Tag: Coastal Act


In Pacific Palisades Residents Association, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 1338, the Second District Court of Appeal denied a neighborhood group’s challenge to a proposed eldercare facility under local zoning laws, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and the California Coastal Act.


The project applicant proposed constructing an eldercare facility on a vacant one-acre lot surrounded by both residential and commercial uses in Pacific Palisades. The lot, located about two and a half miles from the coast, within the coastal zone, had been zoned for commercial use since 1978 and, at the time of the lawsuit, consisted of bare flat dirt behind a chain link fence. The proposed facility included 82 residential rooms and a public bistro housed in a building that would be one story higher than the tallest nearby structure.

The City of Los Angeles undertook an extensive review process, which consisted of multiple public hearings and opportunities for public comment. The City’s Zoning Administrator, Planning Commission, Planning and Land Use Management Committee, and City Council all concluded that the project complied with the zoning code and was exempt from CEQA pursuant to the Class 32 exemption for infill development. The City Council issued a Coastal Development Permit and approved the project.

A group of neighbors acting as the Pacific Palisades Residents Association filed a petition for writ of mandate against the City and the Coastal Commission, challenging the project approval under the City’s zoning code, the Coastal Act, and CEQA.

The trial court denied the petition. Petitioner appealed.

Court of Appeal

Los Angeles Zoning Code

The court denied Petitioner’s claims under the City’s zoning code. Petitioner argued that the facility was larger than what was permitted under the code, but the court explained that the “plain English interpretation of the zoning code” foreclosed any argument that the facility was not permitted on the lot.

Request for Judicial Notice

In its arguments arising under the zoning code, Petitioner relied, in part, on extra-record evidence that was not presented to the trial court. Petitioner sought judicial notice of the additional evidence on two grounds, both of which were rejected by the court. First, Petitioner argued that the evidence was admissible because the City had raised an “incorrect” interpretation of its zoning code at trial, requiring additional research by appellant. The court disagreed, because “the neighbors’ time to research this trial issue was before or during trial”; Petitioner could not introduce the evidence for the first time on appeal. Second, Petitioner argued that extra-record evidence was admissible to resolve a future issue to avoid the need for a separate appeal of post-judgment matters. The court, however, declined this “unprecedented invitation to attempt to moot a future appeal in the name of judicial economy.”


With respect to CEQA, Petitioner argued that the Class 32 exemption did not apply because the proposed project was not architecturally compatible with the neighborhood and would impact views. The court explained that these “aesthetic judgments” are subjective findings that are appropriately reviewed for substantial evidence. As a result, the court was required to defer to the City’s aesthetic determinations so long as a reasonable person could have reached the same conclusions. Here, the court held, the City’s decision that the project was compatible with local plans was “eminently reasonable” because the neighborhood had been a subdivision of Los Angeles for decades and the area was not undeveloped seashores or wilderness. The court therefore upheld the City’s application of the Class 32 CEQA exemption.

Coastal Act

The City issued a Coastal Development Permit pursuant to section 30600, subdivision (b) of the Coastal Act. Petitioner filed an appeal with the Coastal Commission, which determined that the appeal did not raise a “substantial issue.” Again applying a deferential standard of review, the court explained that it is for the Commission, not the court, to weigh conflicting evidence. Petitioner offered evidence in support of its complaints about the project, but it failed to show that the Commission’s decision was unsupported by substantial evidence. Thus, the court rejected Petitioner’s challenge.

– Elizabeth Pollock


In Coastal Act Protectors v. City of Los Angeles (2022) 75 Cal.App.5th 526, the Second District Court of Appeal held a lawsuit alleging the City of Los Angeles was required to obtain a coastal development permit (CDP) prior to the adoption an ordinance imposing restrictions on short-term vacation rentals was subject to the 90-day statute of limitations in Government Code section 65009 subdivision (c)(1)(B). Because the lawsuit was not filed with 90 days, the court dismissed the case.


The City adopted an ordinance imposing restrictions on short-term vacation rentals in December 2018. More than a year later, Coastal Act Protectors (CAP) filed a lawsuit seeking a writ of mandate to enjoin the City from enforcing the ordinance in the Venice coastal zone until the City obtained a CDP pursuant to the California Coastal Act, arguing that the ordinance constituted a “development” under the Act.

The trial court concluded that the 90-day statute of limitations in Government Code section 65009, subdivision (c)(1)(B), applied to the City’s adoption of the ordinance, and CAP’s petition was therefore untimely. It reasoned that the City’s purported duty to obtain a CDP was a procedural task to perform in enacting a lawful ordinance; therefore, CAP’s petition challenging the City’s failure to obtain a CDP constituted an action to “attack, review, set aside void, or annual” the decision of the City to adopt the ordinance, bringing it within the ambit of Government Code section 65009 subdivision (c)(1)(B). The trial court also addressed the merits of the petition and concluded that the ordinance was not a “development” under the Coastal Act. CAP appealed.

Court of Appeal’s Decision

On appeal, CAP argued that the City’s purported failure to comply with the Coastal Act when it adopted the ordinance was not an “action” or “decision” contemplated by section 65009 of the Government Code, but was instead subject to the three-year statute of limitations in Code of Civil Procedure section 338, subdivision (a), for actions “upon a liability created by statute.”

The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that CAP’s petition constituted an action to “attack, review, set aside void, or annual” the decision of the City to adopt the ordinance, and therefore, the 90-day limitations period applied. The court explained that, unlike in cases where it would have been impossible for a petitioner to bring a lawsuit within 90 days, the Coastal Act predated the County’s ordinance. If the City did have a duty to obtain a permit for application of the ordinance to residences in the Venice coastal zone, the court held, that duty would have existed when the City enacted the ordinance. The statute of limitations in the Government Code therefore applied. Because CAP waited over a year to file suit, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that the petition was untimely. The court concluded by noting its determination comported with the Legislature’s stated intent to “provide certainty for property owners and local governments regarding” local zoning and planning decisions. (Gov. Code, § 65009, subd. (a)(3).)

Since its holding on the statute of limitations issue was dispositive, the Court of Appeal did not address whether the ordinance constituted a “development” subject to the CDP requirements of the Coastal Act.

– Elizabeth Pollock

Fourth District Finds LUP Policies Constitutional; Other Challenges Barred as Untimely Under CCP § 1094.5

In Beach and Bluff Conservancy v. City of Solano Beach (2018) ­­28 Cal.App.5th 244, filed October 17, 2018, the Fourth Appellate District concluded that a petitioner’s remedy for challenges to policies under the California Coastal Act was exclusively limited to a writ of administrative mandamus (Code Civil Proc., § 1094.5) and that to the extent the challenge raised constitutional claims, those challenges failed on the merits.

In 2014, the California Coastal Commission approved the city’s amended land use plan (ALUP), pursuant to its local coastal program under the provisions of the Coastal Act. The amendments provided conditions and restrictions on the use, expansion, and repair of private coastal access stairways and retaining walls to protect new development or accessory buildings, and conditions under which private access stairways must be converted to public use.

Petitioner Beach and Bluff Conservancy alleged that the ALUP policies violated the Coastal Act, were unconstitutional, or both, and filed both a writ of mandate under traditional mandamus (CCP § 1085) and complaint for declaratory relief. The lower court ruled for the Conservancy, finding two of seven policies inconsistent with the Coastal Act. This appeal and cross-appeal followed.

First, the court found that, as the Coastal Act expressly provides, a writ of mandate is the exclusive remedy for a challenge to a Commission-certified policy on the ground that it is inconsistent with the Act. The Coastal Act requires the Commission to certify a local government’s LUP and amendments as consistent with the Act, by vote of the commissioners, pursuant to a noticed public hearing followed by written findings. In doing so, the Commission clearly acts in a quasi-judicial capacity, under CCP section 1094.5. It is well-established that an action for declaratory relief is not appropriate to review an administrative decision. Accordingly, the court held that the petitioner’s challenges to four ALUP policies alleging they were inconsistent with the Act were barred by the petitioner’s failure to file a timely writ petition for administrative mandamus.

Although the Conservancy’s facial constitutional challenges were not subject to CCP’s section 1094.5 filing procedures, the court held that these allegations failed on the merits.  Facial constitutional challenges are generally disfavored because they often rest on speculation and may lead to premature interpretation of the enactment on the basis of a “bare-bones” record.  A petitioner has a heavy burden to demonstrate that an enactment is facially unconstitutional.

The court found that the petitioner’s regulatory takings challenge failed because they could not demonstrate that the enactments effected a physical taking or deprived the owners of all economically beneficial or viable use of their property. The policy that provided for conversions of private stairways to a public stairways could not be deemed to facially conflict with constitutional takings principles, because the policy did not inevitably require a property conversion. Rather, the policy provided that conversion would occur only if specified conditions are met (when public access can be feasibly provided and the stairway already uses some public land per a deed restriction or public easement).

The court also ruled that allegations under the “unconstitutional conditions doctrine,” which limits the government’s power to require surrender of a constitutional right in exchange for a discretionary benefit, also failed. The doctrine applies only where the condition constitutes an exaction in the form of a conveyance of a property interest or the payment of money. It does not apply where, as here, the government simply restricts the use of property without demanding an exaction. And, the Nollan/Dolan test developed to determine if an exaction is permissible applies only to permit approvals, and not to facial constitutional challenges.

Lastly, the court opined that the disposition of this appeal does not preclude future “as-applied” constitutional challenges to the ALUP. Citing federal law with approval, the court stated that the doctrine of res judicata (and collateral estoppel) does not bar claims that arise from events that postdate the filing of the initial complaint. Affected property owners can always challenge the application of these policies as applied to their properties.

California Supreme Court Holds Coastal Act and Mello Act Apply to Conversions of Rental Mobilehome Parks to Residential Ownership

On November 29, 2012, the Supreme Court of California in Pacific Palisades Bowl Mobile Estates, LLC v. City of Los Angeles, (2012) __ Cal.4th __ (Case No. S187243) affirmed the judgment of the Second District Court of Appeal, finding a mobilehome park conversion is a “subdivision” under the Subdivision Map Act and also a “development” subject to permitting requirements of the Coastal Act.

The controversy in this case arose after the City of Los Angeles (City) rejected an application from Palisades Bowl Mobile Estates, LLC to convert its 170-unit mobilehome park, which is within the coastal zone, from tenant occupancy to resident ownership. The City asserted Palisades Bowl had failed to include applications for a coastal development permit or for Mello Act approvals. Rather than submit these applications, Palisades Bowl filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief.

At the trial court, Palisades Bowl argued the proposed conversion from tenant occupancy to resident ownership was not subject to the Coastal Act because it was not a “development” as defined by that act. The trial court agreed and also found that Government Code section 66427.5 precluded the City from imposing conditions and requirements mandated by the Coastal and Mello Acts. The court of appeal reversed the trial court’s decision, and the Supreme Court subsequently granted review.

The Supreme Court’s Decision

i.        The Coastal Act

The Supreme Court first addressed whether the Coastal Act requires a permit for mobilehome park ownership conversions. The Coastal Act requires a coastal development permit for “any development” in the coastal zone. Public Resources Code section 30106 defines “development” as a “change in the density or intensity of use of land, including, but not limited to, subdivision pursuant to the Subdivision Map Act.” The Court pointed out that the Subdivision Map Act specifically refers to mobilehome park conversion as a form of subdivision.

Palisades Bowl argued the conversion of the mobilehome park was not a development under the Coastal Act because it would not alter the density or intensity of land use. The Supreme Court disagreed and cited to Public Resources Code section 30106, which lists “subdivision” in a non-exclusive list of projects subject to the Coastal Act. Furthermore, the Court noted that section 30106 addresses changes in the intensity of land uses. Therefore, Palisades Bowl’s assumption that the Coastal Act only applied to projects increasing density or intensity of use was mistaken.

The Supreme Court held that all subdivisions, even conversions of mobilehome parks that do not immediately alter use of land, are “developments” for the purposes of the Coastal Act. The Court also concluded that a broad interpretation of “development” as used in the Coastal Act is consistent with what the Legislature intended.

ii.      The Mello Act

The Supreme Court next considered whether the requirements of the housing elements law, Government Code sections 65580-65589.8, applies to conversions of residential units within the coastal zone. Under these Government Code sections, local governments are required to adopt a “housing element” as part of their general plans. The housing element must identify and analyze existing and projected housing needs, among numerous other requirements. The Mello Act supplements the housing element requirements by establishing “minimum requirements for housing within the coastal zone for persons and families of low or moderate income.” Specifically, local governments are prohibited from authorizing the conversion or demolition of occupied low or moderate income residential units without making provisions for the replacement of those units.

The Supreme Court held the Mello Act expressly applies to “most conversions” of residential units in the coastal zone, including the conversion of the ownership structure of a mobilehome park.

iii.    The Subdivision Map Act

Lastly, the Supreme Court considered Palisades Bowl’s argument that Government Code section 66427.5 of the Subdivision Map Act exempts mobilehome park conversions from other state laws, regulations, or policies. Palisades Bowl argued that this section prohibits local governmental entities from enforcing compliance with any state law requirements other than those imposed by section 66427.5.

Government Code section 66427.5 imposes several requirements on subdividers and seeks to prevent the economic displacement of all nonpurchasing residents during the conversion of a rental mobilehome park to resident ownership. Part of the procedure required by section 66527.5 involves a hearing before the relevant decision-making body which is limited in scope to the issue of compliance with section 66427.5. Palisades Bowl argued that by limiting the scope of the required hearing, the Legislature intended to define the full extent of local government’s obligation and power to review an application for an ownership conversion of a mobilehome park. By this reasoning, the City lacked authority to reject Palisades Bowl’s application for failure to comply with the Coastal and Mello Acts.

The Supreme Court disagreed with Palisades Bowl, holding Government Code section 66427.5 does not exempt conversions of mobilehome parks to resident ownership from compliance with the Coastal Act and Mello Act. The Supreme Court construed the hearing requirement of section 66427.5 to allow local agencies to establish procedures and conduct additional hearings required by other state laws, including the Coastal and Mello Acts.