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

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 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

On January 5, 2017, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District partially published Hernandez v. Town of Apple Valley, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2016) (Case No. E063721).  The published portion of the opinion addresses important issues arising in connection with alleged violations of both the Ralph M. Brown Act and California Constitution.  In particular, the case centered on an allegedly defective agenda description for a land use initiative to amend a specific plan to allow a 30-acre commercial development anchored by a Walmart Supercenter.

Continue Reading Agenda with Superficial Description Violated Brown Act but Related Land Use Initiative for a Walmart Store did not Violate California Constitution

In 2012, the California legislature amended the remedies available to address violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act. The amendment added section 54960.2 to the Government Code to require that anyone seeking to challenge past actions of a legislative body in violation of the Brown Act must first submit a “cease and desist” letter.  If the legislative body “unconditionally commits”—at an open and noticed regular or special meeting, and not on the consent agenda—“that it will cease, desist from, and not repeat the challenged past action,” then no judicial remedy is available.  Thus, the amendment allows local agencies to avoid litigation by promising to end practices that cause accusations of Brown Act violations—without admitting that they are unlawful.  The amendment also gives citizens the opportunity to demand and achieve such changes without having to file a lawsuit.

On May 31, 2016, in Center for Local Government Accountability v. City of San Diego, __ Cal.App.4th __ (2016) (Case No. D068432), the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District addressed the Brown Act’s cease and desist requirement in the context of San Diego’s adherence to an ordinance providing only for one non-agenda public comment period over the course of the City’s two-day regular weekly meetings.  At issue was the Brown Act’s requirement for the agenda of every regular meeting of a local legislative body to include an opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body on matters within its purview, but not otherwise on its agenda for action.


Continue Reading Court Clarifies that Brown Act “Cease and Desist” Requirements Apply to Past Actions of a Legislative Body and Awards Costs to Prevailing Plaintiff