California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fifth Division
APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los
Angeles County, Super. Ct. No. BC487865, Abraham Khan, Judge.
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Mohammed K. Ghods, William A. Stahr, Jeremy A. Rhyne and Ruben Escobedo for Plaintiffs and Appellants.
Burke, Williams & Sorenson, Brian A. Pierik, Rachel H. Richman and Keiko J. Kojima for Defendant and Respondent.
Appellants Tammy Gong (“Gong”) and L&G Rosemead Garden LLC (“L&G”) (Gong and L&G are jointly referred to as “appellants”) seek to impose liability on the City of Rosemead (the “City”) for the alleged tortious conduct of John Tran (“Tran”), a former member of its City Council and former mayor of the City. Appellants allege that while L&G’s proposed real estate project was proceeding through the City’s approval process, Tran, the City’s mayor, “extracted” $38, 000 in “loans” from Gong, refused to repay her, and then set about a retaliatory course of conduct to prevent the approval of L&G’s development project, after Gong refused to provide Tran with additional funds and continuously rejected his sexual overtures. Gong also alleged that Tran physically assaulted her and threatened to kill her. The trial court sustained, without leave to amend, the City’s demurrer and granted its motion to strike the complaint, and entered a judgment of dismissal, from which appellants appeal.
We determine that, contrary to appellants’ contention, their claims were subject to the claim presentation requirements and the immunity
provisions of the Government Claims Act (Gov. Code, § 810 et seq.). Because they failed to satisfy the claim presentment requirements of the Act with respect to their causes of action for fraud and extortion, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and because the City is immune from their promissory estoppel claim, the trial court properly sustained the City’s demurrer. We therefore affirm the judgment.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL SUMMARY
We draw the facts from the allegations in the complaint, which we accept as true, except when contradicted by exhibits to the complaint or documents of which the court has taken judicial notice. (Tucker v. Pacific Bell Mobile Services (2012) 208 Cal.App.4th 201, 210 [145 Cal.Rptr.3d 340].)
Gong is the managing partner of L&G. The City is a general law city incorporated in the County of Los Angeles. The City’s policymaking and legislative authority are vested in a governing council consisting of the mayor and four other members (“City Council”). The City Council conducts business through various agencies, including the Rosemead Community Development Commission and the Rosemead Planning Commission.
In or around 2004, L&G spent approximately $780, 000 to acquire certain undeveloped land commonly known as 9400-9412 Valley Boulevard in the City (Original Parcel”). The Original Parcel was approved by the City for construction of a 7, 200 square-foot office building (“Original Plan.”)
In 2005, Gong went to City Hall to draw the building permit for the Original Plan so that L&G could commence construction on the Original Parcel in accordance with the plan. Tran approached Gong in the parking lot and started a conversation with her about the bulky documents she was carrying. As a result of this casual conversation, Tran learned about the Original Plan and escorted Gong into City Hall, where he questioned her about the Plan.
Tran suggested that the City would support the Original Plan if Gong would instead construct a mixed-use building on the Original Parcel (“City Endorsed Plan”). As a result of her encounter with Tran, Gong did not draw the permit for the Original Plan, which she had intended to do before meeting Tran.
City officials contacted Gong at the request of Tran to schedule a meeting to discuss the City Endorsed Plan. Gong was advised that in order to proceed with the City Endorsed Plan, L&G needed to acquire a lot adjoining the Original Parcel (the “Additional Parcel”).
Tran, who was a licensed real estate agent, represented to Gong that he had substantial knowledge and experience with real estate transactions and Gong should trust his professional judgment. The actions of other City Council members, officers, agents, and employees of the City lulled Gong into a false sense of security that Tran was trustworthy and that she should follow Tran’s instructions and directions in connection with her real estate development plans.
After meeting with Tran and other officials of the City, Gong was convinced to proceed with the City Endorsed Plan. Accordingly, applications for a preliminary design review were prepared for the City Endorsed Plan and with the City’s assistance, efforts were made by L&G to acquire the Additional Parcel.
On or about April 10, 2007, the Rosemead Community Development Commission placed the City Endorsed Plan on the City’s list of major mixed-use projects and gave L&G preliminary design approval. Soon thereafter, in reliance on the preliminary design approval and repeated and consistent assurances that the City would ensure speedy approval of the City Endorsed Plan, L&G agreed to acquire the Additional Parcel for approximately $700, 000. Soon thereafter, L&G prepared and submitted applications for a general plan amendment, zone change, design review, and conditional use permit to proceed with construction of the City Endorsed Plan.
While L&G’s applications were pending, Tran asked Gong for personal loans due to a purported family emergency and for other reasons. Ultimately, she loaned Tran a total of $38, 000. Subsequently, Gong realized that Tran had no intention of repaying the loans and she ceased lending him money.
Also during this timeframe, Tran approached Gong seeking to engage her in a romantic relationship. Gong informed Tran that she was not interested, but that did not deter him. When she continued to repel his overtures, Tran commenced a retaliatory course of conduct against Gong, which included causing the final decision on the City Endorsed Plan to be indefinitely tabled. Gong still refused additional financial and romantic overtures from Tran and ...