Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

by
Yolanda Astorga-Lider pled guilty to six felony counts, including two counts of violating Penal Code section 115 (a). One of those counts, grand theft (count 6), involved Astorga-Lider encumbering certain real property, purchased by Nohemi and Jose Lorenzana with a fraudulent deed of trust. The subject deed of trust listed Sunil Deo as the lender. The Lorenzanas could not afford to buy a home. Astorga-Lider suggested a plan to the Lorenzanas and Nicolas and Elizabeth Corral, which would allow the Lorenzanas to purchase a home. The Corrals could obtain a $350,000 real estate loan, borrow against rental property they owned, and give the loan proceeds to the Lorenzanas. In turn, the Lorenzanas could use the proceeds to buy a home while making payments on the $350,000 loan. The Lorenzanas finalized what they believed to be an all-cash purchase of a house. Astorga-Lider accompanied the Lorenzanas to the bank and provided the transfer information to the bank. Unbeknownst to the Lorenzanas, the account number Astorga-Lider provided the bank was for an account that she controlled and used to funnel stolen funds from multiple fraudulent loans. After Astorga-Lider's guilty plea, the State moved, under section 115 (e), for an order declaring certain record instruments void, including the deed of trust listing Deo as the lender (Deo Deed of Trust). After multiple rounds of briefing, the superior court granted the motion. In doing so, the court found the Deo Deed of Trust void. Deo appealed the order declaring the Deo Deed of Trust void, contending the State's motion was procedurally improper; the Deo Deed of Trust was not a false or forged document under section 115; at most, the Deo Deed of Trust was voidable, not void; civil court, not criminal court, was the appropriate forum for adjudication of the validity of the Deo Deed of Trust; Deo's due process rights were been violated; and the order voiding the Deo Deed of Trust constituted an unlawful taking. The Court of Appeal concluded Deo's arguments were without merit and affirmed. View "California v. Astorga-Lider" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of administrative mandamus, challenging both the Board's tree removal order and the cessation of his water deliveries. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of the petition, holding that the trial court applied the correct substantial evidence standard of review for the administrative decision; substantial evidence supported a finding that plaintiff unreasonably interfered with TID's use of the easement at issue; and TID did not abuse its discretion in withholding plaintiff's irrigation water under its irrigation rules. View "Inzana v. Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors" on Justia Law

by
The Mitigation Fee Act (Gov. Code 66000) authorizes local agencies to impose fees on development projects to defray the cost of public facilities needed to serve the growth caused by the project if the fees are reasonably related to the burden caused by the development. Boatworks challenged Alameda's development fee ordinance. The trial court concluded the fees are excessive and constitute invalid exactions by imposing on new residents the purported cost of acquiring land for parks, although the city does not need to buy new parkland, and found that the city erred by including in its inventory of current parks two parks that were not yet open and by categorizing certain areas as parks rather than (less expensive) open space. The court of appeal reversed in part, holding that the city can properly include Shoreline Park, Osborne Model Airplane Field and two boat ramps in its inventory of parks. With respect to development fees for parks and recreation, the court stated that a fee based in significant part on costs the city will not incur, because it has already acquired ample land at no cost, does not have a “reasonable relationship to the cost of the public facility attributable to the development.” View "Boatworks, LLC v. Alameda" on Justia Law

by
After plaintiffs filed suit against the Association and property manager for breach of contract and negligence, the trial court granted a nonsuit. Plaintiffs settled with the property manager but appealed against the association. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of a nonsuit on the breach of contract claim where reasonable jurors could have concluded a total failure to maintain common areas breached a promise to keep these areas in first class condition and a jury could also find that buildings need maintenance to remain in first class condition. Furthermore, the trial court erred by adding oral reasoning beyond the contents of the nonsuit motion, and neither the motion nor the trial court's rationale challenged the idea that covenants, conditions, and restrictions comprise a contract between the association and individual owners. Nor did the motion or rationale hint at the rule of deference governing owner suits against homeowner associations. The court affirmed the nonsuit tort judgment and held that the association had no independent duty as to the pipes and roof arising from tort law. View "Sands v. Walnut Gardens Condominium Assn." on Justia Law

by
Appellant prevailed against respondents on causes of action that included fraud, conversion of property, and treble damages under Penal Code section 496. At issue on appeal, was the section 496 causes of action. In this case, even though the jury returned a special verdict that found respondents violated section 496(a), the trial court declined to award treble damages to plaintiff under the statute. The Court of Appeal held that section 496 is clear and unambiguous, and its remedial provisions should be applied where, as here, a clear violation of section 496(a) has been found. Therefore, the court reversed in part and remanded for the trial court to enter a modified judgment that includes treble damages on the section 496 causes of action. The court also reversed the trial court's denial of plaintiff's motion for attorney fees premised on section 496(c) and remanded. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "Switzer v. Wood" on Justia Law

by
The Taniguchis obtained a $510,500 home loan, secured by a deed of trust. A 2009 loan modification reduced their monthly payments and deferred until the loan's maturity approximately $116,000 of indebtedness. The modification provided that failure to make modified payments as scheduled would be default so that the modification would be void at the lender’s option. The modification left unchanged the original acceleration clauses and power of sale. The Taniguchis defaulted on the modified loan and were informed that to avoid foreclosure, they would have to pay their four missed payments and associated late charges, foreclosure fees and costs, plus all sums deferred under the modification (about $120,000 in principal, interest and charges). The Taniguchis filed suit. Restoration recorded a notice of trustee’s sale. The Taniguchis obtained a temporary restraining order. The Taniguchis alleged violations of Civil Code section 2924c by demanding excessive amounts to reinstate the loan, unfair competition, breach of contract, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Restoration. The court of appeal vacated in part. When principal comes due because of a default, section 2924c allows a borrower to cure that default and reinstate the loan by paying the default amount plus fees and expenses. Section 2924c gives the Taniguchis the opportunity to cure by paying the missed modified payments and avoid the demand for immediate payment of the deferred amounts. Nothing in the loan modification suggests that the Taniguchis forfeited that opportunity; section 2924c does not indicate that a forfeiture would be enforceable. View "Taniguchi v. Restoration Homes, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Landlord filed an unlawful detainer action against tenants. At issue was whether the property fell within the single-family dwelling exemption to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance of the City of Los Angeles. The Court of Appeal held that, regardless of the original design and use of the property, its current configuration (nine bedrooms, two bathrooms, and one kitchen) and current use for occupancy (four individual bedrooms rented to separate households who share the kitchen and bathrooms, but who alone have exclusive access to and use of their rooms) does not qualify for the single–family dwelling exemption from the Ordinance, because it is not a "detached dwelling containing only one dwelling unit" within the meaning of Municipal Code section 12.03. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the appellate division. View "Chun v. Del Cid" on Justia Law

by
The Mitigation Fee Act, Government Code 66000-66003, requires local agencies seeking to impose fees on private developers as a condition of approval of a development, to determine how there is a “reasonable relationship” between the type of development project, the fee’s use, and the need for the public facilities. The developer of a 100-unit agricultural employee housing complex in Monterey County’s Salinas Union High School District designed the project to accommodate 200-800 seasonal farmworker employees in dormitory-like apartments during the growing season. The project description stated that it was designed for “agricultural employees only, without dependents.” A report prepared for the county board of supervisors found that the project would “not have an adverse impact on schools.” The board approved the project, adopted a mitigated negative declaration under CEQA, and approved a combined permit, subject to conditions, which described the development for “agricultural employees only without dependents.” When the developer applied for project approval, the District adopted an impact fee on new residential construction of $3 per square foot. The court of appeal reversed the trial court, finding that the statutes do not require a school district to separately analyze the impact of a unique subtype of residential construction not contemplated in the statute. To hold otherwise would disrupt the school district’s quasi-legislative authority to impose prospective, district-wide fees based upon development type. View "Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods v. Salinas Union High School District" on Justia Law

by
The San Mateo County Assessor assessed Silverado’s assisted living facility’s fair market value for property tax purposes at $26.4 million for the October 2011 base year value assessment and the 2012/2013 regular assessment. Silverado appealed. The County Assessment Appeals Board found that the income approach analysis was appropriate for determining the fair market value based on the present value of the property’s expected future income stream. The trial court found that the Board appropriately used an income approach analysis but agreed with Silverado that the analysis did not adequately make “all necessary deductions” to remove the value of intangible assets that Silverado claimed had been impermissibly subsumed in the assessment value. The court remanded for the “narrow purpose” of allowing the Board to clarify its valuation using an income approach analysis, based on the evidence that had been admitted at the administrative hearings. Silverado sought attorney fees under Revenue and Taxation Code 1611.6 and 5152. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the motion. Because the Board’s resolution of Silverado’s appeals was neither arbitrary nor capricious, nor caused by a legal position taken in bad faith, no award is warranted under section 1611.6. With respect to section 5152, there was no basis for finding that a tax law or regulation was unconstitutional or invalid. View "SSL Landlord, LLC v. County of San Mateo" on Justia Law

by
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