California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division
APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County No. 37-2007-00076404- CU-EI-CTL, Steven R. Denton, Judge.
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, Richard M. Segal, Brian D. Martin, Nathaniel R. Smith; Institute for Justice, Dana Berliner and Jeff Rowes, for Plaintiff and Appellant.
Claudia G. Silva, City Attorney; Best Best & Krieger, Bruce W. Beach, Rebecca J. Andrews and Ellen P. Head, for Defendants and Appellants.
Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire, Vincent J. Bartolotta, Jr. and Karen R. Frostrom, for Defendants and Respondents.
In 2007, defendants and appellants, the City of National City and its Community Development Commission (the Commission or CDC; together, the City), approved an amendment to its 1995 redevelopment plan, ordinance No. 2007-2295 (Amendment), that extended the time period authorized by the plan for the use of eminent domain powers within a 300-acre area, based on certain designations of physical and economic blight. (Health & Saf. Code, § 33000 et seq., the Community Redevelopment Law (CRL); all further statutory references are to the Health & Safety Code unless noted.) During the City's months-long amendment and hearing process, it received statutorily mandated reports from a retained private consultant, held noticed hearings, and received opposition from two sets of landowners within the Amendment area, plaintiff and appellant Community Youth Athletic Center (CYAC), and additional respondents, Robert Leif, Suzanne Leif and Anthony Bedford (the "Interested Parties"). (§§ 33352, subd. (b); 33457.1.)
When their opposition to the City's approval of the Amendment was unsuccessful, CYAC brought this reverse validation action in superior court (Code Civ. Proc., § 860 et seq., the Validation Act), to seek declaratory and injunctive relief and damages under several statutory and constitutional theories, along with attorney fees and costs. (CRL, §§ 33500, 33501; Gov. Code, § 6250 et seq., Public Records Act (PRA) violations; U.S. Const., 14th Amend. (due process clause); 42 U.S.C. § 1988.) The response filed by the Interested Parties sought similar relief.
After a bench trial, the superior court issued a statement of decision and judgment in favor of CYAC, the Interested Parties and the interested public. In the reverse validation proceedings, the trial court examined the administrative record and set aside the Amendment to the redevelopment plan, by issuing declaratory relief based on its findings of several violations of the CRL: (1) contrary to the provisions of section 33457.1, the City failed to include in its mandated report, prior to the hearing on such Amendment, the maps required by section 33352, subdivision (b) that documented the physical and economic conditions of blight that existed within the project area, (2) the administrative record did not contain substantial evidence supporting the physical blight findings underlying the Amendment, and (3) neither the City nor its retained private consultant (Rosenow Spevacek Group, or "RSG") had produced, on request by CYAC, two types of underlying raw data relied upon in the RSG "Report to Council" (the "RTC") (i.e., RSG's field surveys of blight conditions, or the City's police department's property-by-property crime data). The City had relied on those RSG field surveys and crime data to support the enactment of the Amendment which extended the eminent domain redevelopment power, as they led to the RTC's conclusions that physical and economic blight existed within the project area, but the record did not support that reliance.
In an underlying finding, the trial court concluded that the administrative record nevertheless contained "substantial evidence" of a condition of economic blight (by using crime statistics City-wide). However, since the record failed to contain "substantial evidence of at least one condition of physical blight, " and since both findings were needed, the Amendment was declared invalid. (§§ 33030, subd. (b); 33031, subds. (a), (b); 33333.2, subd. (a)(4).)
Additionally, the trial court issued declaratory relief on the ground that the City had violated the PRA, by failing to produce at the request of CYAC certain documents about the same two types of underlying raw data relied upon in the RTC (field surveys of blight conditions, and property-by-property crime data), which the City had used to justify its blight claims.
Further, the court determined that the federal procedural due process rights of CYAC and the public had not been adequately protected by the City during the amendment process, due to the City's failure to comply with CRL statutory requirements or to grant a continuance of the hearing. The court issued declaratory relief finding federal due process violations and awarded nominal damages ($1). (U.S. Const., 14th Amend. [due process clause]; Mathews v. Eldridge (1976) 424 U.S. 319 (Mathews).) However, CYAC's alternative California Constitution due process causes of action were found to lack merit. (Cal. Const., art. I, §§ 7(a), 19 [due process and takings clauses].)
After trial, the court ordered the City to pay substantial attorney fees to CYAC ($1, 906, 516.75) and to the Interested Parties ($84, 652.50). The court had initially determined that their requests were untimely filed, but that discretionary relief from default should be granted to entertain the fees motion. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1702; all further rule references are to the California Rules of Court; Code Civ. Proc., § 473, 1021.5; 42 U.S.C. § 1988; Gov. Code, § 6259, subd. (d).)
The City appeals the judgment and in the consolidated appeal (D061141), the fee orders. CYAC has filed a cross-appeal of a portion of the underlying findings on the reverse validation decision (to challenge the trial court's ruling regarding economic blight, that City-wide crime data was correctly considered by the City, rather than just project-wide data). (§ 33031, subd. (b)(7); CYAC does not cross-appeal the dismissal of its California Constitution claims.)
CYAC has also cross-appealed on a timeliness issue regarding its attorney fees request, since the trial court granted CYAC and the Interested Parties discretionary relief from the untimely filing, then awarded fees. However, CYAC contends there was no late filing in the first place that gave rise to any such need for such relief. (Rule 3.1702; Code Civ. Proc., § 473.)
In a previous order, we granted in part and denied in part the City's judicial notice request, to permit additional materials on the attorney fee questions to be considered on appeal. (See part V, post.)
On the merits of the appeal and cross-appeal, first, our review of the administrative record persuades us that the trial court's reverse validation order is well supported by the facts and the law, concerning the CRL violations of sections 33352 and 33457.1 (map requirement and description of specific, quantifiable evidence supporting the blight findings). Although the Legislature abolished redevelopment agencies through its 2011 legislation, the issues regarding the invalidity of this Amendment have not become moot by the passage of time or the subsequent legislative action, particularly as to the attorney fees awards. (§ 33037, subd. (c); California Redevelopment Assn. v. Matosantos (2011) 53 Cal.4th 231 (Matosantos) [discussed post].)
Next, on the trial record of the PRA issues, which includes both the administrative record and the trial exhibits and testimony, we uphold the judgment of the trial court issuing declaratory relief in favor of CYAC. Although we disagree with some of the reasoning set forth in the statement of decision, the particular theory of the trial court is not controlling, and it reached the correct result. (Gov. Code, § 6250 et seq.; D'Amico v. Board of Medical Examiners (1974) 11 Cal.3d 1, 18-19 (D'Amico).) We shall affirm the declaratory relief judgment on the reverse validation and PRA issues.
However, the judgment must be reversed in part with respect to the trial court's erroneous determination that as a matter of law, the City's proven statutory violations of the CRL additionally amounted to an actionable deprivation of federal due process protections, under the appropriate legal test. (Mathews, supra, 424 U.S. 319.) Although CYAC properly pursued its remedy in the reverse validation action, to challenge such a blight designation amendment within the statutory limitations period (only 90 days; §§ 33500 or 33501), at this point, CYAC or the Interested Parties still cannot show their essential property interests were actually or potentially affected at the level necessary to satisfy the above-cited due process test. There was no eminent domain filing by the City, nor had CYAC brought any inverse condemnation action, to crystallize its immediate property interests as protectable under federal due process standards during this early stage redevelopment amendment proceeding. (Cambria Spring Co. v. City of Pico Rivera (1985) 171 Cal.App.3d 1080, 1097-1098 (Cambria Spring Co.).)
Accordingly, we affirm the judgment in part but reverse the grant of declaratory relief on the due process theory, with directions to enter a different order. On the attorney fees issues, we find the trial court appropriately granted CYAC and the Interested Parties discretionary relief from any applicable filing deadlines for their fees request, but we reverse the orders awarding such fees and costs to the extent that they incorrectly relied upon Title 42 United States Code section 1988 or Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 (the due process conclusions). Upon remand, the trial court shall reevaluate the extent to which such an award of fees and costs continues to be justified in light of the remaining statutory grounds for relief that we upheld in this opinion, in accordance with the principles of Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 and Government Code section 6259.
BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEDURE
A. Ordinance and Complaint; Prior Appeal on Publication
In broad outline, with more specialized facts to be added in the discussion portion of this opinion, the City's 1995 redevelopment plan and its amendments (the plan) authorized the use of eminent domain in the area where the CYAC and Interested Parties' properties are located, based on designations of blight. (§ 33037, subd. (c).) There are 692 parcels in the overall 300-acre Amendment area. On its parcel, CYAC operates a boxing gym and athletic facility that serves at-risk youth as a community center. The Interested Parties and their lessees conduct business on their property.
As proposed, the 2007 Amendment reduced the area subject to eminent domain and restricted its use on residential properties, and focused on two business corridors (Civic Center Drive and National City Boulevard) and the harbor district area, where some environmental contamination existed due to previous industrial uses there. The City sought to amend the plan to extend the time for eminent domain proceedings to be conducted under redevelopment powers until 2017. The City was interested in allowing the construction of condominium developments in the designated area, as a redevelopment measure.
In preparation for amending the plan, the City's Commission hired the consulting firm of RSG, an independent contractor, to prepare reports required under the CRL. RSG assisted the Commission (sometimes designated the agency) in preparing and publishing the initial notice of the public hearings on the Amendment, both through mail notice to taxing agencies and through newspaper publication. From February 2007 to June 2007, RSG was in the process of drafting its report to the council (the RTC) on the need for the Amendment. RSG's contract with the City's Commission provided that this agency would have the property rights to the memoranda, reports, maps, drawings, plans, specifications and other documents prepared by RSG for the project, and all of these would be turned over to the agency upon completion of the project.
On April 17, 2007, a hearing was held by the City Council to adopt a resolution to authorize circulation and public review of the Amendment, and to set a public hearing for June 19, 2007 to consider adoption of the Amendment. The Council's agenda statement attached a map indicating the boundary around the parcels that would be subject to the Amendment (the "boundary parcel map").
In May 2007, notice of the June hearing was mailed to all affected tax agencies, and to all affected property owners, businesses and residents. The same boundary parcel map that was attached to the April 17, 2007 Council Agenda Statement was also provided with the May 11, 2007 mailing.
In May 2007, CYAC retained expert witnesses to oppose the Amendment and began the process of requesting numerous documents that related in any way to the proposed amendment for the project area, which included CYAC. On May 23, it sought "Any and all blight studies that have been performed that specifically deal with National City Boulevard and its surrounding areas or any other blight studies that have been performed for National City since 2000. Please include any documents that show the actual areas the City or CDC included in conducting the blight study. [¶] Any and all blight studies the CDC or City will rely on in support of the redevelopment plan or eminent domain proceedings." CYAC's May 23 request relied upon the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). (5 U.S.C. § 552 et seq.)
City staff members responded to CYAC that such a "blight study" was also called the RTC, and that the City planned to make it and other reports available approximately three days before the public hearing, pursuant to the standards of the Brown Act. (Gov. Code, § 54954.2, subd. (a).)
In June 2007, the City published three weekly notices in local newspapers, to give notice of the upcoming June 19, 2007 public hearing. On June 14, 2007, three business days before the hearing, the City released to the public for review its 37-page RTC recommending adoption of the Amendment. The RTC detailed in writing different types of blight conditions that it found were remaining in the Amendment area, and stated it had relied on six major sources in that analysis and assessment, including "the April 2007 field survey by RSG, " and "Information from the National City police department." The RTC concluded that such blight could not be eliminated without the use of eminent domain.
The RTC referred in passing to 2005 findings by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (the Brownfields Studies) about environmental contamination existing in part of the Amendment area. (See fn. 3, ante.) No map was attached to the RTC made available to the public, to show where in the project any particular blighting conditions existed. (See fns. 1, 2, ante, text of CRL statutes requiring such a map.)
On June 15, 2007, CYAC sent three PRA requests to the City, referencing the same boundary parcel map that had been attached to the April 17, 2007 council agenda and the City's notice of hearing. On June 17, 2007, CYAC, represented by a law firm, the Institute of Justice, sent a letter to the City objecting to the Amendment on various statutory and constitutional grounds.
At the June 19, 2007 public hearing, the City Council heard opposition from CYAC and the Interested Parties and other citizens to the adoption of the Amendment. CYAC filed 34 pages of written objections to the Amendment. CYAC obtained permission from the City to file its six-volume appendix in opposition to the plan. The City denied CYAC's request for a continuance of the hearing, but allowed its additional written objections to be received after the hearing.
In July 2007, the City Council approved a negative declaration for the Amendment, and prepared written responses to written objections to the Amendment, as filed by members of the public.
On July 10, 2007, the City provided to the public four maps of the Amendment area showing the different types of blighting conditions on which it relied as justification for the Amendment (i.e., structural obsolescence, incompatible adjacent uses, deterioration and dilapidation, or defective design without parking). (§ 33352, subd. (b).) On July 17, 2007, the ordinance approving the Amendment was adopted, incorporating by reference documents contained in earlier studies.
After several more PRA requests and much further communication, discussion, clarification, and objections taking place between June and August 2007, the City supplied at least three additional sets of informational documents to CYAC. (See pts. II, III, post.)
In September 2007, CYAC brought this action seeking a judicial declaration that the Amendment was invalid on a number of specific grounds, including noncompliance with the procedures of the CRL. In particular, its first, fifth, and sixth causes of action alleged that the City failed to release or complete its reports or maps on the matter in a timely fashion, thus preventing the public from preparing any effective objections to the proposed Amendment, or from obtaining documents related to the required substantial evidence of existing blight and alleviation of blight through the proposed redevelopment.
In its second cause of action alleging violations of federal constitutional protections, CYAC contended it was deprived of procedural due process of law affecting the proposed use of its property (U.S. Const., 14th Amend.). In its third and fourth causes of action alleging state constitutional violations, CYAC claimed the eminent domain law was being used for constitutionally illegitimate purposes, such as economic development or increasing tax revenue. All these constitutional claims were alleged separately from the statutory causes of action. The prayer requested a declaration that the City had violated CYAC's procedural due process rights to a meaningful opportunity to be heard, and it sought invalidation of the ordinance and other relief (injunction and damages).
In its seventh cause of action, CYAC sought to compel the City to disclose numerous public records relied on by the City to support the blight designations underlying the Amendment. (PRA, Gov. Code, § 6250 et seq.)
As explained in two prior opinions issued by this court, CYAC obtained a court order through noticed ex parte proceedings for the publication of the summons, which was directed toward the City and to "All Persons Interested in the Matter of the Amendment to National City's Redevelopment Plan as Adopted by [the ordinance]." (Community Youth Athletic Center v. City of National City (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 416 (our prior opinion); Community Youth Athletic Center v. Superior Court (Feb. 18, 2009, D052630) [nonpub. opn.] [reversing the judgment on the separate PRA petition; some facts stated here have been adapted from those opinions].) CYAC encountered difficulties with the publication process in English and Spanish newspapers, when one of the newspapers unexpectedly changed its publication schedule, and ultimately, the summons that was published after some delay retained an incorrect date for responses by any interested parties (i.e., the published summons contained the date for response as originally anticipated, thus advancing the allowable response period following publication, from Monday, Nov. 19 to Friday, Nov. 16, 2007). (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 861, 861.1, 863 [part of the Validation Act].)
The City then moved for judgment on the pleadings on all causes of action, claiming defective publication. The trial court ruled in favor of the City, and CYAC appealed. We reversed, allowing republication and further notice proceedings.
B. Renewed Litigation After 2009 Prior Appeal
Back on track, the parties negotiated the contents of the administrative record, for purposes of litigating the reverse validation issues. The administrative record was lodged with the trial court in February 2011. The Interested Parties were granted leave to appear and respond, pleading similar theories.
Extensive motion practice continued, in which CYAC pursued a motion for summary adjudication on the PRA claims, opposed by the City. The court denied the motion, ruling that there were remaining disputed material facts about whether the raw data regarding the blight studies created by the private consultant, RSG, constituted public records subject to disclosure.
Discovery disputes ensued, followed by motions to compel production of records or quash subpoenas. The City pursued a summary adjudication motion on the CYAC constitutional claims, both federal and state. Opposition was filed. The court denied the motion, ruling that the City could not establish on the undisputed evidence that CYAC had been afforded sufficient notice and documentation of the blight conditions to satisfy due process standards. The court relied on the test in Mathews, supra, 424 U.S. 319, and stated "what passes muster for constitutional due process is fact dependent." The court also ruled that the City had not yet established whether the two California constitutional claims, alleging wrongful taking of property, were totally without merit, since CYAC was also alleging that the process of adopting the redevelopment plan and blight designation was commenced for improper purposes.
In preparation for trial, the City sought to sever the PRA issues, but the court denied the motion. It had become known that the City's consultant RSG had routinely purged its records after completing the RTC, and had not retained copies of the raw data in the form of its field survey spreadsheets that were compiled by staff persons who walked the area to be covered by the Amendment, as they investigated physical blighting conditions.
Back in May 2007, the City police department's crime analyst sent RSG a chart containing three years of crime data (the "three-year chart") which RSG used to prepare a table of crime rates from 2006 for the RTC. However, the raw data used by the City's analyst to prepare the three-year chart was no longer available.
CYAC brought a motion seeking an order for sanctions for alleged spoliation of both kinds of that "critical evidence." The City filed opposition. The court denied the motions, ruling there was no evidence from which the court could reasonably infer intentional or willful conduct by City agents or employees to destroy either the raw data used by the consultant (field surveys) or any background data compiled by the City police department (crime statistics).
Trial briefs and motions in limine were filed, as well as motions for judicial notice. In limine, the court ruled that with respect to the reverse validation claims, review was limited to the administrative record. However, on the PRA and constitutional issues, testimony and trial exhibits going beyond the administrative record were allowed to be presented, and a lengthy bench trial took place. The parties requested a statement of decision and prepared drafts.
C. 2011 Statement of Decision and Judgment; Attorney Fees Awards
In its April 20, 2011 statement of decision, the trial court found on the reverse validation claims that the City's lack of compliance with CRL requirements resulted in a lack of support for the Amendment, due to the failure to include the required map attachment in the RTC. (§ 33352, subd. (b).) Additionally, the court ruled the administrative record did not contain "specific, quantifiable evidence about the location and prevalence of the alleged blighting conditions, " to show a serious physical and economic burden on the community, as required by section 33030, subdivision (b)(1) and section 33352, subdivision (b)(2). Even though the RTC and administrative record contained "substantial evidence" of one condition of economic blight (using crime statistics City-wide), they still "did not have substantial evidence of at least one condition of physical blight." (§ 33031, subds. (a), (b).) Thus, even if some blight conditions existed in the Amendment area, the administrative record did not contain substantial evidence that there were substantial and prevalent amounts of blighting conditions, or that any such conditions could not be eliminated without the use of eminent domain. (§ 33333.2, subd. (a)(4).) Declaratory relief was issued invalidating the Amendment.
On the PRA, the trial court's key findings were (a) both forms of raw data relied on by the RTC and the City, the property-by-property field surveys conducted by RSG and the property-by-property crime data for three years before the PRA request was made, constituted public records; (b) CYAC's various PRA requests were not unduly broad or vague, and thus (c) the City did not undertake a reasonable search for the requested information, nor carry its burden of showing that it justifiably withheld public records that were in the possession of its consultant, RSG, or in the possession of its police department when the requests were made. Specifically, "The Court holds that a reasonable search requires the agency to: (1) ask the known custodian of records for (2) the documents requested in the PRA request." (Italics added.) Thus, the court impliedly found that the City should have conveyed to the consultant the same request language that CYAC sent to the City. Although the court stated the City staff members had demonstrated evident neglect of their duties, the court was "not convinced that the violations of the PRA were intentional or that the City refused to attempt to obtain documents from its consultant." The court issued declaratory relief finding such violations of the PRA, but denied any injunctive relief, on the basis there was no showing of any need for prospective relief.
Regarding federal due process, the trial court made a series of rulings. First, the City was found to have violated "CYAC's right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment with respect to its failure to timely provide the maps with the RTC, which were required by statute." (Italics added.) The trial court determined that the "City's decision to provide CYAC with the RTC only three business days before the public hearing, and at that time its failure to provide any underlying data and without the required maps, created an unreasonable risk of erroneous deprivation, " denying CYAC its procedural due process rights. The trial court also concluded, "at a minimum, a continuance of the public hearing upon request was required."
In its federal due process findings, the trial court continued: "The evidence in this case presents a troubling picture where the [City] appears to have intentionally provided notices and scheduled all of the public hearings so as to provide as little time as possible to meaningfully prepare any opposition. The RTC itself was vaguely written." The City had compounded this process by failing to provide the statutorily required maps with the RTC, by failing to respond promptly to PRA requests for crime data and property survey information, by unjustifiably claiming the survey data were not public records, and by failing to secure that information during litigation to prevent it from being destroyed. (§ 33352, subd. (b).)
However, to the extent that CYAC seemed to be making a constitutional challenge to section 33457.1 (either facially or as applied), the trial court found that the notice and access to the RTC as provided by the City, pursuant to that section, did not create a further or broader denial of due process. (See fn. 2, ante.) Essentially, the court found the City had substantially complied with the notice requirements of section 33452, and CYAC had been able to protect its rights and to prepare and submit extensive opposition to the Amendment, based upon its own investigation and the material made known to it.
The court thus declined to make a broad finding that any particular number of weeks or months of access to the RTC must have been provided to the public by the City, pursuant to the terms of section 33457.1. Declaratory relief and $1 in nominal damages were awarded to CYAC. With respect to the claims under the California Constitution, the court found them to be premature due to the lack of any eminent domain proceedings that had been initiated by the City. Judgment was issued in favor of CYAC.
Following requests for prevailing party attorney fees and costs by CYAC and the Interested Parties, the trial court granted them relief from default for late filing pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision (b), based on its interpretation of rule 3.1702 and related provisions. (Rules 8.104, 8.108.) The court ruled on the merits that both CYAC and the Interested Parties were entitled to attorney fees awards under several statutory provisions, including Title 42 United States Code section 1988, Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 and Government Code section 6259, subdivision (d). (Further details will be set forth in pt. V, post.)
OVERVIEW AND INTRODUCTORY REMARKS
We will set forth the respective standards of review and statutory schemes as we discuss, in turn, the grant of declaratory relief on the reverse validation issues about CRL procedural protections for such a redevelopment plan amendment, and the application of the PRA standards in this factual and legal context. (Pts. II, III, post.) We can then address the propriety of the declaratory relief issued on the federal due process issues, as well as the attorney fees issues, both on the appeal and cross-appeal. (Pts. IV, V, post.)
In all of our analyses, we are mindful that in its 2011 legislation (§§ 34170 et seq., 34161 et seq.), the Legislature prospectively abolished all redevelopment agencies, reallocated their funding, and delegated their work to successor agencies. In Matosantos, supra, 53 Cal.4th 231, our Supreme Court held that because the Legislature had created redevelopment agencies in the CRL, it had the power to dissolve those agencies through subsequent legislation. (11 Miller & Starr, Cal. Real Estate (3d ed. 2012-2013 supp.), § 30B:0.10, pp. 45-46.) Accordingly, this exact form of redevelopment method of condemnation will not be pursued by a City commission that no longer exists. (§ 33037, subd. (c); California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos II (2013) 212 Cal.App.4th 1457, 1485 [issues on the existing obligations or duties of redevelopment agencies before their dissolution are not moot, where successor agencies have taken over their functions].) The briefs on appeal have only minimally addressed this dramatic legal development.
We are required to review the existing ordinances and redevelopment actions in the time frame in which they were conducted, in this case, 2007. (See County of Los Angeles v. Glendora Redevelopment Project (2010) 185 Cal.App.4th 817, 832(Glendora).) We do not speculate what action the City may take in the future to pursue any eminent domain powers based on blight designations within the area affected by the Amendment. In any case, the eminent domain powers controlled by Code of Civil Procedure section 1230.010 et seq. were not directly affected by the 2011 redevelopment legislation. (§ 33037, subd. (c).) The attorney fees issues raised in this appeal serve to keep these validation and related issues alive, despite the major changes in redevelopment law.
Our review of the judgment is conducted in view of the trial court's issuance of a detailed statement of decision that addressed each of the above-described substantive areas. When reviewing a judgment based on such a statement of decision, "any conflict in the evidence or reasonable inferences to be drawn from the facts will be resolved in support of the determination of the trial court decision." (In re Marriage of Hoffmeister (1987) 191 Cal.App.3d 351, 358.) The ultimate facts found in the court's statement of decision necessarily include findings on the intermediate evidentiary facts that sustain them. (Muzquiz v. City of Emeryville (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 1106, 1125.)
Although the statement of decision reveals the basis for the judgment, all of its reasoning is not treated as binding on an appellate court. (D'Amico, supra, 11 Cal.3d 1, 18-19.) To the extent the record presents an undisputed or established set of facts, the interpretation and application of a statutory scheme to those facts are treated as questions of law and are subject to de novo review on appeal. (Blue v. City of Los Angeles (2006) 137 Cal.App.4th 1131, 1140 (Blue).) With regard to validation proceedings, the undisputed set of facts is to be measured against the standards set by those statutes. (Katz v. Campbell Union High School Dist. (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 1024, 1031 (Katz).) This appellate court is not bound by the trial court's statutory interpretations. (Blue, supra, at p. 1140; California Teachers Assn. v. San Diego Community College Dist. (1981) 28 Cal.3d 692, 699.)
Essentially, these parties do not dispute that the trial court correctly stated each of the statutory standards for deciding the claims under the CRL and PRA regulatory schemes, but they each challenge portions of the trial court's interpretation and application of those standards to the facts as established by the evidence, and they also argue the sufficiency of that evidence. (Glendora, supra, 185 Cal.App.4th 817, 835-836 [administrative record must contain substantial proof of essential statutory criteria].) When the trial court applied federal procedural due process standards to that same set of established facts, it stated it was doing so narrowly and was rejecting CYAC's broader requested ruling. With respect to each of the operative components of the judgment, our task on appeal is to independently construe the statutory protections and evaluate the sufficiency of the supporting evidence for the legal conclusions reached. With those caveats, we turn to the substantive questions presented.
REVERSE VALIDATION DECLARATORY RELIEF
A. Validation Law and CRL
Under section 33501, CRL litigation may be framed as validation or reverse validation actions. These actions promote the important public policy of securing a speedy determination of the validity of certain actions taken by a public agency. (McLeod v. Vista Unified School Dist. (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1156, 1166-1167 (McLeod); Code Civ. Proc., § 860 et seq.) Such in rem proceedings require notice to all those persons potentially interested in the issues of public interest presented (here, redevelopment and eminent domain). (Katz, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th 1024, 1028.) Under Code of Civil Procedure section 866, "[t]he court hearing the action shall disregard any error, irregularity, or omission which does not affect the substantial rights of the parties."
" 'The scope of judicial review of an agency's decision to adopt a redevelopment plan is quite limited. Both the trial court and this court review the administrative record to determine whether the findings and decision of the legislative body are supported by substantial evidence.' [Citations.] Appellate 'review is done independent of any determinations made by the superior court.' [Citations.] [¶] In examining the administrative record, we resolve all ' "reasonable doubts" ' and 'accept all reasonable inferences supporting the administrative findings.' [Citation.] 'The fact that different inferences or conclusions could be drawn, or that different methods of gathering and compiling statistics could have been employed, is not determinative in a substantial evidence review.' " (Glendora, supra, 185 Cal.App.4th 817, 835-836.)
On appeal, this court independently " 'determine[s] the law applicable to the facts in the administrative record' in assessing whether the statutory requirements have been met. [Citations.]" (Glendora, supra, 185 Cal.App.4th 817, 836.) We review de novo the legal issues involving the interpretation and application of statutes. (Ibid., citing Blue, supra, 137 Cal.App.4th 1131, 1140.) We confine this review to the issues presented by the ...