California Cities League applauds trackside decision

By David M. Greenwald
Chief Editor

Sacramento, Calif. — The impact of an appeals court ruling on Davis’ Trackside continues to be felt. Last month, an appeals court reversed the decision of Yolo Superior Court Judge Samuel McAdam and ruled in favor of the city and the plaintiff.

“(We) conclude that there is substantial evidence to support the city’s approval in that we fail to conclude that ‘a reasonable person could not have reached the same conclusion’ based on the evidence presented to the court. city,” the court wrote. “The City therefore acted at its discretion and the trial court erred in overturning its approval of Trackside.”

They add, “We conclude that substantial evidence supports the City’s approval, and the Association’s assertions on the cross-appeal lack merit. We are therefore going to quash the judgment granting the summons.

The notice was originally ordered not to be published, but at the request of Cal Cities, the court released the notice so that it could be used as precedent in future cases.

In a statement from the League of California Cities, they noted that the court upheld the long-standing legal principle that “[b]because the policies of an overall plan reflect a range of competing interests, [a city] must be allowed to weigh and balance plan policies when applying them, and [is entitled to] broad discretion to interpret its policies in light of plan objectives.

The case involved the City of Davis’ 2017 approval of a four-story mixed-use project — 8,950 square feet of ground-floor retail space and 27 apartments — near railroad tracks on the perimeter from its city center. In reviewing the project, the city interpreted its own general and specific plans, determined that the project complied with those plans, and concluded that the project was a good fit for the city.

The Old East Davis Neighborhood Association sued the city, challenging its approval of the project. The association alleged, contrary to the recommendations of municipal staff and the conclusions of the municipal council, that the height and scale of the project were incompatible with the general and particular plans of the city.

The trial court ruled for Old East, finding it did not provide sufficient “transition” to adjacent residential areas, and ordered the city to rescind all associated approvals.

The city and the plaintiff then appealed, arguing that the trial court had applied the wrong legal standard when evaluating the city’s decision.

The League of California Cities, along with the California State Association of Counties and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the city and the plaintiff.

In their brief, they noted that “this case raises important questions that affect all cities.” Specifically, “the trial court’s misapplication of the standard of judicial review governing local land use decisions implicates the authority constitutionally assigned to cities and counties.”

They noted, “SACOG is interested in this litigation because the trial court’s decision hampers the ability of the City of Davis and all SACOG members to implement the MTP/SCS. The decision disregards the deference that is due to the decisions of SACOG members, and in particular those that approve the essential “smart growth” development needed to achieve housing, land use, environment, transportation and sustainability in the MTP/SCS, including the State of California’s climate strategy to reduce GHG emissions through regional land use planning implemented by local decision makers.

In this case, “The City of Davis interpreted its own master plan and related planning documents and concluded that a mixed-use infill project was well suited to the city.”

The trial court, they write, “took a different view of this project and, while acknowledging the deference due to the city’s elected decision-makers, replaced the judgment of those elected decision-makers with its own.”

In so deciding, “the court misapplied the standard of judicial review applicable to decisions of a public body concerning land use, upholding a challenge to the City’s decision without obliging the challenger to discharge his burden to demonstrate that no reasonable person could have reached the same conclusion as that reached by the agency on the evidence before it.

“The trial court erred,” the brief argued. “(T)his Court should reverse the judgment and affirm the judicial deference due to local governments in the reasonable interpretation and implementation of their own land use planning and planning policies.”

They also argued that “based on substantial evidence in the record, the project complied with the city’s general and specific plans.”

The Third District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision, finding that the city acted at its discretion in approving the project and that the trial court erred in reversing its approval. The court explained that a city council’s decision that a project conforms to its general plan carries “a strong presumption of regularity” and can only be reversed if the city council has abused its discretionary power.

The Neighborhood Association was disappointed by the decision.

“Residents concerned about Davis’ unique feel should be troubled by this decision,” they wrote in a response published by the Vanguard. “By reversing the court of first instance, the Court of Appeal implies that the City does not have to keep its own commitments as implemented in the ordinances and planning documents.

“The appeals court grants the city the right to make whatever arrangements the community agrees to protect specific neighborhoods or resources, and then to interpret them in a way that best serves the interests of developers or other interests. individuals.”

Bernard P. Love