Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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The Judicial Council of California (Government Code 70321) prepared an environmental impact report (EIR, California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, 21000)) in connection with the consolidation of El Dorado County courthouse operations from two buildings, one of which is a historic building in downtown Placerville, into a single new building on the city’s outskirts, less than two miles away. Although the draft EIR addressed the possible economic impact of moving judicial activities from the downtown courthouse, it concluded the impact was not likely to be severe enough to cause urban decay in downtown Placerville. The League contended this conclusion was not supported by substantial evidence, given the importance of the courthouse to downtown commerce. The trial court and court of appeal upheld certification of the EIR. The court noted that the new construction will not result in a competitor to siphon business from downtown, but will leave behind a building that can be filled with other activities producing a level of commerce similar to that removed by the relocation, thereby mitigating the impact of the relocation. There was substantial evidence to support the draft EIR’s conclusion that urban decay is not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the project. View "Placerville Historic Preservation League v. Judicial Council of California" on Justia Law

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The 7,517-square-foot lot, on the south side of Telegraph Hill bordering the Filbert Street steps, was unimproved except for a small uninhabitable 1906 cottage. Four other buildings were demolished in 1997. The developers intend to restore the existing 1.000-square-foot cottage and build a three-story over basement building with three units ranging from 3,700-4,200 square feet apiece. A new curb cut along Telegraph Boulevard will provide access to a basement with three off-street parking spaces. The front of the building, bordering the Filbert Street steps, is designed to appear as three separate single-family homes, each below the 40-foot height limit as they step down the hill. The San Francisco Planning Department determined the project was statutorily exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code, 21000 (CEQA), because it fell within classes of projects that were determined not to have significant effects on the environment: restoration or rehabilitation of deteriorated structures; a residential structure totaling no more than four dwelling units. The Planning Commission approved a conditional use authorization. The Board of Supervisors, superior court, and court of appeal upheld the approvals. No CEQA review was necessary because the project was categorically exempt from review and no unusual circumstances exist to override the exemptions on the basis the project will have a significant effect on the environment. View "Protect Telegraph Hill v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Vallejo’s zoning code does not recognize medical marijuana dispensaries as a permitted land use. An unpermitted use is “a public nuisance.” Vallejo recently adopted Ordinance No. 1715 granting limited immunity to medical marijuana dispensaries that meet various requirements, including the past payment of local business taxes. NCORP4, a nonprofit corporation, operates a Vallejo medical marijuana dispensary. Vallejo denied NCORP4’s application for limited immunity for failure to pay taxes, among other reasons, but the dispensary continues to operate. The city sought to enjoin the dispensary as a public nuisance. The trial court denied the city a preliminary injunction, concluding that the ordinance improperly conditioned immunity upon past payment of business taxes. The court of appeal reversed. State law permitting medicinal marijuana use and distribution does not preempt “the authority of California cities and counties, under their traditional land use and police powers, to allow, restrict, limit, or entirely exclude facilities that distribute medical marijuana, and to enforce such policies by nuisance actions.” Local governments may rationally limit medical marijuana dispensaries to those already in operation and compliant with prior law as past compliance shows a willingness to follow the law, which suggests future lawful behavior. View "City of Vallejo v. NCORP4, Inc." on Justia Law

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RSB purchased a vineyard jointly owned by the defendants, including a residence that defendants had renovated and converted into a wine tasting room. RSB later learned that the renovated residence was structurally unsound for commercial use and was forced to demolish it. In response to RSB’s lawsuit claiming misrepresentations and omissions in connection with the sale of the residence, defendants moved for summary judgment, offering evidence they had no knowledge of the buildings' deficiencies. While RSB provided no evidence to suggest defendants had actual knowledge of the problems, it did demonstrate that the deficiencies were so severe that defendants’ construction professionals should have been aware of them and argued that this knowledge was imputed to defendants. The trial court granted summary judgment, reasoning that defendants could not be held liable for nondisclosure in the absence of evidence they had actual knowledge. The court of appeal affirmed. That a property is being used for a particular activity does not necessarily imply that the property satisfies all regulatory requirements for the activity. In any event, a cause of action for misrepresentation requires an affirmative statement, not an implied assertion. View "RSB Vineyards, LLC v. Orsi" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs and appellants Luz Solar Partners Ltd., III; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., IV; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., V; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VI; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VII; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VIII and Harper Lake Company VIII; and Luz Solar Partners Ltd., IX and HLC IX (collectively “Luz Partners”) challenged the assessment of real property improved with solar energy generating systems (SEGS units) for tax years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. They contended that defendants-respondents San Bernardino County (County) and the Assessment Appeals Board of San Bernardino County (Appeals Board) erroneously relied on the State of California Board of Equalization’s (Board) incorrect interpretation of the applicable statutes governing the method of assessing the value of the property. Finding that the Board correctly interpreted the applicable law in setting forth the method of assessing the value of the solar properties, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Luz Solar Partners Ltd. v. San Bernardino County" on Justia Law

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Two cases consolidated for review involved a property where a shooting range had been operated for decades (the Property), its remediation by Plaintiffs Otay Land Company, LLC (OLC) and Flat Rock Land Company, LLC (FRLC) (collectively, Plaintiffs), and their efforts to recover remediation costs from former owners under the Carpenter Presley-Tanner Hazardous Substances Account Act. Defendants were former owner United Enterprises, Inc. (UEI) and its successors, including United Enterprises, Ltd. (UEL) (together, UE Defendants or UE), and former owner Baldwin Vista Associates, L.P. (now The Otay Ranch, L.P.) and certain of its general partners. Plaintiffs also asserted common law claims for continuing nuisance and continuing trespass. The case proceeded to a bench trial. The trial court's Statement of Decision addressed issues regarding whether Plaintiffs had a private right of action, liability, defenses, the allocation of costs, and cost reductions, each in the alternative, and held Plaintiffs should take nothing. The court entered judgment for Defendants. Defendants moved for attorney fees and costs, which the court denied. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing the trial court erred in its interpretation and application of the Carpenter Presley-Tanner Hazardous Substances Account Act. After review, the Court of Appeal affirmed certain rulings, reversed the judgment in all other respects, and remanded with directions. In light of this decision, the Court held defendants’ appeal of fees was moot. View "Otay Land Co. v. U.E. Limited" on Justia Law

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The 4.75-acre Laurel Way site is in a hillside canyon, is steeply sloped, and contains a private, dead end street that is only partially paved. Redwood City divided its proposed development into a first phase, involving paving the roadway, installing utilities and sewer connections, landscaping, and drainage infrastructure, and a second phase, involving the construction of residences on the lots. The second phase is not to commence until the first phase is complete and approved. In 2006, the developer sought a planned development permit (PDP). The city held several workshops and public meetings then circulated a draft environmental impact report (EIR). In 2010, the planning commission certified a final EIR, adopting findings for mitigation measures, including a mitigation monitoring program. In 2013, the commission approved the PDP for the infrastructure improvements with 63 conditions. The approved project contemplates up to 16 new houses; there are two existing houses. The appeals court reinstated the PDP approval. The trial court abused its discretion by failing to evaluate the legal status of the 18 lots under the Subdivision Map Act (Gov. Code 66410). The PDP does not cover the development of individual lots, so issues regarding the legal status of the individual lots under the SMA are not ripe for judicial review. View "Save Laurel Way v. City of Redwood City" on Justia Law

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South San Francisco approved a conditional-use permit allowing an office building to be converted to a medical clinic for use by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. The city determined that its consideration of the permit was categorically exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code section 21000 (CEQA). Respect Life challenged the determination. The trial court and court of appeal upheld the determination, rejecting arguments that the permit’s consideration is not exempt from CEQA because the unusual circumstances exception to CEQA’s categorical exemptions applies. By pointing only to evidence that the permit will lead to protests, Respect Life failed to establish that the city prejudicially abused its discretion by making an implied determination that there are no unusual circumstances justifying further CEQA review. View "Respect Life South San Francisco v. City of South San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order setting aside a planned development permit (PDP) issued by the City. The court held that issues regarding the legal status of the individual lots under the Subdivision Map Act were not ripe for judicial review. In this case, the approval of the PDP in Phase 1 of the Project involved only the development of an infrastructure for the land involved, and the SMA was not implicated in Phase 1. View "Save Laurel Way v. City of Redwood City" on Justia Law

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After a shopping center tenant defaulted on a secured loan, the lender took possession of the premises through foreclosure and transferred its interest to a third party. The third party then surrendered the premises and the landord filed suit against the lender to enforce the lease obligations. The Court of Appeal reversed the grant of summary adjudication for the landlord, holding that the purchase of the leasehold estate in this case—identified in the deed of trust by reference to the lease—did not constitute an express agreement to assume the obligations of the lease. In this case, the record showed that the lender did not expressly assume the lease. View "BRE DDR BR Whittwood CA, LLC v. Farmers & Merchants Bank" on Justia Law