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County of Sonoma v. Cohen

California Court of Appeals, Third District, Sacramento

March 12, 2015

COUNTY OF SONOMA, as Successor, etc., Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
MICHAEL COHEN, as Director, etc., Defendant and Appellant.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, No. 34-2013-80001378-CU-WM-GDS Eugene L. Balonon, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Douglas J. Woods, Assistant Attorney General, Mark R. Beckington and George M. Waters, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendant and Appellant.

Goldfarb & Lipman, Juliet E. Cox; Bruce D. Goldstein, County Counsel, and Steven S. Shupe, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

BUTZ, J.

This is another case arising out of the 2011 legislation that brought about the “Great Dissolution” of California’s redevelopment agencies. (See City of Pasadena v. Cohen (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 1461, 1463 [176 Cal.Rptr.3d 729]

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(Pasadena).) This enactment (Stats. 2011, 1st Ex. Sess. 2011-2012, ch. 5X (hereafter chapter 5X)), which focused chiefly on the Health and Safety Code, [1] barred any new obligations for redevelopment activity and provided a process to wind up the obligations of the nearly 400 redevelopment agencies then existing, in order that the ever-encroaching “tax increment” share of property taxes paid to the redevelopment agencies could then be redistributed instead to the counties, cities, special districts, and school districts otherwise entitled to these revenues. (Pasadena, supra, at p. 1463 & fn. 2; California Redevelopment Assn. v. Matosantos (2011) 53 Cal.4th 231, 246-247 [135 Cal.Rptr.3d 683, 267 P.3d 580] (Matosantos).)

Plaintiff County of Sonoma (Sonoma), in its capacity as the “successor agency” (§§ 34171, subd. (j), 34173, 34177) to the former Sonoma County Community Redevelopment Agency (Sonoma Redevelopment Agency), “reentered” into agreements between the Sonoma Redevelopment Agency and itself that were now invalid, after it received authorization from its “oversight board”[2] (§§ 34178, subd. (a), 34180, subd. (h)) in March 2012 to take this action. Defendant Department of Finance, through its Director, Michael Cohen (the Department), appeals from the trial court’s ruling that these are “enforceable obligations” of a former redevelopment agency that continue to be payable out of property taxes before distribution of the remainder to the taxing entities. (§§ 34171, subd. (d); see id., 34183, subd. (a)(2)(C)).

The Department argues the agreements are not enforceable obligations because the definition specifically excludes agreements between former redevelopment agencies and “sponsoring” entities.[3] (§ 34171, subd. (d)(2).) The Department asserts that the statutory power of an oversight board to authorize a successor agency to reenter into this type of agreement is contrary to legislative intent, and to June 2012 legislation. We disagree and shall affirm the trial court’s judgment and writ directing the Department to treat two county redevelopment agency agreements as enforceable obligations.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case turns on the legal issue of statutory interpretation. Consequently, even though the parties have supplied an ...


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