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CASE UPDATE: Court Allows Spot Zoning For Senior Housing Development Is Permissible.

In Foothill Communities v. County of Orange (4th Dist. 2014), 2014 WL 108975, the County of Orange approved a 153-unit senior housing development on 7 acres in the middle of a neighborhood zoned residential single-family by creating a new ‘senior residential housing land use’ zoning district and then rezoning the subject property to that designation.  The legal issue was whether this constituted illegal “spot zoning”.

To review:

“The essence of spot zoning is irrational discrimination.’ ‘Spot zoning is one type of discriminatory zoning ordinance [which] occurs where a small parcel is restricted and given lesser rights than the surrounding property, as where a lot in the center of a business or commercial district is limited to uses for residential purposes thereby creating an “island” in the middle of a larger area devoted to other uses…Usually spot zoning involves a small parcel of land, the larger the property the more difficult it is to sustain an allegation of spot zoning….Likewise, where the “spot” is not an island but is connected on some sides to a like zone the allegation of spot zoning is more difficult to establish since lines must be drawn at some point….[However,] [e]ven where a small island is created in the midst of less restrictive zoning, the zoning may be upheld where rational reason in the public benefit exists for such a classification.”

The court first held that spot zoning exists whenever a small parcel of land is subject to either more or less restrictive zoning than the surrounding property. (In most spot zoning cases, the plaintiff is complaining that use restrictions imposed on the smaller parcel are unreasonable and discriminatory.). But that did not end the court’s inquiry, because spot zoning may or may not be permissible depending on the circumstances. The plaintiff in Foothill Communities argued that this particular instance of spot zoning should not be permitted because it was inconsistent with the applicable specific plan and general plan.

The court, however, rejected those arguments, finding that the county’s consistency determinations were adequately supported in the record.

©2014 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.

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Miles J. Dolinger
Attorney at Law

314 Capitola Avenue Capitola, CA 95010
Phone: (831) 477-9193
FAX: (831) 477-9196

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