Avenida San Juan Partnership v. City of San Clemente
California Court of Appeal
201 Cal. App. 4th 1256, 135 Cal. Rptr. 3d 570 (2011)
In 1980, the Avenida San Juan Partnership (the owners) (plaintiff) purchased an undeveloped 2.85-acre lot (the property), which was situated on a slope. At the time of purchase, zoning regulations allowed six dwellings per acre. The owners sought to develop four houses on the property, which was within the existing six-dwelling-per-acre limit. The City of San Clemente (defendant) approved a plan to subdivide the property into four single-family lots. When the city approved the subdivision, it found that there were no geological obstacles to developing the property and that the site could be developed without danger to nearby properties. After a landslide occurred nearby, neighbors of the property petitioned to make the property open space. The city engineer opined there was no reason to reconsider approval of the subdivision plan. The zoning did not change, but the owners did not proceed with development. In 1993, the city amended its general plan to create a residential-very-low (RVL) zone that applied to the property and several others. However, all properties adjacent to the property that were zoned residential low (RL) were permitted one dwelling per one-fourth acre, but properties zoned RVL were permitted one dwelling per 20 acres. According to the general plan, the purpose of the RVL zone was to preserve open space in canyons. In 1996, the city formally rezoned the property as RVL and stated that the purpose of the RVL zone was to preserve currently undeveloped canyons that were geologically unstable. In 2006, the owners submitted a development application to build four dwellings on their property. The owners sought a general-plan amendment, a zoning amendment, and several land-use certifications. The city-planning commission recommended denial, which the city council approved. The owners filed an action, claiming that the rezoning of their property was arbitrary and capricious. The trial court found that the property was not a canyon, that there was nothing unique about the property’s topography compared to the rest of the city, and that the city targeted the property simply because it desired to keep the property as open space. Consequently, the trial court held that the rezoning to a lower-intensity use (i.e., downzoning) and refusal to consider rezoning in good faith was arbitrary and capricious. The city appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Rylaarsdam, J.)
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