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Friends of Aviara v. City of Carlsbad

November 1, 2012

FRIENDS OF AVIARA, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
CITY OF CARLSBAD, DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Robert P. Dahlquist, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. 37-2010-00050553-

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Benke, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

CU-TT-NC)

Affirmed.

In this land use planning case respondent City of Carlsbad (the city) was required by Government Code*fn1 section 65588 to revise the housing element of its general plan and in particular adopt provisions which fulfill the city's obligation to provide low cost housing in the region. As required by the Government Code the city adopted a revised housing element which identified an inventory of parcels which would be suitable for low cost housing and a number of limitations in the land use element of the general plan which the city would change in order to permit the identified parcels to be developed as low cost housing. The trial court determined that the revised housing element could make such proposed changes in the land use element, so long as the city adopted a timeline for making the changes.

Appellant Friends of Aviara (Aviara) is a nonprofit corporation composed of residents concerned about protecting the area near the Batiquitos Lagoon, which is located in the city. Aviara argues that even with a timeline for the changes, the proposed changes create an unlawful inconsistency between the housing and land use elements of the general plan.

We affirm. The Government Code expressly contemplates that in meeting its housing obligations a municipality will need to alter existing land use regulations, including existing limitations in other elements of an adopted general plan. Like the trial court, we find that inclusion in the revision of a housing element of proposed changes to other land use regulations in a general plan was expressly contemplated by the Legislature and permitted on the condition the municipality sets forth a timeline for adoption of such proposed changes.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

1. Housing Element Revision

Under the compulsion of section 65888, the city's staff prepared a revision to the housing element of its general plan and the city council adopted the proposed revision on December 22, 2009. The city's revision complied in the main with the requirements of section 65853 in that it set forth the means by which the city would provide its share of the number and type of housing units required in the San Diego region as determined by the state's Department of Housing under related provisions of section 65854, subdivision (b).*fn2 At the time it adopted the revision, the city also certified a mitigated negative declaration (MND), which found that the revision would not have any substantial environmental impact.

The revision set forth a detailed assessment of housing needs and an inventory of resources and constraints relevant to those needs as required by section 65853, subdivision (a)(1). The assessment and inventory identified a number of sites which could accommodate the city's assigned share of the region's housing needs and described existing land use classifications and density limitations for those sites. Of significance here, the assessment and inventory also set forth a number of amendments to the land use element of the city's general plan, which the city determined it would need to implement in order to permit development of affordable housing on the sites it had identified. In general, the proposed amendments set forth in the revision would establish minimum densities on the identified parcels which were higher than the densities then permitted in the land use element of the general plan.

2. Trial Court Proceedings

Aviara filed a timely petition for a writ of mandate in which it alleged the city's adoption of the revision to the housing element of its general plan was unlawful. Aviara alleged the city's MND failed to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code section 21000 et seq. (CEQA). Aviara further alleged that because the revision stated that the city would be amending existing land use limitations as they appeared in the land use element of the city's general plan, the revision created an improper inconsistency in the general plan.

The trial court granted in part and denied in part Aviara's petition. The trial court denied Aviara's CEQA claim and Aviara does not challenge that aspect of the trial court's ruling on appeal. The trial court also found the revision as adopted created an impermissible conflict between the housing element and the land use element. However, the trial court found that if the city adopted an appropriate timeline for adoption of the proposed changes, the conflict was permissible. Accordingly, the trial court granted Aviara's petition insofar as Aviara argued the revision created a ...


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