By Glen C. Hansen

In DeCicco v. California Coastal Commission (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 947, Franco and Sonia DeCicco owned four contiguous lots in the coastal zone in San Luis Obispo County (County). They applied to the County for a permit that would allow them to subdivide their parcels into five parcels and construct four townhouses and a motel. Under the local coastal plan, the principal permitted uses for the DeCicco property were the type of residential multifamily and commercial retail proposed by the DeCiccos. The County approved the DeCiccos’ permit application and sent notice of the approval to the California Coastal Commission (“Commission”). The County and the Commission disagreed as to whether the permit was appealable to the Commission. The Commission made a determination that, although the DeCicco’s project involved principal permitted uses, it also required approval for a subdivision, which conferred appellate jurisdiction on the Commission under Public Resources Code section 30603, subdivision (a)(4). The DeCiccos filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the Commission’s determination of jurisdiction of the matter. The Commission demurred to the petition on the ground that the DeCiccos failed to allege they exhausted administrative remedies. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend. Plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed. 

The court applied section 30603, subdivision (a)(4), which provides in relevant part: “(a) After certification of its local coastal program, an action taken by a local government on a coastal development permit application may be appealed to the commission for only the following types of developments: [¶] … [¶] (4) Any development approved by a coastal county that is not designated as the principal permitted use … .” Under that statute, if all the DeCiccos needed for their project was a permit to construct a principal permitted use, then the court would have held that the permit would not be appealable to the Commission. But the DeCiccos’ project required more than a permit to construct a principal permitted use; it also needed subdivision approval. The court explained that, although a “subdivision” may not be a use of land, it is nevertheless a “development” within the meaning of the Coastal Act. Additionally, there is no language in section 30603, subdivision (a)(4), that exempted the DeCiccos’ subdivision of land from the Commission’s appellate jurisdiction.

Glen C. Hansen is an attorney 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, or 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.