned open space land, as required by a 1982 initiative. 

In the 100 years since the initiative and referendum powers have become part of the local land use planning and development legal framework, voters have used these populist elements of democracy to shape growth. The case from the City of Santa Barbara illustrates a variation on the intersection of planning and voter control. 

Beaumont Development Scores Victory Despite Impact To Agricultural Land

An environmental impact report for a 560-housing unit specific plan in the Riverside County city of Beaumont has been upheld by the Fourth District Court of Appeal. The court approved the city’s use of a baseline for examining water usage that was favorable to the developer, accepted the city’s determination that loss of farmland could not be mitigated, and upheld the city’s statement of overriding consideration for approving a project with significant environmental impacts.

Anti-Tattoo Zoning Code Violates First Amendment

A city ordinance effectively banning tattoo parlors oversteps constitutional limits protecting freedom of expression, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

A unanimous three-judge panel struck down a City of Hermosa Beach zoning code prohibiting tattoo parlors because it violated the First Amendment. 

Although it may seem that tattoos are the provenance of modern day subcultures such as rock stars and motorcyclists, tattoos have been part of evolving culture around the globe for thousands of years, the court explained. City of Hermosa Beach, however, perceived tattoos’ outlaw air and had adopted a zoning ordinance that precluded the operation of tattoo parlors.

Religious School Must Abide by CEQA

Divine purposes do not give developers a free pass to circumvent local zoning regulations. 

The Second District Court of Appeal has ruled that Los Angeles County was entitled to a court order that prohibited a church from operating a school without a required conditional user permit.

The Sahag-Mesrob Armenian Church owns two parcels zoned R-1 (single-family residential) in the San Gabriel Valley. In May 2008, the church filed an application for a conditional use permit to operate an 800-student, K-12 school on the property. Four months later, the county received complaints that the school was operating in advance of the issuance of the conditional use permit and without California Environmental Quality Act review.

Court Defers to Agency Discretion in Water Case

Refusing to second-guess a decision made by a public agency based on substantial evidence, the First District Court of Appeal has upheld a Sonoma County urban water management plan.