The state Supreme Court has accepted for review an unusual Subdivision Map Act case from the City of Goleta.

Last year, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled that the Goleta City Council had the discretion to reject a final subdivision map (see CP&DR Legal Digest, November 2004). Ordinarily, approval of a tentative map is a discretionary action, while approval of the subsequent final map is a ministerial matter. But a 1998 amendment to the Subdivision Map Act gave a newly incorporated city discretion over a final map in instances where the county had approved the tentative map.

At issue is a 109-unit housing project proposed by Oly Chadmar Sandpiper General Partnership. The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission approved a vesting tentative map and development plan for the project six days before Goleta voters approved incorporation. On appeal from project opponents, the Board of Supervisors approved the project two weeks before incorporation became effective - and over the objection of the mayor-elect. When the final map was ready for approval, however, it went not to the county but to the city, which refused approval. That prompted the developer's lawsuit.

In accepting the case, the state Supreme Court outlined two questions for itself: Must a newly incorporated city approve a final subdivision map if the county previously approved a tentative map? Is a newly incorporated city barred from disapproving a tentative map previously approved by the county if the city adopted the county ordinance requiring approval of the final map, exempted the project from a development moratorium, and worked with the developer to clear conditions?

The case is Goleta v. Superior Court, No. B175054.