Consolidated Rock Products Co. v. City of Los Angeles

Citation15 Cal.Rptr. 775
PartiesCONSOLIDATED ROCK PRODUCTS COMPANY, a corporation, and Valley Real Estate Company, a corporation, Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES, a municipal corporation, Defendant and Respondent. Civ. 25419.
Decision Date22 August 1961
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

Donald J. Dunne, Los Angeles, for appellants.

Roger Arnebergh, City Atty., Bourke Jones, Claude E. Hilker, Asst. City Attys., Los Angeles, for respondent.

FOX, Presiding Justice.

Having exhausted their administrative remedies, plaintiffs brought this action to have declared unconstitutional the zoning law of the city of Los Angeles insofar as it applies to prevent rock and gravel operations on their land; to have enforcement enjoined; and alternatively for a declaration that the zoning law does not in fact prohibit the desired use. From a judgment in favor of defendant, plaintiffs appeal.

The land in question is owned by plaintiff Valley Real Estate Company and held by plaintiff Consolidated Rock Products Company under a lease dated March 1, 1956. The lease term extends to February 29, 1976, with an option for an additional ten years. The property consists of 348 acres, situated in the watercourse known as the Tujunga Wash, and lying northeasterly (upstream) of Hansen Dam in the San Fernando Valley. 1 It is a little more than two miles long with an average width of roughly one-quarter mile. The length of the property lies in a general east-west fashion, and is divided approximately in the center by Foothill Boulevard, a northsouth thoroughfare at that point. The property forms substantially the apex of the Tujunga Cone, the second largest alluvial cone of rock, sand and gravel in Los Angeles County. The Tujunga Wash from the eastern to the western termini of the property in question is bordered on the north by the base of the mountains and on the south by bluffs of low hills except for relatively narrow plateaus on either side above the level of the wash. The property is composed of rock, sand and gravel to a depth of about forty feet. It is isolated from land presently being used for other purposes and is situated in a natural amphitheater surrounded by the rugged terrain of the Angeles National Forest on the north, by Tujunga Canyon on the east, by Hansen Dam and its debris basin on the west and by high hills and cliffs on the south. This property and the surrounding area has remained in its present undeveloped state for over 30 years. Within the 300 foot area surrounding the five-mile perimeter of plaintiffs' property there are located fewer than 34 dwelling houses. The communities of Sunland and Tujunga adjoining the property are residential communities, the more greatly developed portions of which lie easterly and southeasterly of plaintiffs' property. In recent years the trend of development of these communities has been in a westerly direction toward the property and along and upon the bluffs north and south thereof.

The 348 acres in question are zoned for agricultural and residential use, and rock, sand and gravel operations are prohibited.

The trial court found that the subject property has great value if used for rock, sand and gravel excavation, but no economic value for any other purpose, and that to contend that it has any economic value for any other use, including those uses for which it was zoned, is preposterous. 2 With respect to the effect that rock and gravel operations would have on the nearby communities, the trial court found that dust and notise factors could be controlled to the point where they would be 'minimal,' 3 that there would be no extraordinary danger to children, and in fact that plaintiffs' 'business of excavating, [etc.] can be conducted on plaintiffs' said property with compatibility to adjacent properties and with minimal detriment to the living amenities or health conditions of the inhabitants of adjacent properties or in the general area and without probable depreciation in property values to the adjacent properties.'

It was also found that the Sunland-Tujunga area has a national reputation as a haven for sufferers from respiratory ailments and is inhabited by many such sufferers and that a considerable portion of its economy is based upon such reputation; that the possible advent of a substantial rock, sand and gravel extraction and processing operation upon the subject property has caused considerable apprehension to the residents of the communities of Sunland and Tujunga of air pollution, traffic and other dangers and annoyances as a result thereof; and that rock and gravel operations upon the subject property could adversely affect the reputation of the Sunland-Tujunga area as a haven for sufferers from respiratory ailments.

The question before us is whether the zoning law, insofar as it prohibits rock, sand and gravel operations on plaintiffs' property, is a valid exercise of the police power. The validity of zoning ordinances generally, insofar as they set forth a plan of community development whereby certain uses are prohibited from segments of the community, is established beyond question. The constitutional question arises only with respect to particular application. Zoning laws are considered by the courts with every intendment in favor of their validity. Although the courts may differ with the legislative body as to the propriety or necessity of a particular enactment, they will not substitute their judgment for that of the municipal legislature, and the mere fact that hardship is suffered is not material, for an exercise of the police power will always affect someone adversely. It must be shown that there has been an unreasonable, oppressive, or unwarranted interference with property rights. Clemons v. City of Los Angeles, 36 Cal.2d 95, 98-99, 222 P.2d 439; Lockard v. City of Los Angeles, 33 Cal.2d 453, 202 P.2d 38, 7 A.L.R.2d 990; Paramount Rock Co. v. County of San Diego, 180 Cal.App.2d 217, 4 Cal.Rptr. 317; Miller v. Board of Public Works, 195 Cal. 477, 234 P. 381, 386, 38 A.L.R. 1479. These are the rules expressed in the myriad of cases in which property was zoned according to a 'master plan' which was set up for the general welfare of the community. In many cases extremely fine judgments must be made, and a judicial reluctance to interfere with legislative determinations which are 'fairly debatable' or on which 'reasonable minds may differ' (Miller v. Board of Public Works, supra) is both understandable and wise.

The trial court, after stating its own conclusions with respect to noise, dust, danger, and esthetic considerations, found, 'It is true that reasonable minds might differ and have differed upon the foregoing.' 4 It also found that although the value of the property, both to plaintiffs and to the community, for the production of rock, sand and gravel is undebatable, reasonable minds might differ as to the necessity therefor. It is apparent that the trial court's judgment was based on the following reasoning: In determining the validity of zoning ordinances a court will not interfere with the legislative determination, even though it may disagree with the propriety of that determination, so long as reasonable minds may differ as to its propriety (and so long as it is not discriminatory); in the case at bar it is the court's opinion that rock and gravel operations on plaintiffs' property can be conducted in a manner which is compatible with the adjacent communities, but reasonable minds may differ on that question; since reasonable minds may differ, the court cannot upset the legislative enactment. That this approach is not correct when applied to the facts of the instant case will be clearly demonstrated when we review the cases which have dealt with this problem.

In re Kelso, 147 Cal. 609, 82 P. 241, 2 L.R.A.,N.S., 796, was among the first of the controversies of this nature to arise in this state. San Francisco had enacted an ordinance which prohibited the operation of a rock or stone quarry within the City and County of San Francisco. In holding the ordinance to be invalid, the opinion stated, 147 Cal. at pages 611-613, 82 P. at page 241: 'The effect of the ordinance * * * is to absolutely deprive the owners of real property within such limits of a valuable right incident to their ownership. * * * A limitation of the use pro tanto deprives him of the enjoyment thereof, and any arbitrary action in this regard is a taking of private property without due process of law. * * * While in the exercise of its police power the state may limit or regulate the use, any such limitation or regulation must find its justification in the necessity for the protection of the legal rights of others. If it does not, it is an unwarrantable invasion of property rights, against which the courts will protect. * * * Applying these well-recognized principles to the ordinance before us, we are unable to perceive any ground upon which it may be sustained as a legitimate exercise of the police power. It * * * is an absolute prohibition * * *. Such a prohibition might be justified, if the removal could not be effected without improperly invading the rights of others; but it cannot be doubted that rock and stone may, under some circumstances, be so severed from the land and removed as not in the slightest degree to inflict any injury which the law will recognize.' See also People v. Hawley, 207 Cal. 395, 413, 279 P. 136. The opinion goes on to say: 'It may freely be conceded that rock or stone quarrying may be done in such a way and under such circumstances as to occasion injury to others or to make it a public nuisance, and that the state has the power to impose such limitations as are necessary to prevent this. * * * We can see no valid objection to the work of removing from one's own land valuable deposits of rock or stone that may not be entirely met by...

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3 cases
  • Consolidated Rock Products Co. v. City of Los Angeles
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • April 12, 1962
    ...by Mr. Presiding Justice Fox in the opinion preparted by him for the District Court of Appeal in Consolidated Rock Products Co. v. City of Los Angeles, 195 A.C.A. 114, 15 Cal.Rptr. 775. SCHAUER, J., Rehearing denied; SCHAUER and McCOMB, JJ., dissenting. 1 The Planning Commission approved wi......
  • Tankersley v. County Bd. of Appeals
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • January 16, 1963
    ...Montgomery County v. Gendleman, 227 Md. 491, 498, 177 A.2d 687. The appellants rely upon the case of Consolidated Rock Products Co. v. City of Los Angeles, Cal.App., 15 Cal.Rptr. 775, as closely analogous on its facts. As the appellees point out, the case was reversed on appeal, 57 Cal.2d 5......
  • City of Ukiah v. County of Mendocino
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • November 10, 1987
    ...the county may by zoning ordinance prohibit continuation of the offending activities. (Consolidated Rock Products Co. v. City of Los Angeles (1962) 57 Cal.2d 515, 20 Cal.Rptr. 638, 370 P.2d 342, app. dism. (1962) 371 U.S. 36, 83 S.Ct. 145, 9 L.Ed.2d 112.)9 Section 6.37 of the 1956 zoning or......

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