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Young v. City of Coronado

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division

April 4, 2017

ARTHUR R. YOUNG et al., as Trustees, etc., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
CITY OF CORONADO et al., Defendants and Respondents.

         APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County No. 37-2014-00037469- CU-EI-CTL, Randa Trapp, Judge. Affirmed.

          Schwartz Hyde & Sullivan and Kevin P. Sullivan for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

          McDougal Love Eckis Boehmer & Foley, Steven E. Boehmer and Randall R. Sjoblom for Defendants and Respondents.

          AARON, J.

         I.

         INTRODUCTION

         Appellants Arthur R. Young and John A. Young, as Trustees and on behalf of the J.S. Abbott Trust, sought a permit to demolish a small cottage on a parcel of land located in Coronado, California (the City). Because the cottage was more than 75 years old, the Coronado Historic Resource Commission (Commission) reviewed the property for potential historical significance. The Commission ultimately concluded that the dwelling should be designated as a historic resource under the Coronado Municipal Code (the CMC). Appellants appealed the determination to the Coronado City Council, which agreed with the Commission's assessment and affirmed the property's designation as a Coronado historic resource. The effect of this designation is to place additional limits on a property owner's ability to alter or demolish the property without taking certain ameliorative steps and/or demonstrating a heightened need for the action pursuant to Chapter 84.20 of the CMC.

         Appellants filed a petition for a writ of mandate in the trial court, seeking review of the City's designation of the property as a historic resource. The trial court denied appellants' petition.

         Appellants now seek review of the trial court's denial of their petition for mandate. Appellants contend that the City abused its discretion in denying them a demolition permit for the dwelling on the subject property. Appellants argue that the City Council's resolution failed to contain sufficient findings to support the conclusion, the City failed to apply its own mandatory guidelines in holding the hearing and making its findings, and the findings are not supported by sufficient evidence.

         We conclude that the appellants have not established that the City abused its discretion in designating the dwelling subject property as a historic resource and denying a demolition permit. We therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         II.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In late December 2013, appellants filed an application form with the City titled "Determination of Historic Significance (For Nomination for Historic Designation and Notice of Intent to Demolish Review)" regarding the subject property, which is located on Glorietta Boulevard. Appellants filed the application seeking City approval to demolish the dwelling on the property in order to improve the property. Because the dwelling at issue is more than 75 years old, the City was required, pursuant to the City's historic preservation ordinance, to undertake a review of the historic significance of the property before granting a demolition permit. Appellants' application form identified the subject dwelling on the property as having been constructed in 1924 and reflecting a "Simplified Spanish Revival" architectural style. The application indicated that the dwelling had not had any major alterations made to it. Accompanying the application were documents describing the prior ownership of the property, its permit history, documents related to the J.S. Abbott Trust, and photographs of the property.

         In compliance with the CMC, a hearing was set before the Commission on January 15, 2014. The purpose of the hearing was for the Commission to consider whether the property qualified as a historic resource pursuant to the historic designation criteria set forth in the CMC.[1] In conjunction with the public hearing, City staff submitted a report regarding the subject property, dated January 15, 2014, which included information discovered by City staff in researching the history of the property. The City staff report indicated that there was no evidence to support a finding that the subject dwelling met Criteria A, B, or E of section 84.10.030 of the CMC. However, City staff identified evidence that could support findings that the dwelling met Criterion C and Criterion D. For example, with respect to Criterion C, the City staff report stated the following:

         "Examination of the form, details, and finish of the dwelling indicate that the dwelling is representative of the trend toward construction of Period Revival architectural styles during the 1920s and 1930s, specifically the Spanish Bungalow style. Period Revival styles took the details and architectural characteristics of high-style architectural trends and simplified them for smaller homes. One familiar example of this is the simplification and popularization of high-style Spanish Colonial architecture after the Panama-Californian Exposition in 1915, resulting in the large numbers of Spanish Bungalows that are seen throughout Coronado and the San Diego region.

         "The subject dwelling features many character defining features of the Spanish Bungalow style, such as a flat roof and parapet, a stucco exterior finish, and simple square plan. The street-facing elevation has a large multi-light focal window. A stucco chimney is present on the side elevation with a decorative detail, and is finished in stucco. The dwelling features a recessed front entry with double multi-light French doors. Original wood windows appear to be present throughout.

         "The dwelling retains a high degree of architectural integrity, as it has not been visibly altered since its construction, and appears to be significant under Criterion C as an example of the Spanish Bungalow style."

         With respect to Criterion D, the City staff report notes, with reference to attachments regarding other properties that had been built by the same builder, that:

         "The dwelling was constructed by the Hakes Investment Company. Additional information about buildings constructed by Hakes Investment Company is included in Attachment 3.

         "The property is unmodified from its original appearance as constructed by the Hakes Investment Company, and may be considered historically significant under Criterion D."

         The attachments included photographs of 21 homes that the Hakes Investment Company (Hakes) had built in the City. Three of the identified Hakes-built residences had been designated as historic resources, four others had been reviewed but not designated as historic resources, and fourteen had not yet been subject to historic designation review. The attachment also provided a list of six other Hakes-built homes that had been demolished prior to undergoing historic designation review. Thus, staff research suggested that Hakes had built at least 27 homes in the City.

         At the hearing, a City staff member orally presented additional information regarding the property to the Commission. In response to a question from one commissioner regarding Hakes and the "notability" requirement with respect to Criterion D, the City staff member responded:

         "Well, Item D --Criterion D states that the property should be an example of the notable work of a builder. So when you're looking at Criterion D, you're not looking at whether or not the builder is notable or not; you're looking at whether or not the work is notable, and that's pretty broad. [¶] You can determine that a work is notable for any number of reasons. As I stated in the staff report, the property is unmodified from its original appearance, so that could make it a notable work as so many buildings of that age are now modified from their original appearance."

         Following the staff presentation, which reiterated much of what was in the written report, appellants briefly addressed the Commission and answered questions. Appellants explained that the home had been a rental property "almost all of its life, " and that they believed that the property "isn't contributing much, " and "doesn't really add to Glorietta."

         Upon the closure of the public portion of the hearing, the commissioners deliberated and concluded that the subject property qualified for historic designation pursuant to Criterion C, because the property exemplified the distinctive characteristics of the Spanish Bungalow architectural style, as well as under Criterion D, because the property was a notable work of Hakes. The Commission passed Resolution No. HR 2-14 (Resolution HR 2-14), which included the following statements:

         "WHEREAS, evidence was submitted and considered to include without limitation:

         "1. Notice of intent to Demolish Permit Application dated November 25, 2013;

         "2. Oral testimony;

         "3. Historic Resource Commission staff report dated January 15, 2014;

         "4. Additional written information and photographs provided by the applicant;

         "NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Historic Resource Commission of the City of Coronado finds the property as described in the application submittal dated November 27, 2013, shall be designated as a Historic Resource because it meets the following criteria:

         "c) It possesses distinctive characteristics of the Spanish Bungalow architectural style, and is valuable for the study of a type, period, or method of construction and has not been substantially altered;

         "d) It is representative of the notable work of the builder, the Hakes Investment Company because it is a strong example of the work they did throughout Coronado."

         Appellants appealed the Commission's historic designation of the subject property to the City Council. In describing the basis for the appeal, appellants asserted that the subject property did not meet either Criterion C or D, despite the Commission's conclusions. With respect to Criterion C, Petitioners argued that the Commission had not addressed the provision of Criterion C that the dwelling be valuable for study. In addition, they noted that another similar dwelling constructed by the same builder and with the same architectural features such as a flat roof, stucco walls, wood frame windows, and decorative details had previously been designated not historic. Appellants contended that no architectural features on the home required study because they could be found on numerous other buildings within the City.

         With respect to Criterion D, Appellants claimed that the dwelling was not "notable" because most homes on the same street possess a picture window, another property by the builder that was not designated a historic resource had a similar arch-topped picture window, and the Commission failed to identify any specific aspect of the home that was notable. Appellants observed that other works by the same builder with similar architectural details had not been designated as historic resources.

         An appeal hearing was conducted before the City Council on March 4, 2014.

         In reviewing appellants' appeal of the Commission's decision, the City Council considered the City staff report regarding the subject property. The City Council also listened to an oral presentation by a City staff member, during which the staff member described the historic designation process, the proceeding that had been held before the Commission regarding the subject property, as well as the Commission's findings with respect to the subject property. In addition, two commissioners appeared and spoke at the City Council hearing.

         The City Council also heard from appellants Arthur Young and John Young, as well as a local architect who appeared on behalf of appellants. It was this architect's opinion that the dwelling did not meet either Criterion C or Criterion D, in particular because the dwelling seemed to him to be very similar to other dwellings by the same builder that the City had "allowed to be demolished."

         Upon the conclusion of the public comment portion of the hearing, the City Council closed the public hearing and deliberated. During this closed meeting, Councilmember Bailey noted that he had discussed the subject property with Ledge Hakes, a "part owner in the Hakes Investment Company." According to Councilmember Bailey, Ledge Hakes said "that he did not feel this house was representative of his work and also responded that he did not feel that his work was more notable than any other -- any other developers at that time."

         After deliberation, the City Council voted 3-1, with one abstention, to uphold the Commission's decision to designate the subject property a historic resource under the CMC. The City Council passed Resolution No. 8654 (Resolution 8654) confirming the historical resource designation. Along with a review of the procedural ...


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