Ideal Boat & Camper Storage began operating as an equipment storage yard in 1964, and in subsequent years, obtained various county approvals, including two site development review (SDR) approvals, the latest in 1990. In 1993, the county adopted a new area planning document which sought to promote viticulture in the area and in 1994, the area plan was incorporated in the comprehensive general plan for the east area of the county. 

In November 2000, the voters of Alameda County approved Measure D, which, among other provisions, sought to protect agricultural and open space. Measure D restricted the urban expansion areas, and added new development requirements. These requirements proved to be restrictive for Ideal. 


In 2001, Ideal submitted an application to expand the storage operation to turn an additional 30 areas of the same lot into additional vehicle storage. On the contention that the proposal could lead to the conversion of potentially productive agricultural land, county staff recommended denial. The planning commission, and then the Board of Supervisors, denied the request. The applicant then filed a new application. Staff advised the applicant that the county could not approve expansion of a non-conforming use but would consider all arguments offered by the applicant. 


Staff recommended to the planning commission that it dispense with California Environmental Quality Act requirements and deny the application on the basis that it was an expansion of a non-conforming use. The commission denied the request, as did the Board, in accord with staff recommendations. They contended that the expansion would be in conflict with Measure D, and was inconsistent with County planning requirements. The applicant then filed a writ. The trial court denied all relief.


On appeal, in Ideal Boat & Camper Storage v. County of Alameda, the plaintiff argued in part that Measure D was not intended to apply to existing activities such as those that Ideal with which Ideal was engaged. First, the court reviewed the specifics of the East Area Plan, as amended by Measure D. When read in conjunction with other county land use regulations, the existing Ideal Storage activity became a non-conforming use upon passage of the east area plan and Measure D. Measure D restricted any expansion of non-conforming uses. 


Under such pointed limitations, expansion would not be consistent with the applicable planning and land use requirements. With that as background, the appellate court rejected the argument that Measure D was not intended to apply to existing activities. As Measure D restricted discretionary approvals, Ideal then challenged the nature of the SDR approval, asserting it was not discretionary. 


Although no hearing was required by local ordinance, the court agreed that the director could conduct a hearing on the proposed SDR. More importantly, the terms of the ordinance allow the decision-making authority to exercise significant discretion, based upon a broad range of issues and potential areas of investigation. The Court of Appeal also rejected the argument that Ideal had a vested right to expand. 


Given that the approvals granted by the County prior to the implementation of the East Area Plan and Measure D did not contemplate any additional expansion, the appellate court could find no basis for an argument that there was a vested right to expand.


The Case: 


Ideal Boat & Camper Storage v. County of Alameda (August 9, 2012, A132714) ___Cal.App.4th ___.


The Attorneys: 


Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, David P. Lanferman and James G. Higgins for Appellants.


Donna R. Ziegler, County Counsel; Brian E. Washington, Chief Assistant County Counsel; Erin H. Reding, Associate County Counsel for Respondents: