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.

On October 17, 2018, in Beach and Bluff Conservancy v. City of Solana Beach, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2018) (Case No. D072304), the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled against a coastal property owner’s group in its facial challenge to amendments to the City of Solana Beach’s Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan.  The amendments adopted policies encouraging greater public access and restricting the use of seawalls and other shoreline protection devices.

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On October 1, 2018, in Westsiders Opposed to Overdevelopment v. City of Los Angeles, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2018) (Case No. B285458), the Second District Court of Appeal denied an appeal challenging the City of Los Angeles’ approval of the Martin Expo Town Center, an 800,000 square foot mixed-use project on a five-acre site in West Los Angeles.  The project includes the demolition of Martin Cadillac, along with the construction of 516 residential units in a seven story building, 99,000 of ground floor retail space, and 200,000 square feet of office floor area in a ten story building.

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On September 30, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2923, which gives the Bay Area Rapid Transit District land use authority for transit-oriented development on the land it already owns near existing and planned stations.  The District intends to use the law to fully build out BART-owned land around its stations by 2040.

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In 2005, in Lingle v. Chevron U.S.A. Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overruled the first prong of a regulatory takings test established 25 years earlier, in Agins v. City of Tiburon.  In Agins, the Court held that a regulation effects a taking if it (1) does not “substantially advance legitimate state interests” or (2) “denies an owner economically viable use of his land.”  Writing for a unanimous Court in Lingle, then Justice Sandra Day O’Connor recognized that “the language the Court selected [in Agins] was regrettably imprecise” and “reveals nothing about the magnitude or character of the burden a particular regulation imposes upon private property rights.”

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The City of Rancho Palos Verdes is the site of the ancient Portuguese Bend and Abalone Cove landslides, both of which remain active.  In 1978, in response to movement of the Abalone Cove landslide, the City adopted an “urgency ordinance” establishing the “Landslide Moratorium Area,” which generally prohibits new residential development in the landslide area.  The moratorium area is divided into eight zones of varying stability.  The ordinance and subsequent amendments created various categories of exceptions to and exclusions from the moratorium that have been the subject of extensive litigation.

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On August 23, 2018, the California Supreme Court held, in City of Morgan Hill v. Bushey, __ Cal.4th __ (2018) (Case No. S243042), that a referendum petition to challenge a zoning ordinance amendment that would bring the ordinance into compliance with the county’s or city’s general plan is valid, even though such a referendum would temporarily leave in place zoning that does not comply with the general plan, at least if the local agency has other means to make the ordinance consistent with the plan.  The Court reasoned that such a referendum simply keeps the underlying inconsistency in place for a certain time––until the local agency can make the zoning ordinance consistent with general plan.

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On July 23, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 1689).  Sponsored by Wisconsin Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. and California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the Act intends to address Kelo v. City of New London, the controversial 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed the right of a city to use the power of eminent domain to take and transfer property from one private party to another for the “public purpose” of economic development.

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On July 25, 2018, the Third District Court of Appeal published Nat’l Conference of Black Mayors v. Chico Community Publishing, Inc. , __ Cal.App.5th __ (2018) (Case No. C083956), a case of first impression addressing whether the Public Records Act allows an award of attorney fees to a requester who litigates against an officer of a public agency in a mandamus action the officer initiated to prevent the public agency from disclosing records the agency agreed to disclose.

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On June 12, 2018, in County of Ventura v. City of Moorpark and Broad Beach Geologic Hazard Abatement District, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2018) (Case No. B282466), the Second District Court of Appeal published a decision addressing whether the California Environmental Quality Act’s broad definition of “project also applies to statutory exemptions, questions of state law preemption, the limits of a city’s contractual authority, and the abdication of a government entity’s police power.  My partner, Art Coon, wrote about the CEQA issues here.

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