June 2007

Online Dating Service Sued for Failing to Provide Same-Sex Dating Matches

June 1, 2007, by Jesse Lad

A proposed class-action lawsuit was recently filed against online dating service e-harmony alleging that the failure to provide same-sex dating options constitutes discrimination based on sexual orientation in violation of California law. To read an article generally describing the lawsuit click here.

California Supreme Court Clarifies Constitutionality of Zoning Impacts on Economic Competition

June 11, 2007, by Meyers Nave

In Hernandez v. City of Hanford, the California Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s decision, and held that the City of Hanford’s zoning ordinance prohibiting furniture sales in the City’s Planned Commercial (PC) district, with a limited exception for large department stores, did not violate the State or Federal Equal Protection Clause. The Court clarified language in a line of cases beginning with Van Sicklen v. Browne (1971) 15 Cal.App.3d 122, which addressed the impacts of local zoning regulation on economic competition. The Court agreed with the appellate court that a general prohibition on furniture sales within a particular zoning district was not unconstitutional. The Court reversed the appellate decision, however, with respect to the ordinance's limited exception, allowing for furniture sales by large department stores. The Court concluded that the exception was rationally related to a legitimate public purpose that had been overlooked by the appellate court: the objective of attracting and retaining large department stores in the City's PC district. Therefore, the City's disparate treatment of department stores and other retail establishments within the PC district was not unconstitutional.

Compliance with Senate Bill 53 and Senate Bill 1809

June 24, 2007, by Meyers Nave

The deadline for compliance with Senate Bill 53 (SB 53) is July 1, 2007. Effective January 1, 2007, SB 53 requires all redevelopment agencies with a redevelopment plan adopted prior to December 31, 2006, to adopt an ordinance setting forth the redevelopment agency's authority to use eminent domain and a program for eminent domain activities. This includes redevelopment agencies that no longer have the authority to use eminent domain under its redevelopment plan. The ordinance must be effective before July 1, 2007.

Related to SB 53, Senate Bill 1809 (SB 1809) requires all redevelopment agencies with a redevelopment plan adopted prior to December 31, 2006, to record a revised statement that certain property is subject to a redevelopment plan. The revised statement must include certain disclosures regarding the redevelopment plan's authorization of eminent domain. The deadline for compliance with SB 1809 is December 31, 2007.

To review SB 53, click here.

To review SB 1809, click here.

California Supreme Court Finds Adoption of Airport Land Use Plan That Incorporates Existing General Plan Development Standards Exempt from CEQA Review

June 26, 2007, by Meyers Nave

A unanimous California Supreme Court held in Muzzy Ranch Co. v. Solano County Airport Land Use Commission, that the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission’s adoption of an airport land use plan was exempt from review under CEQA. The Commission had first determined that the approval of the Travis Air Force Base Land Use Compatibility Plan (“TALUP”) was not a project subject to CEQA, but then, filed a notice of exemption based on the “common sense” exemption to CEQA, which states that the approval had “[n]o possibility of significant effect on the environment.”  Muzzy Ranch challenged this decision, alleging that the Commission should have considered the impacts that would result from “displaced housing” caused by the TALUP.

The Court first held that the adoption of an airport land use compatibility plan was analogous to the enactment or amendment of a general plan and, therefore, was a project subject to CEQA. The Court, however, accepted the Commission’s argument that the adoption of the TALUP was exempt under the common sense exemption. The Court ultimately determined that because the TALUP simply incorporated existing general plan and zoning law restrictions on residential housing density, any displacement of housing would have already occurred.

Court of Appeal Upholds Constitutionality of CCP Section 1260.040

June 29, 2007, by Meyers Nave

In Dina v. People ex rel. Department of Transportation (Caltrans) 2007 Cal.App.LEXIS 932, the Court of Appeal upheld Code of Civil Procedure section 1260.040's constitutionality and explained how it can be applied, including its use to determine liability in an inverse condemnation action. In the underlying case, property owners claimed that as a result of the noise and vibrations from an adjacent freeway extension project, their homes suffered structural damage and erosion. They filed complaints for inverse condemnation, nuisance and negligence.

Section 1260.040 provides a mechanism for parties involved in eminent domain and inverse condemnation actions to obtain early resolution of a dispute regarding evidentiary or other legal issues affecting the determination of compensation prior to trial (60 days before trial). It is not to be used to determine "just compensation," which is solely the duty of the trier of fact. Rather, the section's motion procedure allows the court to address complex and tricky evidentiary issues that could confuse or be missed by a jury.

Areas/issues that the procedure can be used for include:  Impairment of access; Probability of a zone change; Existence of a larger parcel; Entitlement to precondemnation damages; and Determination of liability for inverse condemnation.

The Court in Dina held that Caltrans' motion to dismiss an inverse claim pursuant to section 1260.040 was proper and akin to a motion for nonsuit; the Court of Appeal reviewed the case using the standard of review applicable to appeals from the nonsuited party.