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.

Continue Reading City Subdivision Regulations Do Not Apply To Family Compound On Existing Lots

By William W. Abbott

If you were hoping for an insightful article on human relationships, you are out of luck and clearly, you are reading the wrong blog. But if you are interested in bonding as it relates to subdivisions and improvement agreements, read on. With a frequency slightly ahead of locusts appearing every seventeen years, cases involving subdivision improvement bonds are cyclical, trailing serious downturns in the real estate development market. Two cases this year illustrate interesting features of this practice area.


By William W. Abbott

The last market downturn has resulted in Subdivision Map Act (“SMA”) cases involving circumstances in which the parties to a purchase or option agreement pertaining to a portion of a legal parcel failed to include express language as a contingency requiring compliance with the SMA. Depending upon whether the real estate market is rising or falling, both buyers and sellers have taken advantage of the limitations of Government Code section 64499.30. To date, these cases include Black Hills Investments, Inc. v. Albertson’s, Inc. (2007) 146 Cal.App.4th 883 and Sixells, LLC v. Cannery Business Park (2008) 170 Cal.App.4th 648.

Continue Reading Buyer And Seller Can Cure A SMA Violation Under Black Hills Through Subsequent Agreement Modification

By William W. Abbott

Not surprisingly, the building industry was able to convince the Legislature to keep pending maps alive for another two years. AB 116, Chap. 62 Stats. 2013. Fortunately, the Legislature abandoned its existing complicated statutory formula for determining winners and losers, opting for much simpler protocols. If the TSM was approved after January 1, 2000 and the map was pending on July 11, 2013, the tentative map is extended by 24 months. This extension occurs automatically.

Continue Reading California Legislature Breathes Life Into Tentative Maps One More Time

By William W. Abbott

Pacific Palisades Bowl Mobile Estates, LLC v. City of Los Angeles (November 29, 2012, S187243) ___Cal.4th ___. In a 6 to 1 decision, the California Supreme Court concluded that mobilehome park conversions subject to Government Code section 66427.5 of the Subdivision Map Act are also subject to the Coastal Act and Mello Act (the latter for affordable housing in the Coastal zone.) In 1991, the Legislature enacted Government Code section 66427.5. This new code section set forth the particular determinations under the Subdivision Map Act when local government was processing a subdivision map application for conversion of a rental park to an owner occupied park and was intended to narrow the scope of local government inquiry which might otherwise be permitted by the Subdivision Map Act when processing other types of proposed subdivisions. The 1991 legislation included language which stated, in conjunction with local government review of the tentative map, that “The scope of the hearing shall be limited to the issue of compliance with this section.”

Continue Reading Mobilehome Park Conversions Trigger Coastal and Mello Act Compliance Requirements

By William W. Abbott

Within the Subdivision Map Act (Map Act), the processing of a mobilehome park conversion (from rental to individual ownership) invokes some of the more complex procedures, and from a local government perspective, potentially involves an application with a lot of emotional baggage. Unlike other Map Act related applications, park conversions involve a tenant survey, the results of which have been the subject of a several appellate court decisions. The recent appellate opinion in Chino MHC, LP v. City of Chino (October 31, 2012, E053467) ___ Cal.App.4th ___, provides guidance in two areas: what is the effect under the Permit Streamlining Act of a city determination that an application is complete when later reviewing the mandated tenant survey form, and, are the results of the tenant survey the basis to deny a conversion request?

Continue Reading Appellate Court Applies Permit Streamlining Act to Affirm Effect of City Acknowledging Completeness of Application; Restricts Consideration of Tenant Survey in Mobilehome Park Conversion Application

By William W. Abbott

Sierra Club v. Napa County Board of Supervisors (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 162.

In 1991, the California Legislature amended the Subdivision Map Act to restrict the use of boundary line adjustments by limiting their use to four or fewer adjacent parcels. Government Code Section 66412(d). While intended to deal with the reconfiguration of large ranches without going through the subdivision process, the 1991 amendment made the process of making minor technical adjustments between contiguous parcels unnecessarily more cumbersome then what was really necessary. (Essentially, the use of a nail gun to put in a thumbtack.) Local governments and engineers developed different strategies for working around the amendments. One of those was processing multiple sequential adjustments. 

Continue Reading Court Upholds Processing of Sequential Boundary Line Adjustments

By William W. Abbott

This case reminds me of that dreaded moment when a judge, work supervisor or parent turns to you and asks, “what part of “NO” don’t you understand; the “N” or the “O”? And as simple as the question is, the answer, in a land use context, is more complicated then would first appear. For purposes of housing projects, the riddle is Government Code section 65589.5(j) which, among other provisions, requires a city or county to adopt findings justifying the denial or density reduction in circumstances in which the project complies with “applicable, objective general plan and zoning standards and criteria, including design review standards.” This code section was added in an effort to tighten down the discretion exercised by local officials when acting on a housing project application. It is codified as part of the Housing Accountability Act. A companion code section places the burden of proof on the city or county. (Government Code section 65589.6.)

Continue Reading How Do You Say “No” To A Housing Project? With Findings.

By Leslie Walker

On July 13, 2011, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 208, granting a two-year extension to certain tentative maps. To qualify, the maps must have been approved and not yet expired as of July 15, 2011 and must expire before January 1, 2014. The terms of the extension are similar to a similar bill passed in 2009 (Assembly Bill 333, see How Many Lawyers Does it Take to Extend a Tentative Map?). Assembly Bill 208 extensions are in addition to extensions provided for in the following Government Code sections:

Continue Reading Tentative Maps Receive Third Extension

Please join William W. Abbott and Steven Rudolph on August 18, 2011 from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM for an in depth look at the art of crafting development agreements in their UC Davis Extension course, Vested Rights, Vesting Maps and Development Agreements.

Development agreements are an effective avenue for a community and a developer to work together to process projects. Both sides need to carefully consider the terms of these contracts and look at questions of content and performance before completing such agreements. Review the legislative and judicial aspects of development agreements. Examine the legal basis for development agreements and the overlap between agreements and vesting subdivision maps.

Gain an understanding of the negotiating process, identify and discuss the range of options available when negotiating a development agreement, and review the "theoretically" possible agreement. Review the key points to an agreement and learn ways to assist in understanding the needs of the "other side." Learn how to strategically pick the players to conduct the negotiation. An in-depth discussion will look at techniques and concepts that are likely to work, those that do not, and why most attempts at development agreements are doomed to failure.

Topics include:

  • Common Law Vested Rights
  • Legal Review
  • Development Agreements vs. Vested Maps
  • The Development Agreement Statute
  • Key Terms and Alternative Approaches
  • Considerations in Negotiating the Agreement
  • Contents of an Agreement
  • Testing the Waters
  • Paper Control—Who Drafts the Document?
  • Enforceability
  • How to Implement Agreements
  • What Happens After the Life of an Agreement?

Register at:,%20Vesting%20Maps%20and%20Development%20Agreements&prgList=LUP&AreaName=Land+Use