Photo of Bryan W. Wenter, AICP

 

Bryan W. Wenter, AICP, is a shareholder in Miller Starr Regalia’s Walnut Creek office and a member of the firm’s Land Use Practice Group. For nearly 20 years, his practice has centered on land use and local government law, with a focus on obtaining and defending land use entitlements for a wide range of complex development projects including, in-fill, mixed-use, residential, retail/commercial, and industrial. His areas of expertise include general plans and specific plans, planned development zoning, vested rights, subdivision maps, development impact fees and exactions, conditional use permits, variances, initiatives and referenda, RLUIPA, CEQA, Ralph M. Brown Act, and Public Records Act. He previously served as City Attorney and Assistant City Attorney for the City of Walnut Creek.

The Third District Court of Appeal published an important new case on September 16, 2020—Parkford Owners for a Better Community v. County of Placer, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2020) (Case No. C087824)—holding that a project opponent’s challenge to the expansion of a development project was moot given that construction was nearly complete.  The case distinguishes other leading cases addressing “mootness” in the land use and CEQA context and provides important insights for those involved in the development process.

Continue Reading Completion of Development Project Rendered Opponent’s Challenge to County’s Issuance of a Building Permit Moot

On August 17, 2020, in Martis Camp Community Association v. County of Placer, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2020) (Case Nos. C087759 and C087778), the Third District Court of Appeal addressed several novel legal claims arising from the County of Placer’s partial abandonment of public easement rights in a road connecting two adjacent residential subdivisions near Lake Tahoe.

Continue Reading Court Holds That County’s Abandonment of Public Road Easement Rights Did Not Violate Brown Act, Was Supported by Substantial Evidence, and Did Not Create Takings Liability

On August 5, 2020, in Granny Purps, Inc. v. County of Santa Cruz, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2020) (Case No. H045387), the Sixth District Court of Appeal addressed several novel property rights issues related to a law enforcement action in the County of Santa Cruz in which officers seized more than 2,000 marijuana plants from a medical marijuana dispensary for violating a local ordinance restricting marijuana cultivation to no more than 99 plants.

Continue Reading Court Holds That Dispensary’s Violation of County Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance Does Not Justify Seizure of Plants But Rejects Related Takings Claim

California’s statues of limitations in land use cases are notoriously short and harsh and don’t often result in outcomes favorable to aggrieved applicants.  Exceptions such as Honchariw v. County of Stanislaus, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2020) (Case No. F077815) (i.e., Honchariw IV), are thus notable and worth remembering.

Continue Reading Court Holds That Subdivider’s Challenge to County’s Interpretation of Vesting Tentative Map Conditions of Approval May be Filed Beyond 90-Day Statute of Limitations Period

Every once in a while a case comes along that calls to mind the adage that “just because you can think it doesn’t mean you should say it.”  The Second District Court of Appeal’s July 30, 2020 eminent domain decision in Rutgard v. City of Los Angeles, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2020) (Case No. B297655) is one of those cases.

Continue Reading Court Rules in Favor of Landowner in Eminent Domain Case Where City Did Not Use Condemned Property for its Intended Public Use Within 10 Years

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