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Lawrence Shih, et al. v. City of Corona

March 10, 2011

LAWRENCE SHIH, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF CORONA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Otis D. Wright II United States District Judge

O

I. INTRODUCTION

STATEMENT OF DECISION FOLLOWING COURT TRIAL

Petitioners own 25.04 acres of undeveloped real property, formerly a golf course ("Property") in the City of Corona. The current zoning designation of the Property is agricultural A-5, requiring minimum lot sizes of 5 acres per dwelling unit. The City's General Plan designates the Property as LDR (Low Density Residential), which requires a density of 3-6 dwelling units per adjusted gross acre, "accommodates detached single-family homes and is characterized by lots of 7,200 to 10,000 square feet." (Petitioners' Opening Brief "Open. Br." at 4.)

Petitioners filed an application to amend the City's zoning map to change the zoning of the property to R-1-9.6 (allowing for 9,600 sq. ft. lots). Petitioners contend the amendment would make the zoning designation consistent with the City's General Plan, as required by Government Code section 65860. The City*fn1 denied the application.

Petitioners now seek a writ of mandate and injunction directing the City to reconsider and approve the zone change application. Petitioners propose to re-zone the Property to R-1-9.6 and request a judicial declaration that the City's denial of their application is void and unenforceable because the denial violates Government Code § 65860. (Open. Br. at 4.) As explained below, the instant petition is DENIED.

II. DISCUSSION

1. Legal Standard

Zoning is a legislative act. Arnel Dev. Co. v. City of Costa Mesa, 28 Ca1.3d 511, 514 (1980). A legislative act is presumed valid. Federation of Hillside & Canyon Ass 'ns v. City of Los Angeles, 126 Cal. App. 4th 1180, 1195 (2004). To overcome the presumption of validity, a petitioner must produce evidence "compelling the conclusion that the [action] is, as a matter of law, unreasonable and invalid." Corona-Norco Unified Sch. Dist., 17 Cal. App. 4th at 993 ("There is also a presumption that the board ascertained the existence of necessary facts to support its action, and that the 'necessary facts' are those required by the applicable standards which guided the board.") (citing Orinda Homeowners Committee v. Bd. of Supervisors of Contra Costa County, 11 Cal. App. 3d 768, 775 (1970)). The agency "must be allowed to weigh and balance the plan's policies when applying them, and it has broad discretion to construe its policies in light of the plan's purposes ..." Eureka Citizens for Responsible Government v. City of Eureka, 147 Cal. App. 4th 357, 374 (2007) ("a reviewing court's role is simply to decide whether the public officials considered the applicable policies and the extent to which the proposed project conforms with those policies").

Mandamus review is limited to whether the subject action was arbitrary, capricious or entirely lacking in evidentiary support. Corona-Norco Unified Sch. Dist. v. City of Corona, 17 Cal. App. 4th 985, 992 (1993); see also Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation, Inc. v. County of Los Angeles, 177 Cal. App. 3d 300, 305 (1986).

2. The Petition for Writ of Mandate

It bears emphasizing at the outset that the Court's review is quite limited. See, e.g., Stauffer Chemical Co. v. Air Resources Board, 128 Cal. App. 3d 789, 794-95 (1982) ("Such limited judicial review forecloses inquiry as to the agency's reasons for its legislative action. So long as a reasonable basis for such action exists, the motivating factors considered in reaching the decision are immaterial [citation] and supportive findings are not required."). And, Petitioners' burden is inversely great, requiring evidence "compelling the conclusion that the [action] is, as a matter of law, unreasonable and invalid." Corona-Norco Unified Sch. Dist., 17 Cal. App. 4th at 993. Both considerations guide and underlie the Court's disposition.

The Court declines Petitioners' invitation to review the agency's action by scrutinizing every stated reason underlying its decision. See Stauffer Chemical Co., 128 Cal. App. 3d at 794-95. That exercise is improper, unnecessary and, as Petitioners' papers demonstrate, rather inconclusive. Instead, in concluding that Petitioners failed to meet their burden, the Court will briefly address some of Petitioners' arguments.

We begin with Petitioners' contention that the "City cannot advise Petitioners that a concept proposal is required only for a tentative tract map application and then deny the application for a zone change on the basis that the application did not include the concept plan." (Reply at 10) (citing AR 0026-0027). The evidence cited by Petitioners does not bolster their argument, however; it undercuts it. After listing the different studies ...


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