Local Government Land Use News Update

By William W. Abbott

Fraternity defeats City injunction request by reorganizing as a religious order.

In a surprising turn of events for City officials, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, the single largest source of noise complaints in the City of Fresno, reorganized itself as a religious order last February. This conversion came about as a result of City officials filing a nuisance complaint and seeking a preliminary injunction. The fraternity quickly reorganized itself as a religious brotherhood, albeit one with unconventional practices. At the hearing on the preliminary injunction, the trial court judge, the Honorable Douglas Neidermeyer, expressed sympathy for the City’s concerns. However, the judge declined the City’s preliminary injunction request, ruling that under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the City was not likely to succeed on the merits. The judge’s order stated: “The law requires this court to have an open mind as to what constitutes bona fide religious practices. As the defendants have demonstrated in their opposition papers, the wilder side of Lutherans and the Amish, while not well known, are nevertheless well documented. This court cannot discriminate in favor of established more popular religions over those that are not.” Trial is set in August while the students are on summer break.

Now we are talking fresh.

I remember “Farms in Berkeley?” as a long time Bay Area advertising tag line. This upcoming June, if the voters of the City of Berkeley have their way, the tag line will take on a whole new meaning. Responding to the national farm-to-table movement, residents have taken the message to heart and have qualified an initiative which will allow residents to actively engage in micro-farming practices on their single family lots. And we are not talking marijuana here. The proposed zoning code amendment would allow active farming in back and front yards, including familiar American barnyard animals such as chickens, pigs and cows, along with exotics common to South American and Southeast Asian cultures. Says the spokesperson for the initiative proponents, from now on in Berkeley, the “f” in the word “fresh” will stand for “front yard”. Opposition includes the corporate pork, chicken, dairy and soybean industries.

Union officials present ultimatum to day care developer: go union or litigate.

Use of CEQA by organized labor as a negotiating tool for obtaining union construction contracts is nothing new, but a local union showed a new twist on the topic when it offered to settle a CEQA lawsuit filed over a project approval by the City of Alta Pasadena if toddlers attending the proposed Bright Smiles day care center joined the union’s pre-apprenticeship program. The center operator would collect a nominal mandatory dues payment from each student every month, and transmit the payment to the union. “We view this as a great opportunity to build our membership ranks and to educate our youth on the advantages of joining a union. Within a few years of leaving day care, these students will be eligible for our apprentice program.” Bright Smiles representatives had no comment.

William W. Abbott is a partner at Abbott & Kindermann, LLP. For questions relating to this article or any other California land use, real estate, environmental and/or planning issues contact Abbott & Kindermann, LLP at (916) 456-9595.

The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice by Abbott & Kindermann, LLP, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Because of the changing nature of this area of the law and the importance of individual facts, readers are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.

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