Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Plaintiffs appealed the trial court's denial of their mandate petition and grant of judgment on the pleadings on their inverse condemnation and civil rights causes of action. Plaintiffs' claims arose when the city granted them permission to build a home on a 40 acre parcel of land in the Hollywood Hills, but did not approve their request for nearly 80,000 cubic yards of grading. The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that the trial court did not err in denying the petition for writ of mandate because the city did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiffs' request for a deviation from the Baseline Hillside Ordinance's grading requirements. The court also held that the trial court properly granted the city's motion for judgment on the pleadings because plaintiffs' claims were not ripe. In this case, the city has neither rendered a final decision nor precluded all development of the property. Rather, the city granted plaintiffs permission to build a single-family home, accessory buildings, and retaining walls. Although the trial court denied plaintiffs' original grading request, it neither definitively limited plaintiffs to 3,300 cubic yards of fill nor precluded plaintiffs from submitting another, more modest, development proposal. View "York v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that the trial court's grant of an irrevocable license was an abuse of discretion because the court construed the "substantial expenditure" requirement too permissively and used the wrong legal standard in declaring the license to be forever irrevocable. In this case, defendant mistakenly improved a parcel of land between her and another property. After defendant learned that she did not own the entire patch of land, she continued to maintain it. Plaintiff's family purchased the other property and allowed defendant's use of the disputed area to continue. Then plaintiff's family trust acquired the disputed area and asked defendant to stop using the area. The court held that plaintiff's estimate that she spent at least $15,000 to $25,000 in improving and maintaining the area between 2003 and the present did not constitute substantial evidence of a substantial expenditure. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings on the nuisance claim. View "Shoen v. Zacarias" on Justia Law

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The Quarry produced alsphaltic concrete from material minded on-site and imported sand, in eastern San Rafael. It became a nonconforming use in 1982, when the property was rezoned for commercial and residential use. In 2010, following environmental review of the Quarry’s operations under the California Environmental Quality Act, the county amended the existing mining permit but expressly prohibited importing “gravel, used asphalt concrete or concrete for recycling, or dredged non-sand material.” In 2013, the Quarry obtained a two-year modification to allow the importation of asphalt grindings to be processed on-site for the production of asphaltic concrete. The superior court dismissed a challenge to the amendment as allowing an increase, enlargement, and/or intensification of the nonconforming use, prohibited by the Marin County Code, for failure to file an administrative appeal with the Mining and Geology Board. The county extended the amendment for two-to-four years. The Mining Board rejected objections. The trial court ordered the county to set aside the amendment. The court of appeal affirmed. The Quarry failed to show that the importation and processing of asphalt grindings is required for, or reasonably related to, the existing nonconforming use or that a denial of the request to do so would restrict a vested right. The activity constitutes an impermissible extension or enlargement of the nonconforming use, prohibited by the zoning ordinance, so the county lacked authority to approve the amendment. View "Point San Pedro Road Coalition v. County of Marin" on Justia Law

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The Covenants for Berkeley’s East Shore Commercial Condominiums Owners’ Association require it to maintain a master policy of all risk property insurance coverage, naming as insured the Association, the owners and all mortgagees. “Any insurance maintained by the Association shall contain [a] ‘waiver of subrogation’ as to the Association, its officers, Owners and the occupants of the Units and Mortgagees.” Article 13.4 prohibits an individual owner from obtaining fire insurance while allowing an owner to obtain individual liability insurance. The defendants leased a Commercial Condominium for a furniture manufacturing business. The Lease required the Lessee to maintain liability insurance, naming Lessor as an additional insured but did not specify which party would carry fire insurance. Western issued an insurance policy to Eastshore for the commercial properties; each owner was a named insured. A fire erupted in the condominium leased by defendants, damaging that and other units. Western paid for the fire damage then filed a subrogation complaint against defendants, alleging the fire was caused by their negligence. The trial court concluded that the Lease contemplated that the Western policy would be for defendants’ benefit so that subrogation was inappropriate. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that defendants reasonably expected their landlord, an insured under the policy, to procure fire insurance. Western was barred from suing its own insured for negligently causing a fire, and the defendants were implied insureds under the policy, even if defendants were negligent. View "Western Heritage Insurance Co. v. Frances Todd, Inc." on Justia Law

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Revenue and Taxation Code section 69.5, implementing 1986’s Proposition 60, allows qualified homeowners over 55 years of age to transfer the property tax basis of their principal residence to a replacement dwelling of equal or lesser value in the same county, Cal. Const., art. XIII A 2(a). San Mateo County determined that plaintiffs, who are otherwise qualified under the statute, were not entitled to transfer the property tax basis from their original home to a newly constructed replacement home because they formed a limited liability company (LLC) to purchase the land on which they installed the manufactured replacement home that they purchased. Plaintiffs sued; the trial court granted the county summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed. The plaintiffs, rather than the LLC, constructed the replacement home. They sold their original property and constructed a replacement property which, at the time of their claim, they owned and occupied as their primary residence. They are precisely the persons for whom the statute was intended to provide property tax relief. The fact that, to satisfy a bank requirement, they made temporary use of an LLC before taking title to their replacement property provides no justification under the terms of the statute or in logic or fairness for denying them relief. View "Wright v. County of San Mateo" on Justia Law

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Walter Ward took out a secured loan in 2007 without indicating whether he signed the deed of trust (DOT) conveying his property to the lender in his individual capacity or in his capacity as sole trustee of the trust in which his property was held. That DOT was never recorded. Years later, the lender's successor, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (Chase) asked for a replacement to foreclose. Walter refused, prompting Chase to sue. The trial court sustained two general demurrers to Chase's complaint, entered a judgment of dismissal, and awarded contractual attorney fees and costs to Walter's son, David Ward, the successor trustee of the trust that held the property. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether Chase could reframe its action by amendment to omit a fatal allegation in its original complaint. Because the Court conclude it could, notwithstanding the sham pleading doctrine, the court should have granted leave to amend. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment and the postjudgment order and direct the court to enter a new order sustaining the general demurrers with leave to amend. View "JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Ward" on Justia Law

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Forest City proposed a four-acre mixed-use development, bounded by Mission, Fifth, Howard, and Mary Streets. The area has eight existing buildings. The San Francisco Planning Department released its draft environmental impact report (DEIR) in 2014, describing two options. Both would have new active ground floor space, office use, residential dwelling units, and open space. Both would rehabilitate the Chronicle and Dempster Printing Buildings, demolish other buildings, and construct four new buildings. The DEIR discussed nine alternatives, rejecting five as infeasible, and concluding that a preservation alternative was environmentally superior because it would “achieve some of the project objectives regarding the development of a dense, mixed-use, transit-oriented, job-creating project” but avoid the “irreversible impact” of demolishing the Camelline Building, avoid regional pollutant impact, and reduce the transportation and circulation impacts. The Planning Commission held an informational hearing, accepted public comments, and published its responses to public comments, comprising the final EIR. The Commission adopted CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act, Pub. Resources Code 21000) findings, a statement of overriding considerations, and a mitigation monitoring and reporting program; raised the shadow limit for Boeddeker Park; approved a design for development document; recommended amendments to the general plan, Planning Code, and zoning map; and recommended adoption of a development agreement. The Board of Supervisors, trial court, and court of appeal upheld the approvals. The project description was adequate under CEQA; opponents failed to show the EIR was deficient for failing to properly consider cumulative impacts. CEQA requires an EIR to reflect a good faith effort at full disclosure; it does not mandate perfection. View "South of Market Community etc. v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Sixty-nine current and former residents of mobilehome park Terrace View Mobile Home Estates filed a lawsuit against the park's owners, Terrace View Partners, LP, Thomas Tatum, Jeffrey Kaplan, and management company, Mobile Community Management Company (collectively, defendants). The operative first amended complaint, styled as a class action, included 12 causes of action based on allegations that defendants' failure to maintain the park in "good working order and condition" created a nuisance that, along with unreasonably high space rent increases, made it difficult or impossible for park residents to sell their mobilehomes. After the court denied plaintiffs' motion for class certification, the parties and the court agreed to try the case in phases, with the first phase involving 16 residents living in 10 spaces in Terrace View. A first-phase jury returned a special verdict finding defendants liable and awarded the individual plaintiffs economic and noneconomic damages for: intentional interference with property rights, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, nuisance (based on substantially failing to enforce the park's rules and regulations), breach of contract/breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, and negligence/negligence per se. The jury found defendants were not liable for nuisance based on failing to provide and maintain the park's common facilities and physical improvements in good working order and condition, and were not liable for elder financial abuse against five plaintiffs. After the jury was discharged, the court issued an order on plaintiffs' cause of action alleging defendants violated Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq., the "unfair competition law" (UCL). The court ruled that a "catch-up" provision in defendants' long-term leases that could greatly increase rent at the end of a lease term was unfair in violation of the UCL. The judgment also reflected the court's rulings at the beginning of trial that certain other provisions in the parties' lease agreements violated California's Mobilehome Residency Law or were otherwise unlawful. Defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded the jury's award of compensatory damages and punitive damages had to be reversed. Although the jury's award of economic damages may have included unspecified amounts that could be upheld on appeal if the special verdict form had segregated them, "it is clear from the record that the vast majority of the economic damages awarded represented reimbursement for overpayment of rent and diminution in value of homes caused by high rent. Because the award of such damages cannot be sustained under any of the theories of liability presented to the jury and it is impossible to sever any properly awarded damages from improperly awarded damages." The Court therefore reversed the entire award of compensatory damages and the attendant awards of punitive damages and attorney fees and costs to plaintiffs. View "Bevis v. Terrace View Partners, LP" on Justia Law

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A commercial developer lost a parcel of real property in a trustee’s sale following a nonjudicial foreclosure. It sued the title company that conducted the sale as a trustee. The Court of Appeal concluded upon review of this matter that a trustee in such a sale is subject to tort liability only for the violation of duties established by the deed of trust and governing statutes, unless the trustee has effectively taken on a different or modified duty by its actions. Here, the developer, plaintiff-appellant Citrus El Dorado, LLC, sued in part for failure to verify certain matters that the trustee, defendant-respondent Chicago Title Company, had no contractual or statutory duty to verify. The Court determined neither the deed of trust nor the governing statutes expressly created a duty on the part of Chicago Title to verify that the beneficiary received a valid assignment of the loan or to verify the authority of the person who signed the substitution of trustee. "Citrus has not cited, and we have not discovered, any authority holding a trustee liable for wrongful foreclosure or any other cause of action based on similar purported failures to investigate. To the contrary, the trustee generally 'has no duty to take any action except on the express instruction of the parties or as expressly provided in the deed of trust and the applicable statutes.'" The Court therefore affirmed the trial court's order sustaining without leave to amend Chicago Title's demurrer to Citrus' second amended complaint. View "Citrus El Dorado v. Chicago Title Co." on Justia Law

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MTA filed suit against Yum Yum in eminent domain to take one of Yum Yum's donut shops that was in the path of a proposed rail line. The trial court determined that Yum Yum was not entitled to compensation for goodwill under Code of Civil Procedure section 1263.510, because Yum Yum unreasonably refused to relocate the shop to one of three sites MTA proposed at the entitlement trial. Based on section 1263.510's legislative history, accompanying Law Review Commission Comments, case law, and the general principles governing mitigation of damages, the Court of Appeal held that a condemnee is entitled to compensation for lost goodwill if any portion of that loss is unavoidable. The court held that a condemnee need only prove some or any unavoidable loss of goodwill to satisfy the condemnee's burden to demonstrate entitlement to compensation for goodwill under section 1263.510. In this case, the court held that the trial court erred in finding that Yum Yum's failure to mitigate some of its loss of goodwill precluded compensation for any loss of goodwill. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for a jury trial on the value of the lost goodwill. View "Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority v. Yum Yum Donut Shops" on Justia Law