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City of Irvine v. Southern California Association of Governments

June 30, 2009; as modified July 21, 2009


Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County, William M. Monroe, Judge. Requests for judicial notice. Judgment affirmed. Requests granted. (Super. Ct. No. 07CC8301).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rylaarsdam, Acting P. J.



This is an appeal from a judgment dismissing a petition for a writ of mandate entered after the trial court sustained a demurrer to the petition without leave to amend. The issue presented is whether the administrative procedure established under Government Code section 65584 et seq. (all further statutory references are to the Government Code unless otherwise stated) to calculate a local government‟s allocation of the regional housing needs assessment (RHNA) is intended to be the exclusive remedy for the municipality to challenge that determination and thereby preclude judicial review of the decision. We conclude the answer to this question is yes and affirm the judgment.


Since this case involves a dismissal entered after the trial court sustained a demurrer to the petition without leave to amend, we "assume[] the truth of all properly pleaded material facts unless contradicted by judicially noticed matters" and "determine[] whether, reading the petition as a whole and giving it a reasonable interpretation, the pleading states facts sufficient to state a cause of action or a reasonable possibility exists that any defects can be cured by amendment. [Citations.]" (Burt v. County of Orange (2004) 120 Cal.App.4th 273, 279.)

Plaintiff City of Irvine is a "municipal corporation" in Orange County, "organized and existing under . . . the laws of the State of California." Under section 65300, it "must adopt a comprehensive General Plan governing land use and development within its jurisdictional boundary" of which "[a] Housing Element is a required component . . . ." In turn, the housing element "must consist of an identification and analysis of existing and projected housing needs and a statement of goals, policies, quantified objectives, financial resources and scheduled programs for the preservation, improvement and development of housing" and "must also contain . . . a quantification of the city‟s existing and projected housing needs for all income levels that shall include the locality‟s share of the regional housing need[] . . . ."

Defendant Southern California Association of Governments is a "public agency organized and existing pursuant to the Joint Exercise of Powers Act (codified as . . . section 6500 et seq.)" covering several southern California counties, including Orange County and the incorporated cities within its boundaries. (Italics omitted.) In 2006, defendant, in conjunction with the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), began developing its RHNA for the 2006-2014 planning period which, in part, required the development of a methodology for distributing the projected regional housing needs to cities within defendant‟s jurisdiction.

Defendant delegated to the Orange County Council of Governments [OCCOG], another public agency created under section 6500 that includes the County of Orange and the incorporated cities within its boundaries, "the responsibility for providing data that would be used by [defendant] when [it] applied the methodology used to determine the allocation of housing units to jurisdictions within Orange County" and, at "OCCOG[‟s] request[,] . . . incorporate[d]" a study prepared at California State University, Fullerton.

In February 2007, defendant "approved the RHNA methodology and issued a draft regional housing need allocation plan" that allotted over 35,000 residential units to plaintiff, an amount allegedly constituting 43 percent of Orange County‟s entire regional housing need. Under the applicable statutory procedure, plaintiff timely filed an appeal of the proposed allocation with defendant‟s RHNA appeals board. That board conducted a hearing on plaintiff‟s request where plaintiff‟s and defendant‟s staffs presented written and oral testimony pursuant to sections 65584.05 and 65584.08. The appeals board "issued [a] final written decision" denying the appeal.

After "revis[ing] the allocations of units to certain jurisdictions within Orange County," defendant then "issued a proposed Final Allocation Plan" that increased plaintiff‟s RHNA allocation by over 300 units. Plaintiff submitted written opposition to the plan. In July 2007, defendant‟s regional council conducted a public hearing as required by sections 65584.05, subdivision (h) and 65584.05, subdivision (k) where plaintiff presented written and oral testimony opposing the Final Allocation Plan. The regional council approved the final allocation plan without change.

Plaintiff then filed this petition seeking to "[v]acate and set aside" defendant‟s draft allocation, the RHNA appeals board‟s denial of its appeal, and the regional council‟s final allocation plan, plus a "[r]ecalculat[ion of plaintiff‟s] allocation of new housing units in accordance with . . . sections 65584, 65584.04, 65584.05, [and] 65584.08 . . . ." The petition alleged that, in making the RHNA decisions, defendant‟s appeals board and regional council "failed to conduct . . . fair hearing[s]," "proceed in a manner required by law," "support [their] decision[s] with findings" or "provide sufficient evidence to support the findings," and "prejudicially abused [their] discretion," thereby breaching defendant‟s "duty pursuant to the Housing Element Law to calculate [plaintiff‟s] fair share of housing for each income category . . . ."

Defendant filed a demurrer, arguing the court lacked "jurisdiction of the subject of the petition" for several reasons. First, it asserted the Legislature‟s 2004 amendments to the RHNA statutes "specifically removed the judicial writ remedy from the . . . statute." Second, citing section 65584.05, subdivision (g)‟s requirement that it reallocate "[a]ny reduction in" one municipality‟s RHNA assessment "to all of [the] jurisdictions" it covers, defendant claimed "the remedy sought . . . will result in judicial consequences that will adversely impact all of [defendant‟s] jurisdictions" and plaintiff has "no cause of action . . . to seek judicial enforcement of another city[‟s] or county‟s RHNA allocation." Finally, noting HCD‟s approval of defendant‟s final RHNA allocation, defendant claimed it now "has no authority to implement [the] relief" sought by plaintiff. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend and entered a judgment dismissing the action.


1. Statutory Background

This case presents the question of whether the administrative procedure created to determine a municipality‚Äüs RHNA allocation ...

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