In Nellie Gail Ranch Owners Association v. McMullin, (2016) 4 Cal.App.5th 982, the court of appeal affirmed a trial court ruling quieting title to a portion of planned development’s common area in favor of a homeowners association (HOA) in Laguna Hills. In this case, a homeowner sought the HOA’s approval to construct several backyard improvements, including renovations to a pool, and new stairways, retaining walls and fences that dropped down the owner’s hillside towards HOA common area (Lot 274). The HOA approved the pool renovations, but not the owner’s proposed re-grading, retaining walls and fences. However, the owner’s constructed those improvements anyway, which had the effect of fencing in 6,000 SF of the common area, and the HOA sued.
Case Update: Appellate Court Holds That Affordable Housing “In-Lieu” Fees Are Not Exactions And Thus Not Subject To The Reasonable Relationship Test (Following California Building Industry Assn. v. City of San Jose (2015) 61 Cal.4th 435).
In 616 Croft Ave., LLC v. City of West Hollywood, (2016) 3 Cal.App.5th 621, the court of appeal held that the City’s in-lieu affordable housing fee was not subject to the reasonable relationship test under the Nollan/Dolan line of cases. The subject project, an 11-unit condominium development on two combined lots, was approved in 2005, but because of the economic downturn the developer did not request building permits until 2011. During that time, the City’s in-lieu housing fee under its 2011 fee schedule had increased to $540,000.00. The developer paid under protest, and then sued the City for a refund in 2012, arguing that the fee was an illegal “exaction”.
Case Update: Appellate Court Holds That Coastal Act Protections Supersede State Affordable Housing and Density Bonus Rules.
In Kalnel Gardens, LLC v. City of Los Angeles, (2016) 3 Cal.App.5th 927, the court of appeal held that affordable housing requirements set forth in the Density Bonus Act (Gov. Code § 65915 et seq.) and the Mello Act (Gov. Code § 65590 et seq.) were superseded by development restrictions set forth in the California Coastal Act (Pub. Resources Code § 30001 et seq.). The subject project included five new duplexes and five new single family homes in an old neighborhood in Venice comprised mostly of single-story 1920s-era bungalows. The project also included density bonus concessions under the City’s density bonus ordinance, including higher rooflines and shorter setbacks. Plaintiffs argued that the project violated the Coastal Act because its height, density, setbacks and other visual and physical characteristics were out of character of the existing neighborhood.
ADUs: California Legislature Passes Easier, Statewide Permitting Requirements and Restrictions For Granny Units.
The California Legislature recently passed new rules making it easier, faster, and presumably less expensive, for people to get permits for new “granny units” otherwise referred to as “accessory dwelling units” (“ADUs”). Senate Bill 1069, which was signed by Governor Brown on September 27, 2016 and takes effect on January 1, 2017, amends Government Code section 65852.2 to require local agencies statewide to amend their zoning ordinances to implement several uniform development requirements and restrictions on ADUs – both substantive and procedural.
The new substantive rules include the following:
- ADUs shall not be required to provide fire sprinklers if they are not required for the primary residence;
- Off-street parking requirements (not more than 1 per ADU or bedroom), may be provided as tandem parking on a driveway;
- No off-street parking requirements may be imposed on ADUs that meet any of the following criteria:
- The ADU is located within one-half mile of public transit.
- The ADU is located within an architecturally and historically significant historic district.
- The ADU is part of the existing primary residence or an existing accessory structure.
- When the local jurisdiction requires on-street parking permits but does not offer them to the occupant of an ADU.
- When there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the ADU.
- In addition, a local agency may reduce or eliminate parking requirements for any ADU located within its jurisdiction;
- ADUs shall not be considered new residential uses for the purposes of calculating local agency connection fees or capacity charges for utilities, including water and sewer service;
- For certain types of ADUs, a local agency shall not require the applicant to install a new or separate utility connection directly between the ADU and the utility or impose a related connection fee or capacity charge;
- The floor area of an attached ADU shall not exceed 50 percent of the existing living area of the existing structure (increased from 30 percent). (Note: Unchanged are the existing restrictions that for attached ADUs the maximum increase in floor area is 1,200 square feet, and that the maximum total floorspace for a detached ADU is 1,200 square feet);
- A local agency may require an applicant to be an owner-occupant and may require that the property not be used for rentals for terms shorter than 30 days.
Railroad Trestle/Historical Resource. In Friends of the Willow Glen Trestle v. City of San Jose, (6th Dist. 2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 457, petitioners challenged the City of San Jose’s decision to not to prepare a full environmental impact report (EIR) for a project to replace an old wooden trestle with a new steel bridge. The trestle is a wooden railroad bridge that was built in 1922 as part of a “spur line” to provide “rail freight access” to “canning districts” near downtown San Jose. The trial court struck down the City’s approval of the project, holding that petitioners had demonstrated that there was a “fair argument” that the project would have significant environmental impacts (thereby requiring an EIR), because there was a fair argument that the bridge was a historical resource. However, the appellate court reversed, holding that the more deferential “substantial evidence” standard of judicial review applied to the City’s determination that the bridge was not a historical resource.
CASE UPDATE: Appellate Court Affirms Award of Davis-Stirling Attorneys’ Fees to HOA in Action Against Homeowner to Enforce Settlement Agreement.
In Rancho Mirage County Club Homeowners Association v. Hazelbaker, (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 252, the court of appeal affirmed a trial court award of attorneys’ fees to an HOA in a lawsuit filed to enforce the terms of a settlement agreement with a homeowner. The homeowner applied for and received approval from the HOA’s architectural review committee to make certain improvements to a patio area, however, the HOA contended that the homeowner made improvements that exceeded the scope of the approval and which would not have been approved had they been included in the application.
In La Mirada Neighborhood Assoc. of Hollywood v. City of Los Angeles, (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 586, the court of appeal dismissed as moot an appeal of the City of Los Angeles’s approval of a large development for the Target Corporation, which included a 75-foot building. Approving the project, the City granted Target six exceptions from development restrictions contained in the applicable specific plan, which included a prohibition on commercial buildings taller than 35 feet. The plaintiff neighborhood sued, arguing that the City had not made the requisite findings of “exceptional conditions”, which were necessary to justify the exceptions. The trial court agreed and ordered the cessation of all construction activities. Target then filed an appeal, and during the pendency of the appeal, the City adopted several amendments to the specific plan, such that the project was not reliant on the City making exceptions to the specific plan’s development restrictions. The court of appeal then dismissed the appeal as moot.
©2016 Miles J. Dolinger. This article is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or a solicitation for the formation of an attorney-client relationship.
CASE UPDATE: A City’s General Plan Amendment Eliminating Minimum Residential Density Requirements Is Not Exempt From CEQA.
In People for Proper Planning v. City of Palm Springs (2016), 2016 WL 3005719, an affordable housing advocacy group filed a lawsuit challenging City of Palm Springs’s adoption of a general plan amendment (GPA) removing minimum density requirements for each residential development. The trial court ruled that the GPA was exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), but the court of appeal reversed on this issue.
Sciarratta v. U.S. Bank National Association, (2016) 202 Cal.Rptr.3d 219, is another in a series of wrongful foreclosure cases working their way through the courts of appeal. In this case, the borrower, Sciarratta, was foreclosed on after becoming $15,000.00 in arrears on a $620,000.00 loan.
At the May 10, 2016 Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors meeting, County staff presented their recommendations for a new commercial cannabis cultivation ordinance. Those recommendations were informed by a report of the Board-appointed Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee (“C4”), with follow up input by some of the Supervisors. The staff report can be found at: http://santacruzcountyca.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=1189&Inline=True
(See page 459 to the end, which is agenda item 53.)
The staff report is fairly complicated. (For example, it states that the C4 group voted on 84 different issues.) The main subjects of the proposed ordinance will include: minimum parcel sizes, maximum permitted canopy sizes, and zoning; setbacks; exceptions; taxes and fees; and license and registration requirements.