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Hauser v. Ventura County Board of Supervisors

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

February 20, 2018

IRENA HAUSER, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
VENTURA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, Defendant and Respondent.

         Superior Court County No. 56-2014-00455399-CU-WM-VTA of Ventura Rocky J. Baio, Judge

          Casselman Law Group, David B. Casselman, David Polinsky, Kirk S. Comer for Plaintiff and Appellant.

          Leroy Smith, County Counsel, Andrew Gschwind, Assistant County Counsel, for Defendant and Respondent.

          GILBERT, P. J.

         This case calls to mind the poem “The Tyger” from Songs of Experience by William Blake, the last stanza of which reads: “Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry!”

         Irena Hauser applied for a conditional use permit (CUP) to keep up to five tigers on her property. The county planning commission and board of supervisors denied her application. She petitioned the trial court for a writ of administrative mandate. She appeals the trial court's denial of the petition. We affirm and decide, among other things, that substantial evidence supports the findings of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors (Board).

         FACTS

         Hauser submitted an application to the County of Ventura (County) for a CUP to keep up to five tigers on her 19-acre property. The property is located in an unincorporated area of the County near the City of Malibu. The project would include three tiger enclosures, a 13, 500-square-foot arena with a roof over 14 feet in height at its highest point. It would be surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain link fence encompassing over seven acres.

         Hauser's property is located within a half-mile of 57 residential lots, 28 of which currently have residences on them. There are 46 homes within a mile of the project. In addition, there are two children's camps within two to three miles of the property. The rugged topography combined with the dense vegetation would make retrieval of an escaped animal difficult even with the use of GPS devices.

         Hauser represented in her application that she, her sister, their husbands or children would be on site with the tigers, with at least one family member on site at all times. Hauser and her sister have attended an eight-day class on animal husbandry, safety and training. The website for the course states, “There is no written exam nor any reading necessary for completing this course. All students receive Certificates of Completion.” Their husbands and children have no formal training.

         The animals would be used in the entertainment business, including movie sets, commercials and still photography. The animals would be transported from the property by sport utility vehicle or truck up to 60 times a year.

         Neighbors opposed the project. They presented a petition containing approximately 11, 000 signatures in opposition. In addition, opponents presented news stories of numerous deaths and injuries from captive big cats. Opponents also presented video showing two tigers uncaged in the backyard of Hauser's Beverly Hills home and photographs of Hauser and her sister with the tigers uncaged on a beach. Hauser claimed that for the beach photographs there were barriers and safety personnel out of camera view.

         The planning commission denied Hauser's permit application, and Hauser appealed to the Board. After a hearing, the Board voted four-to-one to deny Hauser's application.

         In denying the application, the Board found Hauser failed to prove two elements necessary for a CUP: the project is compatible with the planned uses in the general area, and the project is not ...


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