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Amerco Real Estate Co. v. City of West Sacramento

California Court of Appeals, Third District, Yolo

March 12, 2014

AMERCO REAL ESTATE COMPANY, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
CITY OF WEST SACRAMENTO, Defendant and Respondent.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Yolo County, No. CV-PT-11-2672 Daniel P. Maguire, Judge.

Page 779

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 780

COUNSEL

Law Offices of Jeffrey L. Aran and Jeffrey L. Aran for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard, Jeffrey A. Mitchell and William T. Chisum for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

BUTZ, J.

Business and Professions Code section 5499 (hereafter, section 5499) “grandfathers” (i.e., legalizes) on-premises business signs that do not conform to a subsequently enacted local sign law as to height or size, if a conforming sign’s (1) visibility or (2) communicative effectiveness, would be materially impaired by special topographic circumstances.

Page 781

In this administrative mandate action (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 1094.5, 1094.6), we conclude the trial court properly used the substantial evidence test, rather than the independent judgment test, to review an administrative decision concerning these two material impairments.

The trial court concluded that substantial evidence supported the locality’s findings that reducing the height of the pole sign at issue from 35 feet to the conforming height of 12 feet (in what is now the locality’s “Central Business District”) would not materially impair the sign’s visibility or communicative effectiveness. Based on this conclusion, the trial court denied the affected business’s petition for a writ of administrative mandate. We shall affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The affected business is Amerco Real Estate Company, which owns a U-Haul truck rental facility (hereafter, U-Haul) along the eastern portion of West Capitol Avenue in the City of West Sacramento (the City).

The sign at issue (the sign) is a 35-foot-high, freestanding two-pole sign holding three display panels: a panel at the top, reading in large block letters, “U-HAUL”; a middle panel reading, “Custom Hitches”; and a lower panel with a manually changeable reader board concerning hours, sales, goods and services.

U-Haul lawfully installed the sign in 1976.

In 1993, the City enacted an ordinance limiting such pole signs to 12 feet in height in the City’s Central Business District, in which U-Haul is located; but the City provided a 15-year amortization period to comply (to May 2008).

After providing extensive notice, offering height compromises above 12 feet, and engaging in several attempts to resolve the issue of the noncompliant sign, the City brought an administrative nuisance action against U-Haul (under the sign ordinance) to reduce the sign’s height to 12 feet with a maximum of 112 square feet of freestanding sign space.

In August 2011, an administrative hearing officer found in the City’s favor along these lines. And the City’s Board of Appeals, after a hearing in October 2011, rejected U-Haul’s appeal that the sign was entitled to remain pursuant to section 5499, and affirmed the hearing officer’s decision.

U-Haul then unsuccessfully petitioned the trial court for a writ of administrative mandate to overturn the City’s decision. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 1094.5, 1094.6.)

Page 782

This appeal by ...


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