November 2005

by Sophie Rowlands

Apparently, you can still buy a home in California where the cattle (if not buffalo) do roam. Just look for property located within a designated Open Range area. Pursuant to California Food and Agriculture Code section 17124, the board of supervisors in any California county may pass an ordinance devoting the entire county or certain portions of it to livestock grazing. Such areas do not have to be limited to publically owned lands; they can and often do encompass privately owned lands. Continue Reading Don’t Fence Me In

Diane Kindermann recently helped secure Sacramento-Yolo Port Commission approval of a $12 million bulk cement import and distribution facility at the Port of Sacramento in West Sacramento. The center could potentially double the port’s annual cargo.

Joel Ellinwood and Bill Abbott assisted K. Hovnanian Forecast Homes, Inc. in final approval of contested Swainson’s hawk mitigation, offsite sewer line improvements, and reimbursement and final map approval for the Schmidt Ranch project. The project is located in Galt.

Are “losing” plaintiffs eligible to recover attorney’s fees under the private attorney general statute? According to Bowman v. City of Berkeley (2005) 131 Cal.App.4th 173, a recent decision from the First District Court of Appeal, the answer may be yes. Plaintiffs won their initial due process claim in superior court when the court found that they did not receive a fair hearing during their opposition to a proposed development project. After the City held another hearing and re-approved the project, the superior court denied the rest of plaintiffs’ claims and found for the City. This decision was affirmed on appeal in Bowman v. City of Berkeley (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 572, and was discussed in a November 2004 Abbott & Kindermann article. The superior court subsequently awarded over $18,000 in attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs pursuant to the Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. On appeal, the City protested that plaintiffs’ “real concerns” were their interests in the project and not the procedural due process claims. The appellate court disagreed and held that attorney’s fees are recoverable: 1) by a successful party, 2) in an action that enforces an important public interest right, 3) if a significant benefit has been conferred on the public, and 4) the financial burden makes an award appropriate. Even though the plaintiffs lost in the traditional sense because the project was ultimately approved, the Court of Appeal found that they were a successful party under the statute and ordered the City to pay attorney’s fees. 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.

The Supreme Court granted review in this case on January 25, 2006, and the opinion below is no longer citable. See Abbott & Kindermann Land Use Law Blog article for a discussion of the Supreme Court opinion. by Elias E. Guzman and Janell M. Bogue CALFED is an unprecedented collaboration among 18 state and federal agencies and the state’s leading urban, agricultural, and environmental interests. The ultimate goal is to develop a long-term, comprehensive plan that will restore ecological health and improve water management for beneficial uses of the Bay-Delta system, the intricate waterways created at the junction of the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and the watersheds that feed them. After many years of study and analysis, CALFED adopted a program to be administered over the next 30 years. The program includes measures designed to improve the Bay-Delta ecosystem, water quality and quantity, and Delta levee stability. On August 28, 2000, the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (PEIS/R) was certified and CALFED adopted the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Program in accordance with NEPA and CEQA. Continue Reading Programmatic EIRs Still Require Details and Analysis to be Found Sufficient

by William W. Abbott

How far can a city council go in closed session in settling litigation involving a land use dispute? We have a better idea after reading Trancas Property Owners Association v. City of Malibu (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 1245 (rehearing granted October 26, 2005). In the eyes of the Second District Court of Appeal, the city council cannot (1) contract away the police power (the authority to apply later enacted zoning), and (2) make land use decisions which would otherwise be subject to a public hearing process. Continue Reading Municipal Authority to Settle Litigation in Closed Session