A voter-approved height limitation initiative does not apply to redeveloped land that was part of a military base, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled.
The base reuse authority — the City of San Diego in this case — can apply only those portions of local zoning regulations that are consistent with the federally approved base reuse plan, the court ruled. The approved reuse plan for surplus land at a naval training center in San Diego allowed for structures up to 100 feet tall.
Proposition D from 1972 capped development in coastal areas outside of downtown at 30 feet. So the city, acting as the base reuse authority, properly rejected application of Proposition D to the surplus base land, the court held.
The city's planning for reuse of the 429-acre site began in 1993 with creation of a 26-member committee. In 1997, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved a draft plan. In October 1998, the city adopted the final reuse plan and certified a joint environmental impact statement and environmental impact report. The plan called for single-family residences up to 36 feet tall, and a hotel of up to 100 feet in height. In March 1999, the Defense Department issued a record of decision approving the reuse plan.
The city amended its zoning ordinances, then submitted the reuse plan to the Coastal Commission as an amendment to the city's local coastal plan (LCP). The Coastal Commission conditioned its approval on height limits of 36 feet in residential areas and 45 feet in the office and research zone, with the exception of one 58-foot-tall structure. The city adopted the proposed modifications and the Coastal Commission certified the LCP amendment in September 2001.
The following month, a group called Save Our NTC sued, arguing that the base reuse plan violated Proposition D. San Diego County Superior Court Judge E. Mac Amos Jr. ruled for the city. A unanimous three-judge panel of the Fourth District, Division One, upheld the decision.
No one contended that Proposition D applied to the military base when the federal government owned it. The issue was whether Proposition D became applicable to the surplus base property when the federal government transferred the land to the city. Save Our NTC contended the wording and intent of Proposition D indicated the initiative should apply. But the court ruled that under the Federal Base Closure Act and the state Government Code, Proposition D cannot apply.
The federal law requires the designated redevelopment authority to prepare a reuse plan subject to approval by HUD and the Defense Department. Once the plan is approved, local plans and zoning must be updated to reflect the redevelopment plan. "[T]he determination of the appropriate use for base property is made pursuant to federal criteria and is not necessarily limited by existing local zoning ordinances," Justice James McIntyre wrote for the court.
The state law, meanwhile, "requires the local base reuse authority to ‘fully honor all conditions, requirements and understandings with the federal government with respect to the use and disposal of that property,'" McIntyre wrote, citing Government Code § 67842, subd. (c).
"[T]he federal government's transfer of the surplus NTC property to the city did not trigger the application of all existing zoning ordinances to the property, but instead only those that were consistent with the Reuse Plan approved by the Defense Department and HUD," McIntyre concluded.
The court also rejected the argument that the failure to apply Proposition D to the site was an illegal repeal of a voter initiative. Proposition D did not apply to the property when passed by voters and did not become applicable upon transfer of the property, so no part of the initiative was overturned, the court ruled.
Save Our NTC, Inc., v. City of San Diego, No. D039615, 03 C.D.O.S. 465, 2003 DJDAR 553. Filed January 14, 2003.
For Save Our NTC: Steven Haskins, Haskins & Associates, (619) 479-4351.
For the city: John P. Mullen, deputy city attorney, (619) 533-5800.
Environmental advocates challenging federal agency interpretations of the Endangered Species Act were victorious in one case at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but lost a second case. The late-2002 decisions both came on 2-1 rulings, and the decisions appeared in one aspect.
Claims that Sacramento County violated the California Environmental Quality Act while approving a commercial development have been dismissed by the Third District Court of Appeal because the project opponent did not submit a written request for a hearing within 90 days of filing a lawsuit.
The attorney for opponent Forster-Gill, Inc., argued that a telephone call to the court clerk within the 90-day period was adequate, but the appellate court disagreed, ruling that the law "plainly contemplates a written request that can be, and is, filed with the court."
A state appellate court has upheld the California Coastal Commission's denial of a development permit for a small mixed-use project in Morro Bay.
The court rejected developer Dan Reddell's arguments that the commission violated his due process and equal protection rights, and that its decision was a regulatory taking of property. Instead, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled that substantial evidence supported the commission's finding that Reddell's project was inconsistent with Morro Bay's local coastal plan (LCP).
A state appellate court has thrown out an Inyo County general plan amendment that the county argued was nothing more than a clarification of a longstanding policy.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Two, concluded that the amendment was more than a mere clarification and that the county should have completed an environmental impact report before approving the amendment.
A City of West Hollywood moratorium on new multi-family housing development has been declared invalid by the Second District Court of Appeal. The court ruled that the city had not made required findings for the moratorium.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has set back a plan to develop the country's largest solid waste landfill near Joshua Tree National Park. The court ruled that the environmental analysis for the project was inadequate and that the Bureau of Land Management undervalued land it would provide to the landfill developer.
A state appellate court has struck down a California Environmental Quality Act exemption for an air district rule permitting new power plants to offset emissions by paving roads. The court found that the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District did not have adequate evidence to support its finding that the rule could not have a negative impact on the environment.
A developer is not entitled to reimbursement or damages from a consultant hired by a local government to complete an environmental impact report, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled. Even when the consultant fails to complete an EIR in a timely manner, the consultant owes no contractual duty to the developer that paid for the consultant, the court concluded.
A city may determine that project alternatives once considered potentially feasible for California Environmental Quality Act analysis are infeasible as actual projects, the Sixth District Court of Appeal has ruled.
The City of Los Angeles had no obligation under the California Environmental Quality Act to complete an environmental impact report for a project that it had rejected, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled.
The court dismissed all arguments put forward by the developer of the 555-acre Las Lomas project at the junction of Interstate 5 and Highway 14. "[I]f an agency at any time decides not to proceed with a project," the court said, "CEQA is inapplicable from that time forward."