Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Plaintiff appealed from a judgment denying his petition for writ of mandate, contending that the trial court misinterpreted the conditions placed on the approved vesting tentative map for a small subdivision he is attempting to develop. The trial court interpreted the conditions to require a fire suppression system, with functional fire hydrants to be in place, before the county would approve the final subdivision map. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that plaintiff's claims of misinterpretation are not barred by the 90-day period set forth in Government Code section 66499.37. The court held that a claim of misinterpretation is distinct from a claim challenging the validity of the condition of approval and the two types of claims accrue at different times. View "Honchariw v. County of Stanislaus" on Justia Law

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In 2009, 731 Market leased the ground floor of its commercial building to CVS for a term of 45 years. Once the lease was recorded with the City and County of San Francisco, a “Real Property Transfer Tax” was paid under the San Francisco Business and Tax Regulations Code, based on the value of the stream of rental payments due over the lease’s life. In 2015, 731 Market sold the building, which included the CVS lease. All terms of the original lease remained unchanged with a remaining term of more than 35 years. 731 Market paid a documentary transfer tax, then unsuccessfully sought a refund of the amount of tax it paid based on the value of the remaining stream of payments due over CVS’s lease. The trial court and court of appeal agreed with 731 Market that the 2015 transaction did not trigger the tax as to the leasehold interest because the transaction did not result in any “realty sold” under the ordinance. San Francisco impermissibly collected a “double tax” on the property. View "731 Market Street Owner, LLC v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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After filing unsuccessful petitions for writ of mandate challenging the approval of two of the projects under various land use laws, AFH filed suit against the City for violating the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the state Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) based on a disparate-impact theory of liability. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court correctly found AHF cannot assert a cause of action under the FHA and FEHA based on its alleged disparate-impact theory of liability where AHF has not alleged a policy that is an artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barrier to fair housing. In this case, AHF has not alleged that the City's policy restricts affordable housing; the City's approval of the Projects does not eliminate housing; and AHF seeks to impose a new development policy on the City, rather than to eliminate one. The court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying AHF leave to amend. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's decision sustaining the City's and Real Parties' demurrers. View "AIDS Healthcare Foundation v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Owens owns and resides in a single-family Oakland house. He rented individual rooms to three unrelated tenants. Tenant Barghout filed a petition under Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program alleging her housing became unsuitable due to disruptive construction work and hazardous conditions and that Owens failed to provide the required notice of the Rent Adjustment Program and retaliated by terminating her lease when she complained and sought a reduction in rent. Owens filed an unlawful detainer complaint, identifying Barghout as a month-to-month housemate with “sole use of one or more rooms and shared use of common areas.” A hearing officer rejected an argument that Barghout’s rental was not subject to the Ordinance because the rooms she rented were in a single-family home that was “alienable, separate from the title of any other dwelling unit,” exempt under the Costa-Hawkins Act from local rent control. The Rent Board, trial court, and court of appeal affirmed. The term “dwelling unit” has different meanings under building and planning codes and rent control ordinances. Under landlord-tenant law, “a dwelling or a unit” is not the entire property to which an owner holds title; it is any area understood to be committed to the habitation of a given tenant or tenants to the exclusion of others. The relevant dwelling unit is not Owens’s home but each of the rooms he rented to tenants. View "Owens v. City of Oakland Housing, Residential Rent & Relocation Board" on Justia Law

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The Insalacos own property atop of a slope. At the bottom of the slope is Wilkie Creek. Hope Lutheran Church owns property on the other side of the creek. After a landslide made their house uninhabitable, the Insalacos sued the Church and adjoining landowners, including the Du/Wongs. They alleged that water runoff from the Church caused the creek to rise, which caused their backyard to flood. The flooding saturated the soil in their backyard, which caused the landslide. The Du/Wongs filed a cross-complaint, alleging tort causes of action related to the landslide and seeking indemnification. The court granted the Church summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed The trial court erred in denying a timely motion by the Insalacos for a continuance to take additional discovery (a site inspection) and oppose the summary judgment motion. They presented a detailed declaration from their attorney explaining the particular facts essential to opposing the motion that may exist but could not then be presented. As to the Du/Wongs, concededly material facts were disputed. The Church placed at issue how much rain fell on the date of the incident, whether there are “two ways in which water flow in a creek could destabilize a slope,” and whether the channel of Wilkie Creek is stable and shows no evidence of recent erosion. View "Insalaco v. Hope Lutheran Church of West Contra Costa County" on Justia Law

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Third Laguna Hills Mutual (a homeowner’s association, “the HOA”) filed a complaint alleging homeowner Jeff Joslin violated its covenants. Joslin filed a cross-complaint alleging the HOA unlawfully prevented him from renting out his home. The HOA filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike the cross-complaint: “It is clear that Joslin is suing the [HOA] for suing him.” The court denied the motion. The HOA appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of the HOA's anti0SLAPP motion. "The filing of a complaint is a protected activity under the anti-SLAPP statute (the right to petition). But to some degree, every party that files a cross-complaint is suing because it is being sued. Here, Joslin’s cross-complaint arises from the HOA’s alleged tortious acts, but not from the HOA’s protected act of filing a complaint." View "Third Laguna Hills Mutual v. Joslin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants James and Maria Mosley rented out a home they owned that defendant-respondent Pacific Specialty Insurance Company (PSIC) insured under a homeowners’ policy (the Property). The Mosleys’ tenant started growing marijuana in the Property. To support his marijuana-growing operation, the tenant re-routed the Property’s electrical system to steal power from a main utility line. The tenant’s re-routed electrical system caused a fuse to blow, which started a fire that damaged the Property. PSIC denied coverage, citing a provision in the Mosleys’ policy that excluded any loss associated with “[t]he growing of plants” or the “manufacture, production, operation or processing of . . . plant materials.” The Mosleys sued, but the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurance company, finding that the Mosleys had control over their tenant's conduct. A divided Court of Appeals reversed, finding no evidence the Mosleys were aware of their tenant's marijuana growing operation, and because the record was silent as to what the Moseleys could or should have done to discover it. "[T]he Mosleys did not use the Property in a prescribed way that would have allowed PSIC to suspend their insurance and deny all coverage. More importantly, contrary to PSIC’s assertion and the trial court’s finding, there was no evidence Mosleys knowingly increased a risk of fire hazard. In addition, a fact issue remains as to whether [the Tenant's] hazard-increasing conduct was within their control. If it was, then PSIC properly denied coverage. But by denying the Mosleys coverage for Lopez’s conduct, regardless of the Mosleys’ control over or knowledge of it, the Policy did not provide 'substantially equivalent' coverage to that required under [Insurance Code] section 2071." View "Mosley v. Pacific Specialty Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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In two civil enforcement actions, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgments against the trustee and the trust (collectively, "defendants") and the imposition of civil fines in excess of $6 million. The court held that the trial court's judgments did not violate the double jeopardy clause, because the allegations and evidence before the trial court were insufficient to show that the earlier criminal complaint was based on the same offenses as the civil actions. The court also held that the $5,967,500 in civil penalties were not unconstitutionally excessive under the four-part Bajakajian test. The court rejected defendants' contention that neither the trial court nor the city had the authority to require the trustee to evict the dispensaries. Finally, the court held that the medical-marijuana regulations were not void for vagueness, and the trial court did not err in holding the trustee personally liable for the civil penalties and other relief imposed against him in each of the judgments. View "People v. Braum" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs SLPR, L.L.C. (SLPR), Ann Goodfellow, trustee of the survivor's trust of the Goodfellow Family Trust (Goodfellow), and Jerry Cannon and Michael Morris, trustees of the Sewall Family Trust (Sewall) (together Plaintiffs) appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendant State of California (State) in their action against State and the San Diego Unified Port District (Port) (together Defendants) arising out of damage to their bayside properties in the City of Coronado (City) allegedly caused by dredging of the San Diego Bay (Bay). The United States Navy dredged an area of the Bay within the Naval Air Station North Island Turning Basin in 1998 and 2002 and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Army) dredged the central navigation channel of the Bay from 2004 to 2005. In a previous decision relating to this matter, the Court of Appeal concluded, inter alia, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on Plaintiffs' quiet title action because there were triable issues of material fact on the meaning of a facially ambiguous 1931 judgment in favor of City and against J.D. and A.B. Spreckels Investment Company (Spreckels), owner of real property along the Bay's shoreline and Plaintiffs' predecessor-in-interest, and other defendants regarding whether that judgment fixed the bayside boundaries of Plaintiffs' properties or whether it located only the current position of the mean high tide line (MHTL) at that time and retained the ambulatory MHTL as the legal boundaries of their properties. On remand, Plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint, alleging causes of action for quiet title, inverse condemnation related to the quiet title cause of action (by SLPR and Arendsee), inverse condemnation (by Plaintiffs), nuisance, and removal of lateral support. The trial court sustained State's demurrer to the third, fourth, and fifth causes of action. The court subsequently conducted a bench trial on the first and second causes of action and, after admitting and considering extrinsic evidence regarding the meaning of the Spreckels judgment, found that the judgment had fixed the boundaries between Plaintiffs' properties and the public tidelands. The court then entered judgment in favor of State and against Plaintiffs. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "SLPR, L.L.C. v. San Diego Unified Port District" on Justia Law

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The owner of the unencumbered 25 percent interest in the real property is entitled to a proportionate share of surplus proceeds. The Court of Appeal's conclusion is based on Caito v. United California Bank (1978) 20 Cal.3d 694. The court held that the 1990 enactment of Civil Code section 2924k did not change the principles set forth in Caito. Applying this principle about the rights of junior lienors to the undisputed facts of this case, the court held that the creditor holding the second deed of trust encumbering an undivided 75 percent interest in the real property was entitled only to a 75 percent share of the surplus funds. The court held that the remaining 25 percent must be distributed to the person who owned the interest that was not encumbered by the second deed of trust. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's judgment. View "Zieve, Brodnax & Steele, LLP v. Dhindsa" on Justia Law