Bickel v. City of Piedmont, No. S048396

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtKENNARD; GEORGE; BAXTER
Citation16 Cal.4th 1040,68 Cal.Rptr.2d 758,946 P.2d 427
Parties, 946 P.2d 427, 97 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 8767, 97 Daily Journal D.A.R. 14,197 Branden BICKEL et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CITY OF PIEDMONT et al., Defendants and Respondents.
Decision Date20 November 1997
Docket NumberNo. S048396

Page 758

68 Cal.Rptr.2d 758
16 Cal.4th 1040, 946 P.2d 427, 97 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 8767,
97 Daily Journal D.A.R. 14,197
Branden BICKEL et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
CITY OF PIEDMONT et al., Defendants and Respondents.
No. S048396.
Supreme Court of California.
Nov. 20, 1997.

Page 759

[16 Cal.4th 1043] [946 P.2d 428] Claudia Cate, in pro. per., Aune & Associates and Robert E. Aune, San Francisco, for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Hardin, Cook, Loper, Engel & Bergez, Robert D. Eassa and Timothy J. McCaffery, Oakland, for Defendants and Respondents.

Alan K. Marks, County Counsel, and Paul F. Mordy, Deputy County Counsel, as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Respondents.

KENNARD, Justice.

In 1977, the Legislature enacted the Permit Streamlining Act. (Gov.Code, § 65920 et seq.; all statutory references are to the Government Code unless otherwise indicated.) The act, as relevant here, has certain time limits within which a government agency must either approve or disapprove an application for a development project. (§ 65950 et seq.) Failure to act within these time limits "shall be deemed approval of the permit application for the development project." (§ 65956, subd. (b).)

Does the act prohibit an applicant's waiver of the time limits? We conclude that it does not and that in this case substantial evidence supports the trial court's finding of waiver by plaintiff applicants.

16 Cal.4th 1044

I.

On March 7, 1991, plaintiffs Branden Bickel and Claudia Cate applied to the City of Piedmont Planning Commission (Planning Commission) for approval of a proposed 2,739-square-foot second story addition to their ranch-style home. The commission assigned No. 44-91 to the application and scheduled a public hearing for April 8, 1991. After plaintiffs learned that some of their neighbors had expressed concerns about the proposed addition, plaintiffs asked the commission to take the matter off its April 8 calendar. On April 8, the Planning Commission granted the request and continued the hearing for six months. Plaintiffs did not resubmit their remodeling application within that six-month period, nor did they ask that the matter be rescheduled for a public hearing.

On March 10, 1992, plaintiffs submitted revised drawings to the Planning Commission, followed on March 12 by another request for approval of the proposed second story addition to their home. The commission assigned No. 52-92 to this application, scheduled a public hearing for April 13, and gave notice to plaintiffs' neighbors.

At the April 13, 1992, hearing, several neighbors objected to plaintiffs' proposed second story addition on the grounds it would tower over adjacent properties, intrude upon their views and privacy, and be incompatible with the neighborhood's single-story homes. The neighbors suggested expansion of the first floor level as a less intrusive option. Thereafter, the Planning Commission concluded that although a full second story addition "appeared impossible for this property, a partial second story addition may be acceptable." Plaintiff Branden Bickel, a real estate attorney, then asked for a continuance to consider the commission's comments. The commission continued the hearing for a period not to exceed six months. The commission thereafter notified plaintiffs that the revised plans should be submitted within the six-month period, and that it would consider plaintiffs' application for a remodeling permit at the commission's next regular meeting.

In September 1992, plaintiffs submitted a revised set of drawings to the Planning Commission, which set a public hearing for October 12. Prior to the hearing, the chairman of the Planning Commission visited plaintiffs' property and suggested certain changes in plaintiffs' remodeling plans. Plaintiffs then sought to have the October 12 hearing rescheduled to a later date. The commission notified plaintiffs by letter of a continuance not to exceed three months. Plaintiffs submitted revised plans, and the matter was scheduled for a public hearing on November 9.

Page 760

[946 P.2d 429] At that hearing, some of plaintiffs' neighbors supported plaintiffs' revised remodeling plans while others opposed them. The minutes of the hearing [16 Cal.4th 1045] reflect that the chairman of the Planning Commission "supported the concept of a second story" but "opposed the submitted design." The other members opposed the plans "for design and massing reasons." The minutes further state that the commissioners "reiterated their October suggestion to [plaintiffs] that a partial second story be considered" and that "the Planning Commission continues for a period not to exceed three months further consideration of Mr. Branden Bickel's design review application for proposed construction...." Plaintiffs received written notice of the continuance. Although the minutes do not record who initiated the request for a continuance, the parties agree that the following colloquy occurred at the hearing:

"[Commission Chair]: It's not going to pass tonight ... [s]o it looks like we're on a continuance.

"[Commission member]: Yeah ... if that's what the applicant would like.

"[Applicant Bickel]: That's what the applicant would like.

"[Commission Chair]: Alright.

"[Commission member]: Move for a three month continuance.

"[Commission Chair]: Is there a second?

"[Commission member]: Uh, I'll second the motion.

"[Commission Chair]: Fine. There'll be a continuance for three months."

On January 12, 1993, plaintiffs submitted yet another revised set of plans. Following a public hearing on February 8, 1993, the Planning Commission denied approval because the design of plaintiffs' proposed second story addition was "too massive, too bulky and not in keeping with other homes in the neighborhood."

Plaintiffs appealed to the Piedmont City Council (City Council), asserting for the first time that their remodeling application was "deemed" approved by operation of law because the Planning Commission had neither approved nor disapproved the application within the statutory time limits. When the City Council affirmed the commission's ruling, plaintiffs petitioned the Alameda County Superior Court for a writ of mandate. That court denied the petition on the grounds of waiver and estoppel. Plaintiffs sought review in [16 Cal.4th 1046] the Court of Appeal, which reversed, concluding that "waiver has no place in the policy and provisions of the [Permit Streamlining] Act." One justice on the three-member panel wrote a concurring and dissenting opinion, concluding that the act did not preclude a waiver of its time limits but that in this case the facts did not establish a waiver. We granted review.

II.

In 1977, the Legislature enacted the Permit Streamlining Act (hereafter sometimes referred to as the Act) to relieve applicants from protracted and unjustified governmental delays in processing their permit applications. (See generally, Merritt, The Permit Streamlining Act: The Dream and the Reality (Cont.Ed.Bar 1991) 1 Land Use Forum 30; Wilson, Down Stream from Streamlining (Aug.1987) 7 Cal.Law. 67.) It was supported by such diverse groups as the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Manufacturers Association, and the Sierra Club, and it received only one negative vote in the Legislature when enacted. (Merritt, The Permit Streamlining Act: The Dream and the Reality, supra, at p. 30.) The one event seen as a catalyst for the Act was the decision by Dow Chemical Company to withdraw its applications for a proposed $500 million petrochemical plant in Contra Costa County that would have created 2,000 new jobs. (Wilson, Down Stream from Streamlining, supra, at p. 67; see Ciani v. San Diego Trust & Savings Bank (1991) 233 Cal.App.3d 1604, 1609, fn. 1, 285 Cal.Rptr. 699.) Dow reportedly spent nearly three years and between $4.5 million and $10 million to obtain just four of the sixty-five required permits. (Wilson, Down Stream from Streamlining, supra, at p. 67; Merritt, The Permit Streamlining Act: The Dream and the Reality, supra, at p. 30.)

Page 761

[946 P.2d 430] The Act expressly declares: "The Legislature finds and declares that there is a statewide need to ensure clear understanding of the specific requirements which must be met in connection with the approval of development projects and to expedite decisions on such projects." (§ 65921; Palmer v. City of Ojai (1986) 178 Cal.App.3d 280, 290, 223 Cal.Rptr. 542.) The Act's goal of clarifying the permit process for applicants is effected by requiring state and local agencies to furnish each applicant with "one or more lists" specifying the information the applicant must present to the agency when seeking approval of a project. (§ 65940.) The agency has 30 calendar days after receipt of the application to "determine in writing whether the application is complete" and must immediately notify the applicant of that decision. The agency's failure to act within this 30-day period renders the application complete, precluding the agency thereafter from requesting new or additional information not specified in the lists. (§§ 65943, 65944.)

To expedite decisions on development projects, the Act sets forth a time limit within which a government agency must either approve or disapprove [16 Cal.4th 1047] an application for a land-use permit. If the agency fails to expressly approve or disapprove the application within this time limit, it is "deemed" approved. (§ 65956, subd. (b).) At the time of the events in this case, the time limit started running when the application was complete, and agency approval or disapproval had to occur within six months from the date of completion of the application, subject to an additional ninety days if the city and the applicant mutually so agreed. (Former § 65950; § 65957.) 1 These time limits are "maximum time limits for approving or disapproving development projects." (§ 65953.) An agency must notify an applicant of the Act's time limits....

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363 practice notes
  • Sharon S. v. Superior Court, No. S102671.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 4, 2003
    ...that rights conferred by statute may be waived unless specific statutory provisions prohibit waiver." (Bickel v. City of Piedmont (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1040, 1049, fn. 4, 68 Cal.Rptr.2d 758, 946 P.2d A. Waiver of Statutory Rights In Bickel v. City of Piedmont, supra, 16 Cal.4th 1040, 68 Cal.Rpt......
  • Dones v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., A157662
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 7, 2020
    ..."[W]aiver" means the intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right.’ ( 55 Cal.App.5th 678 Bickel v. City of Piedmont (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1040, 1048, 68 Cal.Rptr.2d 758, 946 P.2d 427 ; see Waller v. Truck Ins. Exchange, Inc. (1995) 11 Cal.4th 1, 31, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 370, 900 P.2d 61......
  • People v. R.V. (In re R.V.), No. S212346.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 18, 2015
    ...giving it the benefit of every reasonable inference and resolving all conflicts in its favor. (Bickel v. City of Piedmont (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1040, 1053, 68 Cal.Rptr.2d 758, 946 P.2d 427.) The appellate court must “presume every fact in support of the judgment the trier of fact could have rea......
  • Cal.NS FOR DISABILITY RIGHTS v. MERVYN'S LLC., No. A106199.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 29, 2008
    ...in accordance with the standard of review so long adhered to by this court.’ ” 81 Cal.Rptr.3d 162 ( Bickel v. City of Piedmont (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1040, 1053, 68 Cal.Rptr.2d 758, 946 P.2d 427.) Substantial evidence supports the trial court's findings. As noted earlier, Mervyn's presented the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
362 cases
  • Sharon S. v. Superior Court, No. S102671.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 4, 2003
    ...that rights conferred by statute may be waived unless specific statutory provisions prohibit waiver." (Bickel v. City of Piedmont (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1040, 1049, fn. 4, 68 Cal.Rptr.2d 758, 946 P.2d A. Waiver of Statutory Rights In Bickel v. City of Piedmont, supra, 16 Cal.4th 1040, 68 Cal.Rpt......
  • Dones v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., A157662
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 7, 2020
    ..."[W]aiver" means the intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right.’ ( 55 Cal.App.5th 678 Bickel v. City of Piedmont (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1040, 1048, 68 Cal.Rptr.2d 758, 946 P.2d 427 ; see Waller v. Truck Ins. Exchange, Inc. (1995) 11 Cal.4th 1, 31, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 370, 900 P.2d 61......
  • People v. R.V. (In re R.V.), No. S212346.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 18, 2015
    ...giving it the benefit of every reasonable inference and resolving all conflicts in its favor. (Bickel v. City of Piedmont (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1040, 1053, 68 Cal.Rptr.2d 758, 946 P.2d 427.) The appellate court must “presume every fact in support of the judgment the trier of fact could have rea......
  • Cal.NS FOR DISABILITY RIGHTS v. MERVYN'S LLC., No. A106199.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 29, 2008
    ...in accordance with the standard of review so long adhered to by this court.’ ” 81 Cal.Rptr.3d 162 ( Bickel v. City of Piedmont (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1040, 1053, 68 Cal.Rptr.2d 758, 946 P.2d 427.) Substantial evidence supports the trial court's findings. As noted earlier, Mervyn's presented the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 provisions
  • Chapter 283, SB 2005 – Permit Streamlining Act
    • United States
    • California Session Laws
    • January 1, 1998
    ...5. The Legislature finds and declares that it is aware of the California Supreme Court's decision in Bickel v. City of Piedmont (1997), 16 Cal. 4th 1040. In enacting this act, it is the intent the Legislature to clarify that the Permit Streamlining Act (Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section ......

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