October 2008

By Leslie Z. Walker

For the two years following passage of Assembly Bill 32 (Chapter 488, Statutes 2006), practitioners have wrestled with establishing the level at which a project’s contribution to global climate change is considered to be significant for the purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”).

Continue Reading ARB Guidance on CEQA Thresholds: Not Every Bit Counts, and CEQA Exemptions Apply

By William W. Abbott and Nathan Jones

While green energy is on the rise, there are casualties of even the most well-intentioned projects. In Center for Biological Diversity v. FPL Group, Inc. (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 1349, the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District upheld the dismissal of a public trust enforcement action against the owners and operators of wind turbines in the Altamont Pass area (the “Operators”). According to the Center for Biological Diversity (“CBD”), the turbines injure and kill raptors and other birds. Ultimately, CBD was successful in clarifying that the birds are a public trust resource of all the people of the state. However, the appellate court held that the proper party to bring an action against is the public agency with permitting authority, rather than the Operators.

Continue Reading Wildlife Protected by the Public Trust Doctrine, but Doctrine Can Only be Enforced Against Public Agencies

Bill Abbott, a founding partner of the firm, will be speaking at the Building Industry Associations event on Policy Series: Development Agreements on November 14, 2008, in Roseville. Bill will be presenting an overview of development agreements including a discussion on the potential to reopen existing agreements for re-negotiation. For more details, including RSVP information, visit the Northstate BIA website.

By Glen Hansen

In Zanelli v. McGrath (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 615, the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District clarified the circumstances under which easements may be extinguished under the doctrine of merger where the dominant and servient tenements are jointly owned by more than one person. As with most easement cases, the specific facts in Zanelli were critical to both the establishment and extinguishment of the easement in question.

Continue Reading Extinguishing Easements Through Merging Properties Under Common Ownership

By Glen Hansen

In T.O. IX, LLC v. Superior Court (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 140, a contractor built a street through a nine-home subdivision developed by the property owners. The contractor alleged that he had not been paid. The contractor then recorded nine individual mechanic’s liens against each home; or, as the court summarized: “nine separate liens, at the full amount each, to secure the contractor’s right to be paid once.” The property owners applied ex parte for an order permitting them to release the parcels from the nine mechanic’s liens by posting a single surety bond in an amount equal to one and one-half times the total amount of the contractor’s claim, as provided under Civil Code section 3143. The trial court denied the owners’ application. The Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, reversed.

Continue Reading “Unlike A Cat, The Mechanic’s Lien Here Has One Life, Not Nine,” Says Court of Appeal

By William W. Abbott

Sometimes, the moral of an appellate court decision is hard to find. In this case, I think it is buried in the footnotes. Many cities and counties now use administrative procedures including monetary citations as part of zoning and building code enforcement. Procedurally, a party subject of an adverse order has two avenues of appeal. First, a de novo appeal can be filed and heard by the superior court, or as illustrated in the recent case of Martin v. Riverside County Department of Code Enforcement (September 19, 2008) 2008 Cal.App.Lexis 1444, a challenge via a petition for writ of mandate serves as an alternative remedy. (Gov. Code § 53069.4(b)(1).)

Continue Reading Zoning Citations: Next Time, Pay the Fine!