Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California

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An initiative proposed to repeal an existing Upland ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries, to adopt regulations permitting and establishing standards for up to three dispensaries, and to require that each pay an “annual Licensing and Inspection fee” of $75,000. The petition requested a special election. The signatures of registered voters met the threshold for triggering consideration of the initiative (Elections Code 9214). The city accepted a certificate of sufficiency and was obligated to adopt the initiative without alteration, immediately order a special election, or order an agency report. It ordered a report, which concluded that the $75,000 “fee” would exceed the costs incurred from issuing licenses and annual inspections and that the excess would constitute a general tax, so the initiative could not be voted on during a special election but, under California Constitution article XIII C, had to be submitted at the next general election. The city council provided direction for submitting the initiative in November 2016, the next general election. The California Supreme Court held that that article XIII C does not constrain voters’ constitutional power to propose and adopt initiatives and that under article II, section 11 and Elections Code, the initiative should be submitted at a special election, Article XIII C does not limit voters’ “power to raise taxes by statutory initiative.” View "California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland" on Justia Law

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The Attorney General and various environmental groups challenged on several grounds an EIR accompanying a regional development plan for the San Diego area that was intended to guide the area’s transportation infrastructure from 2010 to 2050. As relevant to this appeal, Plaintiffs claimed that the EIR failed adequately to analyze the plan’s impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The superior court issued a writ of mandate in Plaintiffs’ favor, concluding that the EIR failed to fulfill its role as an informational document and did not adequately address mitigation measures for significant emission impacts. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment setting aside the EIR certification. The Supreme Court reversed insofar as the court of appeal determined that the EIR’s analysis of greenhouse gas emission impacts rendered the EIR inadequate and required revision, holding that the regional planning agency that issued the EIR, in analyzing greenhouse gas impacts at the time of the EIR, did not abuse its discretion by declining to adopt Executive Order No. S-3-05 as a measure of significance or to discuss the Executive Order more than it did. View "Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Ass’n of Governments" on Justia Law

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Homeowners who sought and were granted a permit from the California Coastal Commission to build a new seawall and repair their beach access stairway, subject to several mitigation conditions, forfeited their challenge objecting to two conditions because they accepted the benefits that the permit conferred. When winter storms damaged the seawall protecting their blufftop properties, Plaintiffs sought a new permit to demolish the old structure, construct a new seawall across their properties, and rebuild the stairway. The Commission approved a coastal development permit allowing seawall demolition and reconstruction subject to several conditions. Plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of administrative mandate challenging certain conditions. While the litigation proceeded, Plaintiffs obtained the permit and built the seawall. The trial court issued a writ directing the Commission to remove the challenged conditions. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs forfeited their objections by constructing the project. View "Lynch v. California Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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When an assessment on nonexempt property is challenged on the ground that the taxpayer does not own the property involved, the taxpayer must seek an assessment reduction through the assessment appeal process before the county board of equalization or a county assessment appeals board or obtain a stipulation under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 5142(b) that such proceedings are unnecessary in order to maintain a postpayment superior court action under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 5140 that seeks reduction of the tax. The Supreme Court overruled Parr-Richmond Industrial Corp. v. Boyd 43 Cal.2d 157 (1954) to the extent that the decision provides otherwise. Because this holding operates only prospectively, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal in this action where Plaintiffs brought timely assessment appeal proceedings under Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 1603 (a). The court of appeal held that “where, as here, the taxpayer claims [an] assessment is void because the taxpayer does not own the [assessed] property, the taxpayer is not required to apply for an assessment reduction under section 1603, subdivision (a) to exhaust its administrative remedies.” View "Williams & Fickett v. County of Fresno" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the application of the general rule that a litigant may appeal an adverse ruling only after the trial court renders a final judgment when a trial court has granted a petition for writ of administrative mandamus and remanded the matter for proceedings before an administrative body. The court of appeal dismissed Defendant’s appeal, concluding that the superior court’s order remanding the matter to the administrative body was not a final, appealable order. The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of Defendant’s appeal and remanded the matter to the court of appeal with directions to reinstate the appeal, holding that because the issuance of the writ marked the end of the writ proceeding in the trial court, even if it did not definitely resolve the dispute between the parties, the trial court’s order was a final judgment. View "Dhillon v. John Muir Health" on Justia Law

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This California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) dispute centered on whether an environmental impact report (EIR) must identify areas that might qualify as environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHA) under the California Coastal Act and account for those areas in its analysis of mitigation measures and project alternatives. The City of Newport Beach approved a project for the development of a parcel known as Banning Beach. Banning Ranch Conservancy (BRC) sought a writ of mandate to set aside the approval, alleging (1) the EIR was inadequate, and (2) the City violated a general plan provision by failing to work with the California Coastal Commission to identify wetlands and habitats. The trial court found the EIR sufficient but concluded that the general plan required the City to cooperate with the Coastal Commission before approving the project. The Court of Appeal (1) agreed that the EIR complied with CEQA requirements; but (2) reversed on the general plan issue. The Supreme Court reversed and granted BRC relief on its CEQA claim, holding (1) CEQA requires an EIR to identify areas that might qualify as ESHA under the Coastal Act; and (2) the City’s failure to discuss ESHA requirements and impacts was neither insubstantial nor merely technical. View "Banning Ranch Conservancy v. City of Newport Beach" on Justia Law

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In 1995, the Fish and Game Commission added to the list of endangered species coho salmon in streams south of San Francisco. In 2004, it joined this coho population with coho from San Francisco north to Punta Gorda. Since then, the Commission has included coho salmon south of Punta Gorda in its endangered species list. In this case, Plaintiffs filed a petition asking the Commission to delist coho salmon south of San Francisco from the list of endangered species, arguing that these fish did not qualify for listing because they were not “native” within the meaning of the California Endangered Species Act. The court of appeal denied relief on a procedural basis, concluding that Plaintiffs’ argument attacked the Commission’s final listing decisions in 1995 and 2004 as having no basis and that a petition to delist a species may not be employed to challenge a final determination of the Commission. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a delisting petition may, based upon new evidence, challenge an earlier listing decision; and (2) therefore, the court of appeal incorrectly limited the scope of the delisting petition. View "Central Coast Forest Ass’n v. Fish & Game Commission" on Justia Law

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The City of San Diego adopted an ordinance imposing a tax on visitors for occupancy in hotels located within the City. The tax, known as the transient occupancy tax, is calculated as a percentage of the “rent charged by the operator” of the hotel. The City of San Diego issued transient occupancy tax assessments against online travel companies (OTCs) on the basis that the OTCs were liable as the “operator” of every hotel. The OTCs appealed. A hearing officer found that the OTCs owed tax on the amount retained by the OTCs above the amount remitted to the hotels as the agreed wholesale cost of the room rental. The superior court vacated the decision, concluding that OTCs are not operators of the hotels and that the markup the OTCs charge for their services is not part of the rent subject to the tax. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the ordinance, the operator of a hotel is liable for tax on the wholesale cost plus any additional amount for room rental the operator requires the OTC to charge the visitor under the “rate party” provisions of hotel-OTC contracts; but (2) OTCs are not operators within the meaning of the ordinance. View "In re Transient Occupancy Tax Cases" on Justia Law

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In 2006, the San Mateo Community College District and its Board of Trustees (collectively, District) proposed a district-wide facilities improvement plan that called for demolishing certain buildings and renovating others. The District approved the plan, determining that it would have no potentially significant, unmitigated effect on the environment. In 2011, the District proposed changes to the plan. The District approved the changes, determining that they did not require the preparation of a subsequent or supplemental environmental impact report under Public Resources Code section 21166 and CEQA Guidelines section 15162. The Court of Appeal invalidated the District’s decision, ruling that the District’s proposal was a new project altogether and, therefore, subject to the initial environmental review standards of Public Resources Code section 21151 rather than the subsequent review standards of section 21166 and section 15162. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Court of Appeal erred in its application of the new project test. Remanded for further proceedings. View "Friends of College of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo Cmty. College Dist." on Justia Law

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The Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region, a state agency, issued a permit authorizing local agencies (collectively, Operators) to operate storm drain systems. Permit conditions required that the Operators take various steps to maintain the quality of California’s water and to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. Some Operators sought reimbursement for the cost of satisfying the conditions. The Commission on State Mandates concluded that each required condition was mandated by the state, rather than by federal law, and therefore, the Operators were entitled to reimbursement for the associated costs. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the permit conditions were federally mandated and thus not reimbursable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the permit conditions were imposed as a result of the state’s discretionary action, and therefore, the conditions were not federally mandated and were reimbursable. View "Dep’t of Fin. v. Comm’n on State Mandates" on Justia Law