Residents of Beverly Glen, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles

Citation109 Cal.Rptr. 724,34 Cal.App.3d 117
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Decision Date30 August 1973
PartiesRESIDENTS OF BEVERLY GLEN, INC., a corporation, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES, a municipal corporation et al., Defendants andRespondents. Civ. 39554.

Fadem & Kanner, Beverly Hills, and Michael M. Berger, Los Angeles, for plaintiff and appellant.

Roger Arnebergh, City Atty., John Daly & Claude E. Hilker, Asst. City Attys., and Jerome Montgomery, Deputy City Atty. for defendants and respondents City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles City Council, The Planning Commission of the City of Los Angeles, Calvin Hamilton, Director of the Planning of the City of Los Angeles.

Kaplan, Livingston, Goodwin, Berkowitz & Selvin, and Herman F. Selvin, Beverly Hills, for defendant and respondent U.S. Plywood-Champion Papers, Inc.

COLE, * Associate Justice.

This is an appeal from a summary judgment granted to defendants City of Los Angeles 1 and U.S. Plywood-Champion Papers, Inc. (hereafter Plywood).

The summary judgment stated that it was granted 'on the ground that by reason of plaintiff's lack of standing, plaintiff is not entitled to the declaration it seeks in its declaratory relief action, and upon the statutory ground that the action has no merit and no triable issue of fact is presented'. 2 We determine that the plaintiff herein does have standing to bring the instant action and we accordingly reverse the summary judgment.

Plaintiff is a corporation, Residents of Beverly Glen, Inc. (hereafter 'Residents'). It sought, by a document entitled, 'Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Declaratory Relief' (hereafter 'complaint'), filed May 1, 1967, to have set aside a conditional use permit granted by the City to Plywood and to have a section of the Los Angeles Municipal Code decared unconstitutional.

The procedural history of this matter is important to a determination of the questions presented. That part of Residents' pleading which sought a writ of mandate first came on for hearing. The court, (Judge Allen) without making findings, denied the petition for a writ of mandate. It did not rule on the request for declaratory relief. Residents filed an at-issue memorandum and certificate of readiness as to that aspect of its action. The court (Judge--now Chief Justice--Wright) granted a defense motion to strike the memorandum. Residents appealed from the 'judgment' denying the writ and from the order striking the memorandum. These appeals were dismissed, the Court of Appeal holding that they were taken from non-appealable orders since the failure to dispose of the declaratory relief aspects of the matter left the case without a final judgment (Residents of Beverly Glen, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles et al., 275 Cal.App.2d 732, 80 Cal.Rptr. 303).

The complaint identified residents as 'a non-profit civic corporation whose membership consists of approximately 300 families resident in the area within Beverly Glen, a natural major valley traversing the Santa Monica Mountains . . . and possessing a single thru traffic artery, Beverly Glen Boulevard . . .' The complaint alleges that the city adopted a Santa Monica Mountain Master plan having as its goal the preservation of the mountain character, the prevention of traffic congestion in the mountains and the avoidance of change incompatible with existing uses. Control of denisity of population is alleged to be a fundamental goal of the plan. The complaint further refers to Los Angeles zoning ordinances and the provision of the Municipal Code (whose constitutionality is challenged) dealing with 'planned residential developments'. It is alleged that Plywood applied for and received a conditional use permit for a planned residential development. It is charged that a permit ultimately obtained by Plywood was improperly granted for a variety of reasons which it is unnecessary to detail here. Among other things, the complaint alleges that Plywood's project would increase population densities beyond that permitted by the Master Plan, that Beverly Glen Boulevard is already inadequate to handle existing traffic and that 'any widening of (Beverly Glen Boulevard) would destroy the existing residential community of plaintiffs' members as such widening would require removal of their homes'.

The basis for the motion for summary judgment was a declaration of counsel for Plywood, which simply called the court's attention, for purposes of taking judicial notice, to the allegations of the complaint and to the procedural history of the case; a declaration of a 'title searcher' to the effect that official records showed that Residents did not own any real property; and a declaration by a 'tax and bond searcher' that official records did not show that there was any real property in Los Angeles carried in the name of or assessed or taxed to Residents.

Standing to Sue

Our conclusion that Residents has standing to maintain this action is based upon the fact that Residents has alleged in its pleading (1) that it is a corporation whose members live in the affected area and (2) that its members would suffer injury if the challenged project, to be constructed under a permit pursuant to an allegedly unconstitutional ordinance, is allowed to proceed. 3 These allegations are sufficient to distinguish the instant case from Greater Westchester Homeowners Assn., Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 13 Cal.App.3d 523, 91 Cal.Rptr. 720 and from Associated Boat Industries v. Marshall, 104 Cal.App.2d 21, 230 P.2d 379, each heavily relied upon by defendants.

In reaching our conclusions, we first note that environmental concerns underlie this action. Such matters are the proper subject of judicial consideration. '. . . Aesthetic and environmental well-being, like economic well-being, are important ingredients of the quality of life in our society, and the fact that particular environmental interests are shared by the many rather than the few does not make them less deserving of legal protection through the judicial process . . .' (Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 734, 92 S.Ct. 1361, 1366, 31 L.Ed.2d 636, 643.) Quoting this language, the California Supreme Court further referred to Sierra Club when it said, '. . . In dissenting Justice Blackmun Decried rigidity of the law that prevented reaching issues involving 'significant aspects of a wide, growing and disturbing problem, that is, the Nation's and the world's deteriorating environment with its resulting ecological disturbances' (405 U.S. at p. 755, 92 S.Ct. at p. 1376.)'. (emphasis supplied) (Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors, 8 Cal.3d 247, 254, 104 Cal.Rptr. 761, 765, 502 P.2d 1049, 1053.) See also Associated Home Builders, etc., Inc. v. City of Walnut Creek, 4 Cal.3d 633, 94 Cal.Rptr. 630, 484 P.2d 606.

In recent years there has been a marked accommodation of formerly strict procedural requirements of standing to sue (Professional Fire Fighters, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 60 Cal.2d 276, 32 Cal.Rptr. 830, 384 P.2d 158) and even of capacity to sue (Daniels v. Sanitarium Assn., Inc., 59 Cal.2d 602, 30 Cal.Rptr. 828, 381 P.2d 652) where matters relating to the 'social and economic realities of the present-day organization of society' (Daniels at 607, 30 Cal.Rptr. at 832, 381 P.2d at 656) are concerned. from the formalism and rigidity referred from the formalism and rigidity retreat to in Friends of Mammoth, supra. That process may be seen in several cases.

Thus, Parker v. Bowron, 40 Cal.2d 344, 254 P.2d 6, another case principally relied upon by defendants, held that a plaintiff who claimed to represent city employees in a suit concerning their wages, by reason of the plaintiff's position as secretary-treasurer of an unincorporated association of unions whose members were city employees, had no right or interest in the subject matter himself and could not represent the employees. Yet, in Professional Fire Fighters, supra, the court distinguished Parker on the technical ground that Parker involved an unincorporated association, saying '. . . but here, we have no question of an unincorporated association, and no basis for a claim that the class for whom the action was brought is without beneficial interest . . .' (6 Cal.2d at 284, 32 Cal.Rptr. at 834, 384 P.2d at 162).

Another illustration of the relaxation of former, more rigid standing requirements in order to permit an assertion of a 'public' cause of action is seen in County of Alameda v. Carleson, 5 Cal.3d 730, 737, 97 Cal.Rptr. 385, 488 P.2d 953. One of the plaintiffs and mandate petitioners there was the California Welfare Rights Organization, an unincorporated association. In an earlier case, California Welfare Rights Organization v. Carleson, 4 Cal.3d 445, 93 Cal.Rptr. 758, 482 P.2d 670, that organization (hereafter CWRO) had sued to enjoin the enforcement of certain regulations relating to welfare payments and had alleged that it initiated the litigation on behalf of all welfare recipients in the State of California (4 Cal.3d at 448, 93 Cal.Rptr. 758, 482 P.2d 670). In County of Alameda, the court held that CWRO and its members were legally aggrieved by a judgment which had the effect of terminating grants to CWRO's members. 4 That conclusion followed from the court's determination that the underlying judgment had an immediate, pecuniary, and substantial effect upon the members' rights to welfare benefits. And, referring to its prior action in California Welfare Rights Organization v. Carleson, Supra, the court said in County of Alameda, supra, 5 Cal.3d at 737 footnote 6, 97 Cal.Rptr. at 390, 488 P.2d at 958, that '. . . we impliedly acknowledged CWRO's standing to litigate on behalf of welfare recipients . . .'

Sierra Club v. Morton, Supra, 405 U.S. 727, 92 S.Ct. 1361, 31 L.Ed.2d 636, is also instructive. In that case, the court inquired into the standing of the Sierra Club to...

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