Municipal and Special Districts

Court of Appeal Finds Unusual Circumstances Exception Inapplicable

April 23, 2014 | Bulletin No. 1101320.1

Citizens for Environmental Responsibility, Stop the Rodeo and Eric Zmost ("Appellants"), challenged the 14th District Agricultural Association’s (“Association”) approval of a Class 23 CEQA Exemption for a rodeo (“Project”) held at the Santa Cruz County Fairground (“Fairground").  Appellants asserted that the Project constituted an impermissible mitigated exemption and that stormwater flows were running over the Fairground and washing animal feces into a nearby creek constituting unusual circumstances making the exemption inapplicable.  The trial court denied the petition.  Appellants appealed and the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court decision. (Citizens for Environmental Responsibility et al. v. State of California ex. rel. 14th District Agricultural Association et al. (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 1542.)

Court Upholds City's Ability to Regulate an Advertising Sign After Finding the City's Decision was Supported by Substantial Evidence

March 19, 2014 | Bulletin No. 1092303.1

After over 35 years of advertising its business with a 35 foot pole sign, the Court of Appeal agreed with the City of West Sacramento that the time had come for U-Haul to reduce the sign's height to 12 feet in compliance with a local ordinance.  U-Haul contended that Business and Professions Code section 5499 gave it an absolute right to maintain its current sign.   A City hearing officer and board of appeal rejected U-Haul's argument and found the non-conforming sign constituted a nuisance.  In upholding the City's decision, the Court of Appeal, in Amerco Real Estate Company v. City of West Sacramento (March 12, 2014, C072403) --- Cal.App.4th ----, examined whether substantial evidence supported the City's decision, and upon finding such evidence, concluded that U-Haul had no right to maintain its non-conforming sign.

Court Affirms that Municipal and Law Enforcement Agencies Have Limited Liability for Claims Related to False Arrest

March 14, 2014 | Bulletin No. 1092147.1

Santiago Rivera was falsely detained twice, the second time for several weeks, because authorities incorrectly believed that he was the man identified in an arrest warrant. After the second arrest, Rivera filed suit, alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and state law.  Rivera’s claims were rejected by the Ninth Circuit.  (Rivera v. County of Los Angeles (--- F.3d ----,  C.A.9 (Cal.), March 12, 2014).

Court of Appeal Finds Caltrans Omitted Material Necessary to Informed Decision Making by Failing to Include a Threshold of Significance for Old Growth Redwood Trees and Including Mitigation Measures as Part of Project Description

March 3, 2014 | Bulletin No. 1088942.1

In Lotus v. Department of Transportation (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 645, a California Court of Appeal found that Caltrans omitted material necessary to informed decision-making and informed public-participation when it failed to identify a standard of significance for project impacts to old growth redwood trees.  Caltrans also erred in including impact-reducing measures as part of the project description, rather than as mitigation measures.

City May Waive Low Bidder’s Failure to Include First Page of a Bid Bond as an Inconsequential Irregularity

February 26, 2014 | Bulletin No. 1088004.1

In Bay Cities Paving & Grading, Inc. v. San Leandro (January 28, 2014, A137971 ) ---Cal.App.4th ---- [14 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 1559], the City of San Leandro (“City”) awarded a public works contract for the construction of a BART-Downtown Pedestrian Interface Project (“Project”) to the lowest bidder, Oliver DeSilva, Inc., dba Gallagher & Burk (“G&B”).  The second lowest bidder, Bay Cities Paving and Grading, Inc. ("Bay Cities") sought a petition for writ of mandate alleging the City could not properly award the contract to G&B because a missing page in G&B's bid bond was a material deviation from the contract specifications.  The trial court denied the petition and the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment. 

County's Pawn Shop Reporting Ordinance Conflicts with State Law

February 19, 2014 | Bulletin No. 1086154.1

Collateral Loan and Secondhand Dealers Association ("CLSDA"), a trade association for licensed pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers, brought a lawsuit against the County of Sacramento to challenge an ordinance creating a countywide reporting system for CLSDA's constituent members.  CLSDA contended that the ordinance duplicated and conflicted with state law regulating pawnbrokers, and sought both preliminary and permanent injunctive relief.  The trial court granted only minor portions of the relief sought by CLSDA's motion for preliminary injunction, and denied the rest, finding that CLSDA has failed to demonstrate that it was likely to prevail on the merits.  CLSDA appealed.

Claims for Equitable Relief Against Public Agencies Must Have a Constitutional or Clear Statutory Basis

February 19, 2014 | Bulletin No. 1086042.1

In Tuthill v. City of Buenaventura (February 10, 2014, B239668 (--- Cal.App.4th [14 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 1437], Tuthill and Younker ("Plaintiffs") purchased two low income Seneca Highlands townhomes.  At the time of the purchase in 2001, the Plaintiffs were unaware that the townhomes were affordable housing units with price restrictions imposed by a development agreement between the City of San Buenaventura and its housing authority (collectively, “the City”) and the Bulmer Development Corporation (“Bulmer”).

Classified Management Employee’s Misconduct Justified School District’s Termination of Employment, Despite Protected Speech

February 7, 2014 | Bulletin No. 1077831.2

A school district classified management employee sought to overturn his dismissal from employment, which he alleged was in retaliation for engaging in protected speech.  A California court of appeal held that, given the evidence of the employee’s insubordination, misuse of the school district’s computers, and retaliation against other employees, the school district was justified in terminating his employment based on the misconduct unrelated to the potentially protected speech.  (Thornbrough v. Western Placer Unified School District (December 23, 2013, C068317) --- Cal.Rptr.3d ----, Cal.App. 3 Dist.).

Cities Entitled to Pre and Post Judgment Interest for Tax Administration Fees Improperly Calculated and Withheld by County

February 4, 2014 | Bulletin No. 1077523.1

Seven cities brought a lawsuit against a county over the calculation of a fee that the county charges for the collection and distribution of property taxes to each city.  A trial court entered judgment in favor of the cities and ordered the county to pay prejudgment and postjudgment interest.  The court of appeal held that the trial court did not err in awarding prejudgment and postjudgment interest but that a new law changes the rate of interest as of January 1, 2014.  (City of Clovis v. County of Fresno (January 16, 2014, F060148) --- Cal.Rptr.3d ----, Cal.App. 5 Dist.).

Brown Act Amendment Now Requires Recordation of Actions Taken During Open Sessions

January 30, 2014 | Bulletin No. 1078334.2

Senate Bill 751 amends Government Code section 54953 to require the legislative body of a local agency to publicly report any action taken and the vote or abstention on that action of each member present for the action. This requirement became effective January 1, 2014.  Agencies will now need to record the vote or abstention of each member on each item presented during public meetings, as well as publicly announce the action taken and the vote or abstention of each member in attendance.  Reporting the number of ayes, nays, or abstentions alone will not be enough, as the names of each board member and their vote is now required.  Votes may need to be taken by roll call or in another manner as set forth below that allows verification of the vote of each member in order to comply with the requirements of SB 751. 

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