Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

by
Francis Bottini, Jr., Nina Bottini, and the Bernate Ticino Trust (the Bottinis) applied to the City of San Diego for a coastal development permit (CDP) to construct a single-family home on a vacant lot in La Jolla. City staff determined that the Bottinis' proposed construction project was categorically exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act, but the City Council of San Diego reversed that determination. In reaching its decision, the City Council found that full environmental review was necessary because the Bottinis had removed a 19th century cottage from the lot on which they planned to build their residence shortly before they applied for a CDP. The City had previously voted against designating that cottage as a historical resource, declared that the cottage was a public nuisance, and authorized the Bottinis to demolish the cottage. Nevertheless, after the cottage's demolition, the City Council declared the cottage "historic," concluded that the cottage's demolition must be considered part of the Bottinis' project for purposes of CEQA, and found that there was a reasonable possibility that CEQA's "historical resources" and "unusual circumstances" exceptions applied to the Bottinis' construction project, thus requiring full environmental review. The Bottinis filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandamus seeking to compel the City Council to set aside its decision, as well as a complaint for damages against the City, based on alleged violations of the takings, due process, and equal protection clauses of the California Constitution. The City moved for summary judgment on the Bottinis' constitutional causes of action. The court granted the Bottinis' petition concluding the demolition of the cottage was not a component of the Bottinis' construction project and, as a result, the City Council's determination that the project was not categorically exempt from CEQA review lacked substantial evidentiary support. The court also granted the City's motion for summary judgment on the Bottinis' constitutional claims. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. View "Bottini v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

by
This appeal challenged the trial court’s denial of a special motion to strike pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, the anti-SLAPP statute,, directed at a cross-complaint asserting causes of action arising from a civil enforcement action brought by Feather River Air Quality Management District against Harmun Takhar for multiple violations of state and local air pollution laws. Specifically, this case involved dust. Takhar owned a piece of property in Yuba County. In June 2014, he began the process of converting that property from pasture land to an almond orchard. This process required the clearing, grading, and disking of the land in order to prepare the site for planting. The earthwork generated dust that was carried from Takhar’s property and deposited onto neighboring properties. These neighboring property owners complained to the District. District staff contacted Takhar, informed him the dust emissions were impacting neighboring properties causing a public nuisance, and requested he take reasonable precautions to prevent the dust from reaching the affected properties, such as waiting for the wind to change directions before engaging in earthwork. Violations were ultimately imposed, and an offer to settle the civil penalties was made. Takhar did not take the District up on its settlement offer and instead continued with his clearing activities. The District then brought a civil enforcement action against Takhar. The Court of Appeal concluded Takhar did not demonstrate he qualified for an exemption to the anti-SLAPP statute. The causes of action alleged in Takhar’s cross-complaint arose from protected petitioning activity and he did not establish a probability of prevailing on the merits of these claims. The Court therefore remanded the matter to the trial court with directions to grant the anti-SLAPP motion and dismiss the cross-complaint. View "Takhar v. California ex rel. Feather River Air Quality Management Dist." on Justia Law

by
Real parties in interest Carlton and Raye Lofgren, as Trustees of the Lofgren Family Trust and the Lofgren 1998 Trust (the Lofgrens), sought a residential development permit to build six single-family homes on a parcel of just over 11 acres in Riverside. After respondent City of Riverside (the City) approved the permit and issued a negative declaration stating the development did not require environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Friends of Riverside’s Hills (FRH) filed a petition for a writ of mandate challenging that decision. FRH alleged the City was required to conduct a CEQA Environmental Impact Review (EIR) of the development because it violated certain land use provisions in the City’s municipal code. FRH also alleged the City abused its discretion by approving a project that violated its own land use provisions. The trial court denied FRH’s petition. The Court of Appeal found no evidence of the alleged land use violations, and affirmed the judgment. View "Friends of Riverside's Hills v. City or Riverside" on Justia Law

by
Nineteen-year-old M.W. was a nonminor dependent of the court until it terminated dependency jurisdiction over him in August 2017. One of the acceptable living arrangements for nonminor dependents was a “‘[s]upervised independent living placement’” (SILP). The court terminated dependency jurisdiction over M.W. because he had moved in with a former foster mother, and the court believed a former caregiver’s home could not qualify as a SILP. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court erred: "Nothing in the law disqualifies a former caregiver’s home as a SILP. Even the document on which plaintiff and respondent, San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS), relied for its argument—a form developed by the California Department of Social Services—does not disqualify a former caregiver’s home." The Court determined the error was prejudicial to M.W. and therefore reversed and remanded for the trial court to consider whether to retain or terminate dependency jurisdiction. View "In re M.W." on Justia Law

by
The subject of the public trust at issue in this case was the Scott River in Siskiyou County, California, a tributary of the Klamath River and a navigable waterway for the purposes of the public trust doctrine. The Court of Appeal surmised this appeal presented two questions involving the application of the public trust doctrine to groundwater extraction: whether the doctrine had ever applied to groundwater, and if so, whether the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) abrogated whatever application it might have had, replacing it with statutory rules passed by the Legislature. The Court felt there was no specific and concrete allegation that any action or forbearance to act by the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) or permit issued by County of Siskiyou (County) to extract groundwater actually violated the public trust doctrine by damaging the water resources held in trust for the public by the Board or the County. Rather, the Environmental Law Foundation and associated fishery organizations Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association and Institute for Fisheries Resources (collectively ELF), the Board, and the County sought the Court's opinion as to whether the public trust doctrine mandated the Board and the County a public trust duty to consider whether the extractions of groundwater adversely affected public trust uses of the Scott River and whether SGMA took those duties away. The scope of the Court's ruling was narrow; the Court found the Legislature had not released the Scott River from the public trust nor dissolve the public trust doctrine within the text or scope of SGMA. View "Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Bd." on Justia Law

by
In 2015, the City of Moreno Valley (the City) adopted an initiative to approve a development agreement in connection with the World Logistics Center (WLC) project. The WLC developers were known collectively as Highland Fairview (with the City, Respondents). Appellants the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice and other environmental groups petitioned for a writ of mandate, contending that adoption of a development agreement by initiative violated the development agreement statute (Gov. Code sec. 65864, et seq.) and article II, section 12 of the California Constitution. The trial court denied Appellants' petitions, and they appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded the California Legislature intended to exclusively delegate approval of development agreements to local legislative bodies and to make such approval subject to referendum, but not to initiative. The development agreement initiative adopted by the City was therefore invalid. View "Center for Community Action etc. v. City of Moreno Valley" on Justia Law

by
Sander and the First Amendment Coalition sought a writ of mandate to obtain information from the State Bar of California’s bar admissions database--individually unidentifiable records for all applicants to the California Bar Examination from 1972 to 2008 in the categories: race or ethnicity, law school, transfer status, year of law school graduation, law school and undergraduate GPA, LSAT scores, and performance on the bar examination. Making these records available to the public in a manner that protects the applicants’ privacy and anonymity, they believe, will allow researchers to study the potential relationship between preferential admissions programs in higher education and a gap in bar passage rates between racial and ethnic groups. The superior court upheld the State Bar’s denial of the request. The court of appeal affirmed. The court correctly found Petitioners’ request to be beyond the purview of the California Public Records Act (Gov. Code 6250) because it would compel the State Bar to recode its existing data and create new records. View "Sander v. State Bar of California" on Justia Law

by
Following an investigation into violations of the Secondhand Dealers Law (SDL), the State of California, by and through the District Attorneys of Riverside and Shasta Counties, filed an action pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq., (Unfair Competition Law or UCL) to enjoin petitioner GameStop, Inc., (GameStop) against noncompliance. GameStop filed a motion to remove the action from the County of Riverside pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 394, claiming that the district attorney, as an official elected by the County of Riverside, was a local governmental entity. The trial court denied the motion, giving rise to this petition for writ of mandate by GameStop. The SDL requires secondhand dealers to report the name, address, and photo identification of the seller, a complete description of the serialized property, a certification from the seller that she or he is the owner of the property, and a fingerprint of the seller. During the time period enumerated in the complaint, GameStop failed to comply with the reporting, holding, and inspection requirements of the SDL. The Court of Appeal concluded the mandatory removal provisions of section 394 were inapplicable to UCL actions brought by a district attorney to enforce provisions of the statewide SDL, and denied GameStop's petition for relief. View "GameStop, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
Branden Hall appealed an order denying his motion for attorney fees he incurred in litigation culminating in Hall v. Superior Court, 3 Cal.App.5th 792 (2016). The superior court determined that Hall was not a successful party because Hall I did not provide him with any relief that was not already granted to him by the trial court and available from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The Court of Appeal agreed with the superior court's ruling and affirmed. View "Hall v. Dept. of Motor Vehicles" on Justia Law

by
Mendocino County Ballot Measure AI, which imposed a tax on commercial cannabis businesses, was approved by a simple majority of county voters. The trial court dismissed a challenge and denied plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that under a correct interpretation of article XIII of the California Constitution the tax imposed by Measure AI was not a general tax but, together with a related advisory measure, amounted to a special tax requiring approval by a supermajority of county voters. The court also rejected an alternative argument that Measure AI did not involve a tax at all, and instead imposed an unlawful fee. Because Measure AJ did not in any way limit the County’s ability to spend the proceeds collected under Measure AI, the tax necessarily and by its terms remained a general tax. View "Johnson v. County of Mendocino" on Justia Law