By William W. Abbott
Tower Lane Properties v. City of Los Angeles (February 28, 2014, B244092) ___ Cal.App.4th ___. This one is not complicated. Facing an applicant’s request for a grading permit on a hillside to construct three homes and accessory uses on three existing parcels, the city required the property owner to obtain a tentative map. The requirement stemmed from the city’s ordinance which specified that a map was required if grading activity involved a hillside site of 60,000 square feet or more. The city offered a waiver of the map requirement, conditioned upon completion of CEQA documentation. Passing on the waiver option, the applicant filed suit to set aside the requirement to process the tentative map as no subdivision was involved.
As a matter of code interpretation, the trial court agreed with the applicant and ordered the map condition struck. The city and neighborhood intervenors appealed. The appellate court agreed with the trial court and the applicant, that as no subdivision was involved, compliance with a tentative map condition was inappropriate. While courts normally defer to local agencies in interpreting their own codes, the evidence of the city’s history of administering this requirement was less than consistent.
In terms of interpretation and administration of land use codes, the appellate decision appears straightforward, and in this author’s opinion does not rank high in interest as land use controversies go. To me however, the back story is far more interesting than the main story. For those of you who believe that the Subdivision Map Act lacks intrigue and drama, I invite you to read on http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/10/benedict-canyon-201110. For the perspective of the neighbors, click here. [http://www.savebenedictcanyon.com/ Here is the Huffpost’s take [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/22/benedict-canyon-megamansi_n_839095.html] And in fact, the story is not over. The applicant has filed a takings claim against the City seeking $25,000,000 in damages. [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-08/saudi-prince-sues-los-angeles-over-permits-for-mansion.html]
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.