People ex rel. State Pub. Wks. Bd. v. Superior Court

Decision Date26 February 1979
Citation91 Cal.App.3d 95,154 Cal.Rptr. 54
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of California, etc., et al., Petitioners, v. SUPERIOR COURT OF the COUNTY OF SONOMA, Respondent; H. O. TIDWELL et al., Real Parties in Interest. Civ. 44668.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., R. H. Connett, Asst. Atty. Gen., Roderick E. Walston, Richard C. Jacobs, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for petitioners.

Duffy & Preston, Sonoma, Redwine & Sherrill, Justin M. McCarthy, Riverside, for real parties in interest.

HALVONIK, Associate Justice.

Real parties are owners of approximately 17 of the 40 lots in the Pacific View Estates subdivision, located west of Highway 1 between Bodega Bay and the Russian River. The property was originally owned entirely by real party Tidwell, who subdivided it in 1967 and has since sold some of the lots. As of the effective date of the 1972 Coastal Act (former Public Resources Code section 27000 et seq.) a total of five homes had been constructed in Pacific View Estates.

Since adoption of the Coastal Act only one of the owners of Pacific View Estates' property, Carl Schreffler, has applied to the Coastal Commission for a permit to build. The North Central Coast Regional Commission accepted a staff recommendation that his application be denied, but the State Commission on appeal denied the application only temporarily, "with the provision that unless a firm commitment to purchase (by State or private trust) is made within 12 months the North Central Commission would issue a permit."

Beginning in 1973 the Regional and State Commissions were engaged in the process of preparing a plan for protection of the entire coastline. The preliminary plan was submitted early in 1975 and the final plan was adopted by the commission in August of 1975. Throughout the period of preparation and afterwards, the Regional Commission staff received letters from Pacific View Estates property owners, including some of the real parties, asking about the prospects for building. On each occasion, the staff response discouraged any owner optimism.

Beginning in the preliminary coastal plan in March of 1975, and culminating with a report to the Legislature and the Governor in March of 1976, the commission made public its list of recommended coastal property acquisitions. Pacific View Estates was targeted as a high priority purchase in the preliminary plan and as a member of priority group I in the report to the Governor and the Legislature.

As of May 25, 1978, substantially all of the land lying west of Highway 1 from Salmon Creek on the south to Goat Rock and the Russian River on the north had been acquired by the State of California with the exception of real parties' property. No sales have occurred of unimproved land in that area, except to the state.

Contemporaneously with the planning and permit activities of the commission, the State Department of Parks and Recreation was considering purchasing all or part of the Pacific View Estates and some surrounding lands. Because of the commission's ruling on the Schreffler appeal, the Department took the question of acquisition to the State Public Works Board, the only agency authorized to exercise the power of eminent domain. (Gov.Code, § 15855.) Though the Board agreed to the purchase of the Schreffler property and authorized negotiations for parcels of unsubdivided land close to Pacific View Estates, it declined to authorize negotiations for other lots within Pacific View Estates, primarily because of the cost of the subdivided lands. The Regional Commission staff did not interpret the Public Works Board's action as the final word on acquisition; it continued to press for state purchase of the Pacific View Estates properties. The record reveals no other overtures made to the Public Works Board or any statements made by the Board concerning future acquisition of Pacific View Estates properties.

Real parties filed a complaint in inverse condemnation, alleging that the state had acted in a manner which prevented them from exercising their rights to reasonable use, development, sale or other enjoyment of their property. They alleged that these acts exceeded mere regulation and amounted to a taking of property without payment of just compensation.

The state's demurrer was overruled and when it answered the complaint it denied the operative allegations and raised the defense that real parties had not exhausted their administrative remedies.

The state moved for summary judgment, submitting declarations in support of its motion. Real parties resisted with declarations of their own. The declaration of former Regional Commission member and former Sonoma County Supervisor Robert Theiller stated that there was definitely a commission policy against allowing construction of improvements to property in Pacific View Estates during the period through 1976.

Real party Jack Tidwell's declaration was more extensive, referring to many of the facts we have mentioned and concluding that the lands were "being acquired as part of a plan of acquisition and not a plan of regulation on behalf of the State of California." Based upon the state's plan of acquisition, Tidwell stated "as a fact that it would be a useless gesture on behalf of any of the plaintiffs in these proceedings to apply for a building permit in Pacific View Estates," and that in his opinion the value of his property under the present conditions was zero: "The only market for land within Pacific View Estates is for sale to the State of California under such terms as may be obtained from the State of California. No purpose for which this subdivision was authorized is compatible with any plan proposed by the State as we understand those plans."

The motion for summary judgment was denied. The plea of failure to exhaust administrative remedies was rejected on the ground that a factual issue existed as to whether it was futile to pursue administrative remedies. Summary judgment on the inverse condemnation aspect of the matter was denied on the ground that, given the mass of documents on file, summary judgment would not be appropriate. People ex rel. Dept. Pub. Wks. v. McNamara Corp. Ltd. (1972) 28 Cal.App.3d 641, 652, 104 Cal.Rptr. 822, was cited as authority supporting denial of summary judgment because of massive amounts of documentary evidence.

Before a consideration of the merits, a rehearsal of the general principles controlling rulings on motions for summary judgment is in order. Summary judgment is an appropriate disposition if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. (Code Civ.Proc., § 437c.)

"A defendant moving for summary judgment must set forth with particularity competent evidentiary facts sufficient to establish every element necessary to sustain a judgment in his favor. The opposing party has no obligation to file any declarations or affidavits in order to defeat the motion unless the declarations of the moving party state facts establishing every element necessary to sustain a judgment. A moving defendant must show clearly that plaintiff's action has no merit. . . . It is the defendant's burden to rule out All possible merit." (Residents of Beverly Glen, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (1973) 34 Cal.App.3d 117, 127, 109 Cal.Rptr. 724, 731, paraphrasing Swaffield v. Universal Ecsco Corp. (1969) 271 Cal.App.2d 147, 171-172, 76 Cal.Rptr. 680.)

" 'In examining the sufficiency of affidavits filed in connection with the motion (for summary judgment), the affidavits of the moving party are strictly construed and those of his opponent liberally construed, and doubts as to the propriety of granting the motion should be resolved in favor of the party opposing the motion.' " (Jacobs v. Retail Clerks Union, Local 1222 (1975) 49 Cal.App.3d 959, 964-965, 123 Cal.Rptr. 309, 313, quoting Stationers Corp. v. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. (1965) 62 Cal.2d 412, 417, 42 Cal.Rptr. 449, 398 P.2d 785.)

The 1973 amendment to the summary judgment statute (Code Civ.Proc., § 437c) to some extent liberalized the showing necessary to establish the nonexistence of triable issues. But it did not change the rules just described. (See Beech Aircraft Corp. v. Superior Court (1976) 61 Cal.App.3d 501, 519-520, 132 Cal.Rptr. 541.)

Nothing in the summary judgment statute or cases construing it suggests that summary judgment is inappropriate simply because the decision involves evaluation of a mass of documentary evidence. In People ex rel. Dept. Pub. Wks. v. McNamara Corp. Ltd., supra, 28 Cal.App.3d 641, 104 Cal.Rptr. 822, the granting of summary judgment was reversed because a factual issue existed concerning the state engineer's possible gross error in reviewing the contractor's claims. The contractor had also been denied due process because he was refused access to the file before the state engineer. The court did say that the state was attempting to try the case upon documents submitted, noting that they constituted 2,400 pages. But it did not hold that summary disposition of a case is inappropriate whenever there is a large amount of documentary evidence. That a case may be complex or involve a great deal of evidence does not mean that it involves a material issue of fact.


The trial court, when rejecting the summary judgment motion, ruled that "(w) ith respect to the matter of exhaustion of administrative remedies, there is a factual issue on the futility exception to that doctrine."

Petitioner contends that there is no material factual issue because the evidence submitted by real parties does not meet the test for futility, which requires that the Regional and State Commissions positively declare what their ruling will be on an application to develop within Pacific View Estates. 1


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