May 2015


By William W. Abbott

Keep Our Mountains Quiet v. County of Santa Clara (May 7, 2015, H039707) ___ Cal.App.4th ___.

The “Fair Argument” standard remains as the operative benchmark in assessing the validity of a negative declaration. The most recent decision involves approval by Santa Clara County of a wedding site venue located off of Summit Road, a state maintained facility in rural Santa Clara County. Existing uses on the property included a winery, llama and alpaca grazing lands, barns and a residence. Adjacent properties include park land owned by an open space district (with restricted access) and homes. In a not uncommon fact pattern, the property owner began hosting wedding events, some of which had up to 300 guests. Following complaints and direction from the County, the applicant filed for a use permit seeking 28 special events for up to 100 guests and 12 staff, during the hours of 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The County studied the project for three years before issuing a mitigated negative declaration (MND). After taking testimony, the Planning Commission approved a revised MND in December 2011. The neighbors appealed the Board of Supervisors who denied the appeal, affirming the MND and conditional use permit. Conditions of approval included the following limitations: only one outdoor live event (to be monitored) orientation of speakers away from existing homes towards the open space preserve with specific placement approved by the planning department based upon a review by a noise consultant. CEQA litigation followed. The trial court found that an EIR was required due to potential noise and traffic impacts, declining to rule on the alleged violations of planning and zoning law deeming them moot. The court also awarded the petitioner attorney fees of $145,747, but declined to enhance the award as requested by the petitioner. Petitioner and real party in interest both appealed. The County did not.

Continue Reading “Happily ever after?” Not according to the neighbors of rural wedding site venue.

By Brian Russell

Nick v. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (2014) 233 Cal.App.4th 194.

This is a case of one convenience store owner attempting to prevent another convenience store, 7-Eleven, from selling beer and wine by using the powers of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). The petitioners, Adam and Sherry Nick (Nick) claimed in its complaint that under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act (Bus. and Prof Code, Section 23000 et seq. or the “Act”) it prohibits the ABC from issuing a license that would result in or add to an undue concentration of licenses unless the local governing body of the area where the applicant’s premises is located determines that issuing the license would serve a “public convenience or necessity.”

Continue Reading Did the California Alcoholic Beverage Control Cede its Authority?