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CHANG v. SONOMA COUNTY

January 28, 2003

MARINA CHANG AND CRAIG S. HARRISON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SONOMA COUNTY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Elizabeth D. Laporte, United States Magistrate Judge.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs allege the following facts in their Complaint. In May 1998, plaintiffs purchased property in Santa Rosa, California, in an area known as Bennett Valley. Defendant Sonoma County appointed defendants Boultbee, Humphrey, Phillips, Beigler, and Stanfied to serve on the Bennett Valley Design Review Committee ("BVDRC"). The Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department ("PRMD") delegated to the BVDRC the authority and responsibility of approving or disapproving design submissions prior to submission of the design to the PRMD. On July 1, 1999, Sonoma County's grand jury released its annual report and suggested that Sonoma County abolish the BVDRC.

On June 12, 1998, plaintiffs filed a Planning Application for a Permit Modification ("Permit Modification") to change the location of the building envelope from the east to the west side of their property. The PRMD sent the Permit Modification to the BVDRC for review and comment, and, in September 1998, the BVDRC objected to it. In October 1998, the Sonoma County Project Review and Advisory Committee ("PRAC") granted the Permit Modification.

On June 23, 1999, plaintiffs flew from Virginia to present their preliminary architectural plan for their proposed home to the BVDRC.*fn1 On June 26, 1999, Boultbee, Beigler, Humphrey and Stanfield attended a meeting on plaintiffs' property, and Stanfield told plaintiffs that their proposal would be taken under advisement.*fn2 On August 31, 1999, plaintiffs submitted a formal application for design review ("Second Proposal"). On September 8, 1999, Boultbee, Humphrey, Beigler, Phillips, and Gaewiler unanimously denied the Second Proposal because of the presence of second story rooms, roof color, stucco color and landscaping. Plaintiffs appealed the BVDRC's decision to the PRMD, which approved the Second Proposal on November 4, 1999.

Plaintiffs allege that the BVDRC encouraged Kathryn Gaewiler, the new owner of the adjacent property, to appeal the PRMD design approval. The appeal delayed plaintiffs from doing such preliminary site work as building a road, placing a water tank, drilling a well or landscaping before the rainy season. (AC ¶ 66.)

On January 20, 2000, plaintiffs flew in from Virginia to attend a public hearing before the Sonoma County Planning Commission, and the Commission upheld the PRMD's approval of the Second Proposal. Thus, plaintiffs' actual amount of time to obtain design approval was only about nineteen months.

Plaintiffs allege that they were unable to begin building during spring 2000 at a reasonable price, which plaintiffs attributed to local building conditions. (AC ¶ 68.) In January 2001, plaintiffs engaged a general contractor, who began framing their home in April 2001. Thus, plaintiffs experienced another fourteen months of delay once their design was approved.

Plaintiffs allege that, in November 2001, they were forced to agree to accept landscaping conditions by the PRMD contrary to a Sonoma County Ordinance in order to qualify for a final occupancy permit. (AC ¶ 70.) Plaintiffs contend that, in late 2001, when they learned the near-final costs of the construction of their home, they realized that defendants had caused them actual damages. (AC ¶ 72.) Plaintiffs also allege that Boultbee, acting under color of authority as a member of an advisory committee on Sonoma County's general plan, trespassed on their property in April 2002 and took photographs of the house before plaintiffs had obtained a final occupancy permit. (AC ¶ 73.)

Plaintiffs filed a complaint on September 20, 2002, alleging six causes of action based on Constitutional violations and six state causes of action. The Court's jurisdiction arises under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 for the constitutional claims. Plaintiffs contend that the Court also has jurisdiction over the state claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367 because there is a common nucleus of operative facts among all of the claims. (AC ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs claim that their economic damages include increased construction costs occasioned by a one year delay and the decline in value of the shares of several stocks that plaintiffs intended to sell to finance construction. (AC ¶ 72.)

On November 20, 2002, defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs Amended Complaint ("Motion") and a request for judicial notice of plaintiffs' Complaint, plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, and the County of Sonoma Board of Supervisor's Resolution No. 00-1154 dated September 19, 2000. On December 10, 2002, defendants filed an Errata to their Motion ("Errata"). On December 17, 2002, plaintiffs filed an opposition to defendant's motion ("Opposition") and a request for judicial notice of two Citizens Advisory Committee documents. On December 26, 2002, defendants filed a reply to plaintiffs' opposition ("Reply") and an objection to plaintiffs' request for judicial notice.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Statute of Limitations

Claims one through six of plaintiffs' Amended Complaint allege, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, violations of Equal Protection, Racial Discrimination, 14th Amendment right to travel, Article IV Privileges and Immunities, ...


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