Committee for Responsible Planning v. City of Indian Wells

Decision Date15 November 1990
Docket NumberNo. E006796,E006796
Citation225 Cal.App.3d 191,275 Cal.Rptr. 57
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesCOMMITTEE FOR RESPONSIBLE PLANNING, et al., Plaintiff and Appellant, v. CITY OF INDIAN WELLS, etc., et al., Defendants, Plaintiff and Respondents.
OPINION

DABNEY, Acting Presiding Justice.

This controversy arises from the City of Indian Wells' approvals for and adoption of redevelopment plans and environmental impact reports (EIRs) for the Roadrunner Redevelopment Project Area (Roadrunner project) and Consolidated Whitewater Redevelopment Project Area (Whitewater project). 1 Appellant, Committee for Responsible Planning (Committee), appeals from judgments entered by stipulation between respondents, the City of Indian Wells, its Redevelopment Agency, and the individual members of its City Council and Redevelopment Agency (referred to collectively herein as Indian Wells) and the City of Palm Springs (Palm Springs) in actions to challenge the validity of the redevelopment projects. The Committee asks us to vacate the judgments on the grounds that validation actions are in rem and require a single judgment on the merits; the judgments violate provisions of the redevelopment plans; and the judgments call for use of tax increment revenues for impermissible purposes.

FACTS

Following Indian Wells' adoption of the Roadrunner and Whitewater projects, five actions were brought pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 33501 under the procedures set forth in Code of Civil Procedure, sections 860 et seq. 2 (the validation statutes) to challenge the validity of those projects. The City of Palm Desert (No. 51310) contested the validity of the Roadrunner project on the grounds that (1) Indian Wells did not comply with provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in preparing and certifying the EIR for the Roadrunner project; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support the findings that the project area was predominantly blighted urban area as required under state redevelopment laws; and (3) Indian Wells failed to follow required procedures. Palm Springs (No. 51330) raised similar challenges to both projects. Coachella Valley Recreation and Park District (No. 51384) and Coachella Valley Mosquito Abatement District (No. 51385) filed complaints which alleged that the land within the projects was not blighted urban area, and the projects would therefore result in illegal diversion of tax revenues from other taxing entities to nonblighted areas. The Committee (No. 51591) challenged the Whitewater project on the grounds of inconsistency with Indian Wells' general plan, inadequate notice, CEQA violations and insufficient evidence to support the findings of blight and urbanization of the project area.

Palm Springs action was answered by Indian Wells, the County of Riverside, several individual owners of property within the Whitewater project area and Sunrise Company, a real estate developer, as interested parties. Palm Springs answered the complaints of the City of Palm Desert and the special districts as an interested party, but did not answer the Committee's complaint. The Committee did not answer the complaints in the other actions.

The trial court ordered the five actions consolidated for trial. 3 The special districts and the individual property owners were later dismissed as parties in No. 51330.

Indian Wells and Palm Springs entered into a stipulated settlement in which Palm Springs agreed to drop its opposition to both projects. In return, Indian Wells agreed to certain limitations on use of tax increment funds from the Roadrunner project and pledged to pay $100,000 to Palm Springs' general fund and $3.4 million to Palm Springs' Airport Redevelopment Project from those tax increment funds.

In each of the actions except the one filed by the Committee (No. 51591), Palm Springs requested entry of judgment pursuant to the stipulation. The Committee opposed the requests on the grounds that the judgments were invalid because (1) a validation action is an action in rem which requires a single judgment; and (2) under principles of res judicata, the judgments would bind the other parties to the actions even as to issues not specifically addressed in the judgments. The Committee did not challenge the judgments on the merits. Over the Committee's opposition, the judgments pursuant to stipulation were entered. 4

DISCUSSION

Appellate Jurisdiction. The Committee's primary contention in this appeal is that a court may not enter separate judgments as to various parties in validation proceedings because the validation statutes call for consolidation of all challenges and entry of a single judgment to dispose of all issues in the suit. As we discuss below, the validation statutes require all actions brought to challenge a particular decision to be consolidated with the entry of a single judgment. The judgments entered here as to Indian Wells and Palm Springs do not purport to dispose of all issues as to the other parties to the actions.

Lacking a final appealable judgment, we have no jurisdiction. (§ 904.1; Knodel v. Knodel (1975) 14 Cal.3d 752, 760, 122 Cal.Rptr. 521, 537 P.2d 353.) Section 904.1 allows an appeal to be taken only from a final judgment, not from an interlocutory judgment. The "one final judgment" rule "is designed to prevent oppressive and costly piecemeal disposition and multiple appeals in a single action, and so requires that review of intermediate rulings should await the final disposition of the case. [Citations.]" (Tinsley v. Palo Alto Unified School Dist. (1979) 91 Cal.App.3d 871, 880, 154 Cal.Rptr. 591.) Lack of a final judgment is a jurisdictional defect, and we have a duty to raise it on our own motion, even if the parties do not. (Olson v. Cory (1983) 35 Cal.3d 390, 398, 197 Cal.Rptr. 843, 673 P.2d 720.)

Governing Statutes. To put the issue in proper context, we first set forth the relevant statutory provisions.

Section 860 states, "A public agency may upon the existence of any matter which under any other law is authorized to be determined pursuant to this chapter, and for 60 days thereafter, bring an action ... to determine the validity of such matter. The action shall be in the nature of a proceeding in rem."

Section 863 permits "any interested person" to bring such an action "within the time and in the court specified in Section 860 to determine the validity of such matter" if the public agency does not do so.

Section 865 states, "If more than one action is pending concerning similar contests which may be brought under this chapter, they shall be consolidated for trial."

Section 870, subdivision (a) provides, "The judgment ... shall ... become and thereafter be forever binding and conclusive, as to all matters therein adjudicated or which at that time could have been adjudicated, against the agency and against all other persons, and the judgment shall permanently enjoin the institution by any person of any action or proceeding raising any issue as to which the judgment is binding and conclusive." (Emphasis added.)

Consolidation of Validation Actions. Section 865 requires the trial court to "consolidate[ ] for trial" all actions brought to challenge a particular decision. Palm Springs and Indian Wells contend that the statute means that the actions will be consolidated for trial but not for other purposes, such as entry of judgment. The Committee asserts that in light of the reference in section 870, subdivision (a) to a "judgment" which binds all present and future challengers, section 865 mandates consolidating the actions for entry of judgment as well as trial. The Committee also argues that permitting a separate judgment as to some of the parties to validation actions would defeat the policies on which the validation statutes are based.

Historical Treatment of Consolidation. As far as our research has revealed, no court has yet interpreted section 865, which calls for consolidation of validation actions. We therefore turn to the general consolidation statute (§ 1048) 5 to determine what courts have understood consolidation to mean.

Two distinct meanings for the term have emerged. In Sanchez v. Superior Court (1988) 203 Cal.App.3d 1391, 1396, 250 Cal.Rptr. 787, the court stated, "There are two types of consolidation: a complete consolidation resulting in a single action, and a consolidation of separate actions for trial. Under the former procedure, which may be utilized where the parties are identical and the causes could have been joined, the pleadings are regarded as merged, one set of findings is made, and one judgment is rendered. In a consolidation for trial, the pleadings, verdicts, findings and judgments are kept separate; the actions are simply tried together for the sake of convenience and judicial economy. (See generally 4 Witkin, Cal.Procedure (3d ed. 1985) Pleading, § 298 et seq.)"

Despite these two meanings, courts have regularly referred to both as consolidation for trial. For instance, in Clinton v. Hogan (1947) 80 Cal.App.2d 815, 821-822, 183 P.2d 50, the court stated, "Since the two actions were consolidated 'for trial,' ... there should have been but one set of findings and one judgment, and although separate findings and judgments were made the same operate in favor of the several plaintiffs in the same manner as if plaintiffs had brought a single action [citations]." (See also Bank of California v. Connolly (1973) 36 Cal.App.3d 350, 363, 111 Cal.Rptr. 468; N.C. Roberts Co. v. Topaz Transformer Products, Inc. (1966) 239 Cal.App.2d...

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