A vesting tentative parcel map approved in 1990 but never recorded as a final parcel map had expired by the time a developer tried to act on the map in 1996, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled. The court held that under both the Subdivision Map Act and the Manhattan Beach Municipal Code, the map for a four-unit beachside condominium project was no longer valid. The unanimous three-judge panel also found that project opponents properly exhausted their administrative remedies even though they did not cite the municipal code during administrative hearings, and that the lawsuit over the project was timely filed. In September 1990, the City of Manhattan Beach approved Highland View Limited Partnership's vesting tentative parcel map and conditional use permit for four condominiums. A year later, Highland submitted a final parcel map to the city engineer, and the city approved the final parcel map in October 1991. Soon thereafter, Highland submitted the map for recording, but the county recorder refused to record the map because Highland failed to pay property taxes and did not submit monument inspection approval documentation. In 1996, when the economy improved, Highland paid the taxes and submitted the monument data, and the final parcel map was recorded with the limitation that "all future construction must comply with the zoning requirements in effect at the time of construction." Highland applied for a new conditional use permit in February 1997. During public hearings, project opponent Donald McPherson and a group calling itself the Height Increase Repeal Committee argued that the city should deny the permit because the city had reduced permissible building heights between 1990 and 1997. But the Planning Commission approved the project under the 1990 height regulations, and the City Council denied an appeal on September 2, 1997. Highland supposedly was in the process of getting a "certificate of correction" to delete the recorded map's reference to current zoning requirements. In late November, McPherson filed a lawsuit seeking a writ of mandate to rescind the conditional use permit and a preliminary injunction to halt construction. The court denied the preliminary injunction, and construction continued. However, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Yaffe eventually ruled for McPherson, ordering the city to rescind the conditional use permit and enjoining Highland from building in violation of current height restrictions. Highland reduced the height of its buildings but the developer and the city still appealed the ruling. They argued that Municipal Code §11.24.020, which set a deadline of 36 months to record a parcel map, was preempted by the Subdivision Map Act (Government Code §66410). They argued that the Municipal Code's 36-month time limit was triggered by approval of the tentative parcel map, not the final map. If the time limit applies to approval of the tentative parcel map, the time limit would violate Subdivision Map Act provisions allowing time extensions for tentative maps. But the unanimous three-judge panel of the Second District rejected this argument. "There is no dispute the ordinance's reference to filing of a parcel map with the County Recorder must refer to a final parcel map, as only final maps are recorded with the County Recorder," Justice Earl Johnson Jr. wrote for the court. Johnson also cited other language in the Municipal Code to back this interpretation. Furthermore, the court ruled, Highland's vested rights under the tentative parcel map approved in 1990 had expired under the Subdivision Map Act itself. Rights conferred under a tentative parcel map expire in 36 months. In September 1993, the Legislature extended the life of all tentative parcel maps by two years, thus granting Highland its vested rights until September 1995. Highland and the city argued that although the tentative map expired prior to recordation in 1996, the developer maintained vesting rights by filing the final parcel map with the city engineer in 1991. The court also rejected this contention. "Under the unique circumstances of this case, we are compelled to hold the delivery of the final map to the city engineer did not constitute a timely filing for purposes of preserving vesting rights under the approved vesting tentative map. … To hold otherwise would permit a developer to secure tentative vesting rights in perpetuity, simply by submitting the map to the city engineer while cleverly, or inadvertently, withholding payment of the requisite taxes," Justice Johnson wrote. The court also ruled that project opponents did not have to cite Municipal Code sections to exhaust administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit. "McPherson raised the issue of untimely recording and expiration of the vesting tentative parcel map at every administrative proceeding. This was sufficient to satisfy the exhaustion requirements, whether the issue is decided under §11.24.020 or the statutory provisions of the [Subdivision Map] Act," Johnson wrote. The court also said the 90-day period for filing a lawsuit started with the City Council's final action on the new conditional use permit in September 1997, not with Highland's recordation of the map in 1996, as the developer argued. The Case: Donald McPherson v. City of Manhattan Beach, No. B130132, 00 C.D.O.S. 1985, filed February 14, 2000, certified for publication March 10, 2000. The Lawyers: For McPherson: Michael Strumwasser, Strumwasser & Woocher, (310) 576-1233. For the city: Jeffrey Oderman, Rutan & Tucker, (714) 641-5100.