Legal Digest

 

Court review announcements: Priceline hotel case goes to State Supreme Court, and more

The California Supreme Court has agreed to review an appellate ruling that Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity and similar "online travel companies" (OTCs) did not have to pay San Diego hotel tax on income they derived using a "merchant model" approach to marketing local hotel rooms. The Second District ruled that if an OTC contracts with a hotel for a block of rooms at a fixed wholesale rate, and then retails them to guests at higher prices, then city hotel tax is due only on the wholesale rate, not the difference the OTC receives.

Third District upholds high-speed rail EIR over Peninsula towns' objections

In the latest decision on a long series of legal challenges by Peninsula cities and environment groups to the California High Speed Rail project, the Third District Court of Appeal has upheld the final programmatic environmental impact report for the portion of the project that calls for a route from the Central Valley over the Pacheco Pass into Bay Area suburbia.

Westlands Water District contracts found exempt from CEQA

California's Fifth Appellate District on July 3 upheld the Westlands Water District's 2012 interim renewal contracts for Central Valley Project water from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, finding the changes they represented were exempt from CEQA review sought by environmental groups.

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Treasure Island EIR upheld

The First District Court of Appeal has upheld the EIR supporting a $1.5 billion development plan for Treasure Island, the man-made former World's Fair site at the middle of the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

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Court allows Kern wind farm mitigation that depended on FAA action

California's Fifth District Court of Appeal has issued a partial publication order for its June 30 decision upholding the EIR for a wind turbine farm in Kern County's Tehachapi Wind Resource Area.

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Overflight Easement Not A Taking, First District Rules

The First District Court of Appeal has argued that Humbolt County did not create a taking of property by requiring the owners of a mobile home underneath an airport flight path to provide an overflight easement in exchange for a permit to build a carport and porch that had been illegally built by the previous owners of the property.

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Spot zoning permissible for archdiocese's assisted living facility

Reversing the decision of an Orange County Superior Court judge, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled that rezoning residential property in Tustin to accommodate an assisted living facility is a legitimate use of spot zoning.

“The creation of the new senior residential housing zoning district and its application to the Project site were in the public interest and were not arbitrary or capricious,” wrote Justice Richard Fybel for a unanimous three-judge panel.

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Legal Digest: Tuolumne CEQA Ruling Sets Stage For Supreme Court Showdown

In case you missed the recent legal tremor, be advised that land-use lawyers are looking closely at a new appellate court ruling from Tuolomne County on the application of the California Environmental Quality Act to citizen initiatives. The new ruling is in direct conflict to a ruling from a different appellate district in 2004, possibly setting the stage for a showdown in front of the California Supreme Court.

Attorney Fee Award Depends on Pecuinary Interests, Even for Public Agencies

When deciding whether to award a public litigant its attorneys’ fees against another public entity under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5, the trial court may only consider the public litigant’s “pecuniary interests and the pecuniary interests of its constituents” in determining the third requirement of that statute.  The court may not consider the nonpecuniary motives of the public litigant in bringing the lawsuit. 

Impact of Campus Expansion on Fire, Safety Not Considered Under CEQA

California State University East Bay undertook a dual-purpose environmental impact report for its campus master plan and two construction projects, meant to enable the campus to grow from roughly 12,000 to 18,000 students in the next 30 years. The construction projects consisted of a housing complex and a parking structure. The EIR included alternatives at both the master plan and construction project level.