In a new case published on June 8, 2020, North Murrieta Community, LLC v. City of Murrieta, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2020) (Case No. E072663), the Fourth District Court of Appeal addressed novel vested rights issues arising under both the Subdivision Map Act (Gov. Code § 66410 et seq.) and the density bonus law (Gov. Code § 65864 et seq.).  Both statutes essentially establish that when a local agency approves a vesting tentative map or enters a development agreement the developer is entitled to proceed on the project under the local laws in effect the time of the approval.

Continue Reading Development Agreement Allowed City to Impose New Fees on Housing Project Despite Previously Approved Vesting Tentative Map

In an important new case certified for publication on May 8, 2020, Petrovich Development Company, LLC v. City of Sacramento, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2020) (Case No. C087283), the Third District Court of Appeal addressed the constitutional due process restraints imposed on city council members, who are normally policymakers and voices of their constituents except when they act in a quasi-judicial capacity as adjudicators of matters on appeal from an administrative body.

Continue Reading Court Invalidates City’s Denial of Conditional Use Permit Because Councilmember’s Pre-Hearing Actions Demonstrated Bias

Construction projects of every type in six Bay area counties—Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara—may resume operations on Monday, May 4, after health officers in six counties issued new shelter-in-place orders on April 29.  While the new orders ease the rules in numerous ways, including certain outdoor businesses and recreation such as golf and tennis, Governor Newsom is poised to shut down California’s beaches effective Friday, May 1 after crowds defied orders in the face of a brief heat wave last weekend.

Continue Reading New Bay Area Shelter-in-Place Orders Ease Rules, Allow All Construction to Resume Operations

On April 14, 2020, the Alameda County Public Health Department issued a letter to the Oakland Planning & Building Department criticizing the City’s interpretation of the County’s March 31 “shelter-in-place” order.  Like the orders in the other Bay area counties, the stated intent of Alameda’s shelter-in-place order is to have people shelter in their residences to slow the spread of COVID-19. To that end, the order allows people to leave their residences only for specified Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, Essential Travel, to work for Essential Businesses, or to perform Minimum Basic Operations for non-essential businesses.  The order identifies eight types of construction as “Essential Businesses,” including “affordable housing” that contains at least 10% income-restricted units.

Continue Reading Alameda County Public Health Department Pulls Rank on Oakland, Highlights Arbitrary Treatment of Construction Under Shelter-in-Place Orders

Without a single mention of the U.S. or California constitutions, the San Francisco city attorney’s office issued an April 13, 2020 memo declaring that the City may “take any measure necessary to prevent the spread of an infectious disease.”

Continue Reading San Francisco Asserts Sweeping Power “To Take Any Measure Necessary” to Prevent Spread of COVID-19

Seeking to piggyback on the State of Emergency Governor Gavin Newsom declared on March 4, 2020 as part of the state’s response to address the global COVID-19 pandemic, California cities filed a letter with the Governor asking him to “pause” various important statutory timelines that apply to twelve parts of state law, including several that play a central role in the ongoing housing crisis.  In the six-page letter, dated March 22, 2020, the League of California Cities explains that

Continue Reading California Cities Seek Relief From Project Processing, Public Records Act, and Other Key Statutory Timelines During State of Emergency Resulting From COVID-19

On February 18, 2020, in Citizens for South Bay Coastal Access v. City of San Diego, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2020) (Case No. D075387), the Fourth District Court of Appeal rejected a project opposition group’s challenge, under the California Coastal Act, to San Diego’s approval of a conditional use permit to allow the City to convert an existing Super 8 motel into a transitional housing facility for homeless misdemeanor offenders.

Continue Reading Court Rejects Coastal Act Preemption Challenge to San Diego’s Approval of Conditional Use Permit for Transitional Housing Facility

It is usually easy to understand when a local legislative body approves a given motion.  Indeed, a simply majority vote is all that is required for a motion to pass in most communities.  Thus, obtaining a four to one vote of a city council granting an appeal of a planning commission denial of a given development project would typically warrant celebration.  The appeal would have prevailed and the project would be approved.

But vote counting can become complicated in certain circumstances, particularly in communities that have their own unique appeal provisions.  Understanding applicable land use procedural requirements and “reading the tea leaves” is critical.

Continue Reading Rough Justice: 4-1 Supermajority Vote of City Council Not Enough to Grant Appeal of Planning Commission’s Denial of Conditional Use Permit Applications Because 80% < 71%

On February 10, 2020, in Fowler v. City of Lafayette, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2020), the First District Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court decision challenging the City of Lafayette’s approval of a tennis cabana on a residential property.  The petition alleged that the City violated the Ralph M. Brown Act by discussing the application in closed sessions and that the plaintiffs were therefore deprived of their right to a fair hearing.

Continue Reading Court Holds That City Violated Ralph M. Brown Act by Discussing Threatened Litigation Over Development Project in Closed Sessions, but Concludes Project is Not Null and Void Because There Was No Prejudice

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, known as “RLUIPA,” is a federal civil rights law that protects individuals and religious assemblies and institutions from discriminatory and unduly burdensome land use regulations.  Among several key parts of the statute, RLUIPA contains an “equal terms” provision that prohibits any government entity from imposing or implementing a land use regulation in a manner that treats a religious assembly or institution on “less than equal terms” with a nonreligious assembly or institution.  The equal terms provision seeks to address the problem of a local zoning ordinance, either facially or as applied, excluding places of worship where secular assemblies are allowed.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Rejects “Equal Terms” RLUIPA Challenge to Riverside Zoning Ordinance