Legal Digest


Presidio Trust Didn't Violate Historic Preservation Law In Planning New Development, Ninth Circuit Rules

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that The Presidio Trust can move forward with the construction of a 12-building complex commonly referred to as a “lodge” in the vicinity of the Main Parade Ground. In so doing, the court rejected arguments from the Sierra Club and a variety of historic preservation organizations that doing so would violate the Presidio Trust Act. The court also rejected the argument that the Presidio Trust’s actions did not meet the consultation requirements contained in Section 110f of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The Ninth Circuit circumscribed its ruling narrowly, however. The court rejected a claim from The Presidio Trust that it broader power to permit new development based on offsetting demolition of structures across the expanse of the former military base. And the plaintiffs did not appeal other aspects of a district court judge’s ruling affecting other buildings.

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Billboard Company Has No Case Against City of Corona, Court Rules

An outdoor advertising company that erected a billboard without permits in the City of Corona was not discriminated against and did not have its constitutional rights violated by the city’s action, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled. 

Corona banned new billboards in 2004 but permitted existing billboards to be relocated. After being denied city permits to construct a billboard along the 91 Freeway in 2014, AMG constructed a billboard over the weekend anyway and threatened to build more throughout the city if it was not given city permits. Corona sued and quickly won a preliminary injunction ordering AMG to remove the existing billboard and prohibiting the company from building more. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s ruling. AMG was represented by Ray Haynes, who gained a reputation as one of the most conservative members of the California State Senate while serving there between 1994 and 2002. 

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Fish & Wildlife Created Physical Taking In Flooding Del Norte Subdivision

In a 61-page opinion, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled that the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s actions in managing coastal flooding around Lake Tolowa and Lake Earl in Del Norte County constituted a physical taking of the adjacent landowners’ property. 

However, the Third District also ruled that the regulatory processes that led to the periodic flooding of the nearby property did not constitute a regulatory taking on the part of the Coastal Commission.

The case involves the Pacific Shores subdivision in Del Norte County, located along the beach just a few miles south of the Oregon border. The 1,500-lot subdivision itself was approved in 1963. Infrastructure such as roads is in place. But no homes have ever been built on the property, partly because the Coastal Commission has never approved a local coastal program land use plan for the area.

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Court Says Anaheim Played Bait-and-Switch on Hotel Developer

The Fourth District Court of Appeal has blocked the City of Anaheim’s attempt to build a surface parking lot on a property adjacent to two new hotels rather than a parking structure, as was implied in a conditional use permit the city approved in 1999.

Technically, the appellate court affirmed a trial judge’s ruling that the city was estopped (a legal term essentially meaning prohibited) from enacting a subsequent conditional use permit – applying to the city’s own property, not the hotel developer’s property – that called for a surface lot rather than a parking garage and deviating from the city’s own Resort Development Standards, which the hotel developer’s own project had to meet.

The case involves a complicated arrangement in which Intercontinental Hotel Group had agreed to a smaller, redesigned project because of the city’s plans to build an overpass over I-15 along Gene Autry Way that better connects Disneyland with Anaheim Stadium and other destinations east of the freeway. The overpass, which opened in 2012, takes up part of the hotel developer’s property and also part of an adjacent property. 

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First District Orders Cal State East Bay to Reconsider Offsite Traffic Mitigation

In light of a similar ruling by the California Supreme Court in a case from San Diego, the First District Court of Appeal has ordered Cal State East Bay to revisit the question of offsite traffic mitigation in the environmental impact report for its long-range master plan. As the Supreme Court did in San Diego, the court ruled that Cal State cannot simply declare mitigations infeasible unless the state legislature appropriates funds specifically for that purpose.

The Supreme Court remanded the East Bay case to the First District after ruling in the San Diego State case earlier this year. The First District reaffirmed its 2012 ruling on all other grounds, also ordering Cal State to conduct a better analysis of the impact of the campus expansion on surrounding parks. 

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County Can't Recapture Money Loaned to Redevelopment Agency, Court Rules

San Bernardino County is not entitled to the return of $9 million in loan principal to the former county redevelopment agency, even though the funds were not tax-increment revenues and had come from the county’s general fund, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled Monday. 

The appellate court concluded that once the funds had been transferred from the county to the redevelopment agency, they were subject to a state law voiding all agreements between local governments and their redevelopment agencies. The source of the funds is irrelevant, the court said. 

In reaching this conclusion, the court saw no difference between a government agency spending tax money on items such as office supplies and a government agency loaning funds to another government agency. “[M]oney loaned by the county, even if the County obtained those funds as an allocation of taxes, does notretain its character as tax revenue in the hands of the borrower,” wrote Justice George Nicholson, a onetime Republican candidate for attorney general and aide to Gov. George Deukmejian, for a unanimous three-judge panel.

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Separation of Property by Condemnation Does Not Equal Subdivision, Court Says

The division of one parcel into four noncontiguous pieces via eminent domain does not automatically create four legal parcels and permit the landowner to avoid the Subdivision Map Act, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled. 

“We hold that a ‘division’ of property within the meaning of the [Subdivision Map] Act does not occur simply because an eminent domain proceeding results in a physical separation of a property’s non-condemned portions,” wrote Presiding Justice Jim Humes, a former top aide to Jerry Brown for a three-judge panel of the First District. “The owner of such a property is therefore not entitled to a certificate of compliance for each of the resulting separate parts.”

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Carson May Deny Mobile Home Subdivision Based on General Plan Inconsistency, Court Rules

In a split decision, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled that the City of Carson acted properly in denying the subdivision of a mobile home park because this change in ownership structure was inconsistent with the general plan by placing at risk wetlands within the park, which were reclaimed from contaminated oil friends and are called out in the open space element of the city’s general plan.

The Second District’s ruling in Carson Harbor Village v. City of Carson is the latest ruling in the lengthy litigation between the mobile home park and the city over whether to permit the mobile home park to subdivide its property and require mobile home tenants to own their individual lots. Mobile home residents typical own the mobile home but rent the property on which it sits, which is often subject to a municipal rent control ordinance. Mobile home park owners have fought back using a wide variety of tactics, including the proposed subdivision of their property.

 In a previous unpublished decision, Carson Harbor Vill., Ltd. v. City of Carson (Apr. 30, 2010, B211777), the Second District ruled that the city could not deny the mobile home subdivision based on inconsistency with the general plan. However, in 2012 the California Supreme Court ruled in Pacific Palisades Bowl Mobile Estates, LLC v. City of Los Angeles, 55 Cal.4th 783, that mobile home subdivisions are subject to both the Coastal Act and the Mello Act. The Second District reversed its earlier decision based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Pacific Palisades. 

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Cal Supremes Agree to Hear Banning, Newhall Ranch Cases

The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear two important planning and development cases – one involving Banning Ranch in Newport Beach and one involving the seemingly endless Newhall Ranch project. 

Was Supreme Court's Ruling on Sign Ordinance Over-Broad?

Cities' ability to control their streets' aesthetics may be affected by a June 18 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on content-based regulation of signage, but perhaps not as drastically as they had feared. 

In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, a six-justice majority of the high court applied strict scrutiny to a local "sign code" that restricted "temporary directional signs" based on their content. However, as the American Planning Association noted, a partly overlapping group of six justices joined in more cautious concurrences that sought to moderate the effects of the main ruling. And even the majority opinion offered reassurance that "Our decision today will not prevent governments from enacting effective sign laws." 

The case concerned a church that held services at varying borrowed locations in the town of Gilbert, Arizona. The church would post signs early each Saturday pointing out the site of the next Sunday service. Town officials regulated these signs under a special legal category for "temporary directional signs" specific to events of religious or nonprofit groups. The category limited the size and frequency of such signs and allowed them to be posted for only 12 hours before each event and one hour after it. 

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