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Manchester Pacific Gateway LLC v. California Coastal Commission

April 25, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jeffrey T. Miller United States District Judge


Plaintiff Manchester Pacific Gateway LLC ("MPG") moves for partial summary judgment on its first two claims for declaratory relief seeking (1) a declaration that the Navy Broadway Complex ("NBC") is federally owned land subject solely to federal discretion such that the NBC site is excluded from the definition of coastal zone under the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, 16 U.S.C. §1451 et seq. ("CZMA") and (2) a declaration that Defendants cannot require MPG to obtain a Coastal Development Permit ("CDP") under state law. Defendants California Coastal Commission ("Commission"), all twelve members of the Commission (Steve Blank, Sara Wan, Dr. William A. Burke, Steven Kram, Mary K. Shallenberger, Patrick Kruer, Bonnie Neely, Mike Reilly, Dave Potter, Khatchik Achadjian, Larry Clark, and Ben Hueso), and the Executive Director of the Commiussion (Peter M. Douglas) oppose the motion.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, the motion for partial summary judgment is granted.


On June 15, 2007, MPG commenced this action seeking, among other things, a declaration that the Commission "cannot require Manchester to obtain a CDP as a condition to Manchester's developing the Project." (FAC ¶35). MPG contends that the Commission's position with respect to obtaining a CDP violates CZMA. The present action relates to a real estate ground lease entered into between MPG and the Navy on November 22, 2006 for the development of the NBC project on 16 acres of land located in downtown San Diego. (NOL, Exhs. C, D).

In 1987 Congress authorized the Navy to enter into a public-private venture to re-develop the NBC site. The plan allowed the federal government to retain ownership of the land and allow the Navy to obtain replacement office space at no cost to taxpayers. (FAC ¶10). In June 1987 the Navy and the City of San Diego entered into a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") concerning the development of the NBC site. The City and Navy established general guidelines for the project regarding maximum use intensity, building program, architectural standards, building form and scale, site access and parking treatment, and landscape considerations. (NOL, Exh. E).

In August 1990 the Navy completed a Coastal Consistency Determination of the NBC site pursuant to its statutory obligations under the CZMA. The Navy concluded that the project was consistent to the maximum extent possible with California's Coastal Management Program ("CCMP"). (NOL, Exh. F). In 1991, the Commission analyzed and considered the proposed NBC project, concluding that the NBC project was consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the CCMP. (NOL, Exh. G). On May 7, 1991 the Commission concurred in the Navy's Federal Consistency Determination and, on October 8, 1991, the Commission issued its Adopted Findings on Consistency Determination. Id. The 1991 Commission Findings noted that its findings were premised on the assumption that construction of the NBC site would comply with the plans and guidelines developed between the City of San Diego and the Navy. The 1991 Findings concluded that "no further Commission action is required for the redevelopment to proceed as presented in the consistency determination." Id.

MPG moves for partial summary judgment on the ground that the NBC property is excluded from the definition of coastal zone under the CZMA and therefore defendant Commission may not require a CDP for the project. The Commission opposes the motion.


Legal Standards

A motion for summary judgment shall be granted where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Prison Legal News v. Lehman, 397 F.3d 692, 698 (9th Cir. 2005). The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the file which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). There is "no express or implied requirement in Rule 56 that the moving party support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim." Id. (emphasis in original). The opposing party cannot rest on the mere allegations or denials of a pleading, but must "go beyond the pleadings and by [the party's] own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. At 2553 (citation omitted). The opposing party also may not rely solely on conclusory allegations unsupported by factual data. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989).

The court must examine the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). Any doubt as to the existence of any issue of material fact requires denial of the motion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). On a motion for summary judgment, when "'the moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence were uncontroverted at trial.'" Houghton v. South, 965 F.2d 1532, 1536 (9th Cir. 1992) (emphasis in original) (quoting International Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1059 (1992)).

The Motion

The issue before the court is whether or not the NBC is excluded from CZMA's statutory definition of "coastal zone." The parties generally agree that the exclusion of the NBC from the scope of CZMA limits the Commission's ability to require a CDP.*fn2 Conversely, if the NBC is located within the coastal zone, then the Commission may require a CDP. The CZMA definition of coastal zone provides that the only lands "[e]xcluded from the coastal zone are those lands the use of which is by law subject solely to the discretion of or which is held in trust by the Federal Government, its officers or agents." 16 U.S.C. §1453(1). Breaking the statute into elements, the parties dispute whether the NBC is "(1) land[] the use of which (2) is by law subject solely to the discretion of . . . the Federal Government." While there is substantial overlap between these two elements, each is discussed in turn.

"In construing a statute in a case of first impression, we look to the traditional signposts of statutory construction: first, the language of the statute itself; second, its legislative history, and as an aid in interpreting Congress' intent, the interpretation given to it by its administering agency," if any.*fn3 Brock v. Writers Guild of Am., W., Inc., 762 F.2d 1349, 1353 (9th Cir.1985)(internal citations omitted). The court examines "not only the specific provision at issue, but also the structure of the statute as a whole, including its object and policy." Children's Hosp. & Health Ctr. v. Belshe, 188 F.3d 1090, 1096 (9th Cir.1999). If the plain meaning of the statute is unambiguous, that meaning is controlling and legislative history is not examined unless "the legislative history clearly indicates that Congress meant something other than what it said." Carson ...

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