Real Property Law

CASE SUMMARY UPDATE: September 2021 Real Property Case Summaries

By Monty McIntyre

Monty McIntyre

California Case Summaries™ (https://cacasesummaries.com)
Monty A. McIntyre, Esq. is the publisher of California Case Summaries™ which provides short summaries, organized by legal topic, of every new published civil and family law case helping California lawyers easily master the new case law in their practice areas, get better results and referrals, and grow their law practice. Monthly, quarterly and annual subscriptions are available. Annual Practice Area subscriptions are also available in the areas of Employment, Family Law, Real Property and Torts. Monty hasbeen a California civil trial lawyer since 1980, a member of ABOTA since 1995, and currently works as a full-time mediator, arbitrator and referee with ADR Services, Inc. (ADR) conducing Zoom hearings throughout California. (https://www.adrservices.com/neutrals/mcintyre-monty/)   


CALIFORNIA COURTS OF APPEAL

Environment

Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power v. County of Inyo (2021) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2021 WL 3629227: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order granting a peremptory writ of mandate in an action alleging violations by respondent of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA; Public Resources Code, section 21000 et seq.) arising from use of  condemnation proceedings to acquire fee simple title to three sites that respondent leased and used for landfills and respondent’s continued operation of the landfills. The Court of Appeal concluded the exhaustion of administrative remedies requirement did not apply to challenges to the existing facilities exemption because respondent did not provide adequate notice that CEQA exemptions would be considered at the public hearing held by its Board of Supervisors. As a result of the lack of notice, County did not provide an “opportunity for members of the public to raise … objections” to its reliance on those exemptions. (Section 21177(e).) Interpreting the existing facilities exemption, the Court of Appeal concluded the word “facilities” was ambiguous with respect to its application to an unlined landfill. Resolving the ambiguity by interpreting “facilities” to exclude unlined landfills, the Court of Appeal concluded that respondent misinterpreted the CEQA Guidelines and violated CEQA when it concluded the existing facilities exemption applied to the project. Respondent committed two other CEQA violations, by improperly describing the project as constituting only the proposed condemnation proceedings and a mere change in ownership of the landfill sites, and the unduly narrow project description caused respondent to erroneously conclude the commonsense exemption applied. (C.A. 5th, August 17, 2021.)

Real Property

Brown v. Montage at Mission Hills, Inc. (2021) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2021 WL 3701864: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment and denying plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in an action by a condominium owner against her homeowner’s association for its rule limiting short term rentals. Plaintiff purchased her condominium in 2002 and consistently rented the property for short terms (less than 30 days) from 2002 until the fall of 2017. In January 2018, defendant homeowners association amended its governing documents to prohibit its members, including plaintiff, from renting or leasing their properties for periods shorter than 30 days. The Court of Appeal ruled that plaintiff was exempt from this prohibition under Civil Code section 4740(a), which provides that an owner of a property in a common interest development “shall not be subject to a provision in a governing document or an

amendment to a governing document that prohibits the rental or leasing of” the owner’s property unless that document or amendment “was effective prior to the date the owner acquired title” to the property. (C.A. 4th, August 20, 2021.)

City of Escondido v. Pacific Harmony Grove Development (2021) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2021 WL 3783247: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment, following a four-day bench trial in an inverse condemnation case, concluding that the strip of land should be valued at about $50,000 under the Porterville doctrine (City of Porterville v. Young (1987) 195 Cal.App.3d 1260), which values condemned property at its undeveloped state, and rejecting the property owner’s argument that the land should instead be valued at about $960,176 under the project effect rule. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that the Porterville doctrine applied and the project effect rule did not. (C.A. 4th, August 26, 2021.)

Meridian Financial etc. v. Phan (2021) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2021 WL 3508138: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s orders granting defendants’ motions for summary judgment and awarding attorney fees of $943,250 to defendant Chicago Title, in an action by plaintiffs against defendants alleging that defendant Chicago Title should pay $9,000,000 to plaintiffs because it induced them to invest in a gold “ponzi” scheme by Lananh Phan, and also alleging that plaintiffs should obtain recovery of money paid by Phan to other defendants who had allegedly received payments from her ponzi scheme. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly granted summary judgment to defendants, primarily because another trial court in an Orange County action had previously determined that plaintiffs were guilty of unclean hands related to their investments in the ponzi scheme, and their actions in seeking security for their investments without conducting any due diligence.  Although plaintiffs had tried to eliminate the unclean hands finding by negotiating a settlement in the Orange County action that vacated the unclean hands part of that trial court’s ruling, the Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court in this case did not err in giving preclusive effect to the unclean hands finding and granting summary judgment. The Court of Appeal also concluded that trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney fees of $943,250. (C.A. 4th, August 9, 2021.)      

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