You read in a newspaper or online a new commercial development has been approved by the City/County in your neighborhood. You do not want the commercial development. What can you do to stop it?
If the commercial development has already been approved and you did not object to it during the administrative stage and hearings held by the agency, then you may not have viable options. It may be too late for your objections to be heard. If other people objected to the commercial development, then you may be able to join them in a legal action against the City/County.
To “win” a legal challenge against a City/County for approving a project, it is not enough to just object. The opponents must present factual and legal support for their opposition during the administrative hearing process before the City/County.
On July 21, 2016, the California Court of Appeal in Walters v. City of Redondo Beach, 2016 Cal.App. LEXUS 605, upheld the approval of the commercial project by the City of Redondo Beach. The Court ruled the Findings (“reasons”) of the City of Redondo Beach were supported by the substantial evidence. The Court further found the opponents did not present substantial evidence and a legal basis upon which to base a challenge and demonstrate that the Findings were not supported by substantial evidence. In other words, the opponents did not present a case upon which to have the City’s action reversed.
The “LESSONS” are:
1. When you received Notices from a governmental agency, read it. If you do not understand, find out what is going on – it might affect you.
2. If an action proposed to be taken by a governmental agency might affect you, talk to other people who may be likewise affected. Try to get everyone involved prior to a hearing before a governmental agency.
3. Determine whether or not you require the services of professionals, e.g. attorney, expert witnesses, lay witnesses and contact them immediately.
4. When the governmental agencies staff report is available, get it on line or go to the governmental agency to obtain a copy. Staff reports can be very lengthy but it is important to read it.
5. The most important document in the staff report is the “Resolution”. The Resolution will have several paragraphs entitled “WHEREAS”. These are the Findings. Go through each WHEREAS/Finding and determine what is accurate and what is not accurate. Prepare evidence, e.g. documents, pictures, people to speak, that shows the inaccuracies.
6. As time permits, provide as much of the evidence and legal basis in writing prior to the hearing….this usually means working over the weekend because of dates of the distribution of the Staff Report. Remember, in most hearing situations, you will be limited to 3 minutes to state your position, evidence and legal basis.
In this short of a blog, everything and every situation related to governmental hearings cannot be expressed. The most important points to remember are to read all notices you receive from governmental agencies and to express your concerns with factual and legal basis for those concerns before and at the hearing on the matter.
L. Sue Loftin is the Founder and Managing Shareholder of The Loftin Firm. For questions relating to this blog or any other California real estate, corporate governance, land use, or estate planning matter, contact Ms. Loftin at 760-814-9649.