California Case Law - The FindLaw California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Property Law Category

Vinod Kholsa, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, and a Silicon Valley billionaire, just lost in court again. Kholsa isn't losing in court on anything tech related, but rather, he is losing his private beach.

The California Court of Appeal denied Kholsa's appeal and ordered the beach-restricting-billionaire to reopen public access. The beach in question is called Martins Beach, which is located just south of Half Moon Bay, which is about 30 minutes south of San Francisco along the Pacific coast. Although the beach used to have public access, Kholsa, who purchased the property for $37 million, closed it down in 2009.

Environmental Review for CA Bullet Train Reinforced by State High Court

Federal railway laws do not categorically preempt the California Environmental Quality Act, the state Supreme Court said, slowing down a Northern California train pending an environmental review.

The Court said CEQA applies to the state North Coast Railroad Authority -- just like any other state agency -- on its projects. The Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act, a federal law that regulates public rails, does not displace state laws in carrying out those projects.

"This decision clears the way for the courts below to begin considering the merits of plaintiffs' CEQA claims, which the courts had previously found to be preempted by the ICCTA as a categorical matter," Justice Leondra Kruger wrote in a concurring opinion in Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority.

Real estate agents can represent both the seller and buyer of a property in California, despite the potential conflicts of interest, so long as the parties consent and it is disclosed that the agent owes a fiduciary to both.

But do the same dual fiduciary duties arise when two agents, both operating under one broker's license, represent both parties in a transaction? Does the seller's broker, acting as an associate licensee, owe a fiduciary duty to the buyer and vice versa? Yes, the California Supreme Court ruled on Monday, in a case that could bring greater protections to California real estate buyers.

In many cities throughout California, developers must either include a certain percentage of affordable housing in large, new developments, or pay an in lieu fee, which is used to fund affordable housing construction elsewhere. Under this scheme, if you want a new condo tower to go up in San Francisco, San Jose, or West Hollywood, you either offer a few units at a below market rate or pay for those units to be built somewhere else. Many, many developers chose in lieu fees.

And there's nothing wrong with that, an appeals court in California ruled recently. The Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District, Division One, rejected a West Hollywood developer's argument that such fees were an unconstitutional taking. The court's ruling comes a year after the California Supreme Court upheld a similar inclusionary housing scheme in San Jose.

Yosemite National Park may be one of the world's most impressive landscapes, with its granite cliffs, towering waterfalls, and ancient sequoia groves. But while the beauty of the valley and surrounding mountains is a product of 10 million years of geologic shifts and slow evolution, the park itself is a legal creation, and a very important one at that. Yosemite became the nation's first parkland set aside for preservation when Congress passed the Yosemite Grant Act, signed into law by Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864. That act planted the seed that would grow into the National Parks System, or, as the writer Wallace Stegner described them, "America's best idea."

Now, Yosemite is growing larger still, with the addition of 400 acres of meadowland and ponderosa pine, the park's largest expansion in two generations.

Vergara Decision Stands: CA Teacher Tenure to Stay

The California Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Vergara v. California, one of the most significant teacher's tenure cases to date. This means that the state appeals court decision is undisturbed, preserving many employment rights for teachers.

Bid to Buy Delta Islands Approved by CA Supreme Court

The sale of five small islands located within the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta will proceed as originally planned following the California Supreme Court's review of the matter. It's a decision that some Northern California groups have opposed from the very beginning.

The buyer, the Metropolitan Water District, has intimated that the islands may be used to provide access to a proposed tunnel system, a project that many fear may be used as a pathway to divert water to Southern California during these worrisome times of drought.

CA Inverse Condemnation Case Is Affirmed Against Landowners

A California appellate court case is illustrative of the state's rather rigid doctrines against compensation to landowners for alleged injury to their property. The City of Beverly Hills prevailed against in a demurrer involving homeowners who claimed injury against the city for planting some redwood trees in a park some ways from their home. The injury? Spoiling their lovely view.

The Supreme Court declined to address the constitutionality of San Jose's inclusionary housing law on Monday, denying cert of real estate developers petition from a recent California Supreme Court ruling upholding the affordable housing plan. Under the inclusionary housing law, developers of large residential projects must set aside a small percentage of units as affordable, below market rate housing, which real estate developers had claimed was an unconstitutional taking.

The denial leaves the law, and the California Supreme Court's ruling, intact, but as Justice Thomas noted in a separate opinion, the conflict raises important constitutional issues that are likely to be before the Supreme Court at some time in the future.

CA Floats Bill to Make Videotaped Gun Sales Mandatory

California Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty has proposed AB2459, a bill he says would eventually help get firearms "out of the wrong hands," reports the Associated Press.

If the bill passes to become law, it would also make it a statewide crime for licensed dealers to sell their guns out of their homes, a practice that is already outlawed by many municipalities.