California Municipal Law Blog

Municipal Law Blog

Legal updates on current legislation and court cases affecting California local government

Governor Signs New Law Affecting School District “Lease-Leaseback” Programs

Posted in Legislative Updates, Schools

On September 23, 2016 Governor Brown signed AB2316 which makes significant changes to the Lease-Leaseback construction program that school districts  have been successfully using for years. The bill arises primarily out of recent litigation in Fresno stemming from allegations of corruption and partiality. These new changes, set to take effect on January 1, 2017, among other revisions, specifically delete the phrase “without advertising for bid” from Education Code §17406 and add a new competitive bidding process to the lease-leaseback procedure. Additionally, it includes a specific provision authorizing contractors used in pre-construction consulting to remain eligible for the award of the project. Continue Reading

What Will Marijuana Legalization Mean for Local Government?

Posted in Elections, Initiatives, Medical Marijuana, Proposition 215

On September 26, 2016, the Daily Journal published our article, “What pot legalization would mean for local governments.”  The article discusses the issues local government will address if Proposition 64 passes this November (which is expected).  This article can be accessed at the following link:  What Will Pot Legalization Mean

Court Holds that Obstruction of Views Does Not Inversely Condemn Private Property

Posted in Inverse Condemnation, Recent Court Decisions

In what can only be described as a classic example of a “First World problem,” a Beverly Hills couple sued their city for ruining their beautiful views.  From their hilltop estate, the coupled had for years enjoyed unobstructed views of Beverly Hills, the Hollywood Hills, and other iconic Southern California landmarks.  But when Sequoia redwood trees the city had planted many years earlier began taking on their customary sizes, the tree canopy started blocking the couple’s view.  Because of the diminished view—which was getting worse as the trees grew—the couple sued the city for inverse condemnation.

In April, the Los Angeles-based Second District Court of Appeal rejected the plaintiffs’ claim.  In Boxer v. City of Beverly Hills, the court held that diminution of property owner views, standing alone, does not unconstitutionally take private property and require compensation. Continue Reading

Attorney General Addresses Conflict of Interest Question Affecting Joint Powers Authorities

Posted in Ethics

The California Attorney General issued an opinion related to the rights of Joint Powers Authority (JPA) voting members which likely affects all JPAs throughout California.  The question arose where a member of the board of directors was required to recuse himself from voting on an issue because of a conflict of interest.

The subject of this particular opinion was the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which is comprised of 26 individual agencies or municipalities. Some of these member agencies are allotted more than one seat on the board of directors. Those agencies, for example the City of Los Angeles, have their total number of votes proportionally allocated among their members who sit as members of the MWD board of directors for voting purposes. If a director of one of these multi-director agencies is absent from a board meeting, that director’s share of the votes are reallocated among the other directors of the constituent agency on a one time basis. Continue Reading

Governor Signs Law to Require Agency Reports Before Approving Changes to Executive Compensation or Benefits

Posted in Legislative Updates, Meetings, Uncategorized

On August 23, 2016, Governor Brown signed SB 1436 (Bates), which mandates that local agencies report out certain information before changing the compensation or benefits of their “executives.”  Under this new law, legislative bodies (e.g., city councils, boards of supervisors, or boards of directors) for agencies must “orally report a summary of a recommendation” for changes in salaries or benefits before voting for the changes.  The votes must then take place in the open session portions of their meetings.

SB 1436 is part of an evolving trend toward requiring greater transparency concerning the compensation of high-ranking local officials following the City of Bell scandal.   Among the open-government measures that have been implemented previously, local agencies must now report their employee salaries to the State Controller and must abide by a number of limitations before changing the compensation and benefits of their high-ranking officers.

The following questions and answers are intended to provide a convenient reference for understanding and applying the new law. Continue Reading

Court Holds Six-Minute Discussion on Non-Agendized Matter Doesn’t Violate Brown Act

Posted in Meetings, Recent Court Decisions

When a person raises an issue not on a meeting agenda, how much can council or board members discuss the issue without running afoul of the Brown Act?  A recent court case provides some helpful guidance.

In Cruz v. Culver City, a California appellate court held that a six-minute discussion about how to place an item on a future agenda did not violate the Brown Act.  Fortunately for local agencies, the court rejected a challenge to the discussion that had relied on a hyper-technical reading of the Act’s language. Continue Reading

Daily Journal Publishes Our Public Records Article

Posted in Public Records Act

In its July 25, 2016 edition, the Daily Journal published our article, Making Effective Public Records Requests.  The article discusses city attorney Derek Cole’s perspective on how to streamline the records-request process and obtain records more quickly.  A link to the article is here: Making Effective Records Requests Article

A Brief Detour Into Family Law – “Date Of Separation”

Posted in Legislative Updates

Governor Brown signed SB 1255 on July 25, 2016 which becomes effective on January 1, 2017. The law overturns a controversial decision by the California Supreme Court in 2015 which re-set the date of separation in family law.

Traditionally, when a marriage dissolved, the parties moved out of the shared residence and into their own places. Over time, this began to change, particularly with the advent of the recession. People realized that if they could co-exist in the home, they could live more cheaply and more easily co-parent their children, even while considering the marriage to be dissolved. Spouses learned how to “live apart while living together.” In family law, the date of separation became the date that the parties considered themselves to be separated, even if they lived in the same household. In the case of In Re Marriage of Davis (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1109, the Court of Appeal held that “a spouse who continues to live in the family home but who, in every meaningful way, has abandoned the marital relationship” could still be separated. Continue Reading

Paying Medical Marijuana Dispensary Taxes Doesn’t Violate Constitutional Privilege Against Self-Incrimination

Posted in Medical Marijuana, Proposition 215

When cities tax medical marijuana dispensaries, does the requirement that dispensary operators pay the taxes violate the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination? No, says a California appellate court.

In City of San Jose v. Medimarts, Inc., the Sixth District Court of Appeal held that a corporate entity and its president could not invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege on the ground that paying the tax may subject them to criminal liability under federal law, which—at least on the books—criminalizes all transactions involving marijuana, even for medical purposes. The court’s decision settles an issue that has often been raised whenever cities or counties have proposed to tax or regulate medical marijuana operations. Continue Reading

How to Effectively “SLAPP” Back

Posted in Damages

SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation” and is perfectly named. The whole point of the lawsuit is to intimidate people into submission. The goal is not necessarily to win the case; it is to make life so difficult and expensive that the defendant just gives up and goes away.

Many states, starting with California, have enacted protections against such lawsuits, recognizing that they infringe on someone’s freedom of speech and right to participate. Continue Reading