Scott v. City of Indian Wells

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation6 Cal.3d 541,492 P.2d 1137,99 Cal.Rptr. 745
Decision Date27 January 1972
Parties, 492 P.2d 1137 Mary Lou SCOTT et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CITY OF INDIAN WELLS et al., Defendants and Respondents. L.A. 29904. In Bank

Page 745

99 Cal.Rptr. 745
6 Cal.3d 541, 492 P.2d 1137
Mary Lou SCOTT et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
CITY OF INDIAN WELLS et al., Defendants and Respondents.
L.A. 29904.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
Jan. 27, 1972.

Page 746

[492 P.2d 1138] [6 Cal.3d 544] Albert S. Scott, Jr., Claremont, in pro. per.

David J. Erwin, Indio, for defendants and respondents.

PETERS, Justice.

Plaintiffs Mary Lou and Albert Scott filed an action on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated landowners against the City of Indian Wells, California, seeking a declaratory judgment voiding the city's grant of a conditional use permit to construct a large planned development on land lying just within the city limits. Plaintiffs and the class they represent own neighboring land lying just outside the city limits. A demurrer to plaintiffs' first amended complaint was sustained without leave to amend, and plaintiffs have appealed from the ensuing judgment.

The pertinent allegations of the complaint may be summarized as follows: Plaintiffs Mr. and Mrs. Scott own a 200-foot by 200-foot parcel of land the southern edge of which abuts the northern limits of the City of Indian Wells. In November 1969 the city sent notice of hearing before the city planning commission to consider the granting of a conditional use permit to construct a planned development (two golf courses, tennis courts, clubhouses, 675 condominium units, 90 individual lots) within the city on land which abuts Scott's property and which was formerly zoned R--1, single family, single story residences. 1 Notice of hearing was mailed to Scott by mistake; no other abutting property owners residing outside the city limits were so notified of the hearing.

Scott inspected the public site plan of the proposed development and sent a letter to the planning commission well in advance of the meeting, suggesting certain restrictions on the development which would protect the view of property owners to the north of the development. Scott received no reply to this letter. At the hearing, when the commission chairman asked his clerk whether letters had been received, the clerk did not admit that Scott's letter had been received.

Scott attended the hearing of November 18, 1969. At that time Scott was first made aware that the development would include a heliport, several two-story buildings, and one six-story building. He also learned at that [6 Cal.3d 545] time that his neighboring property owners had not been given notice of the hearing.

At the hearing the architect explained that the development would be 'indigenous' to a neighboring country club development in the city. Taller buildings and commercial shops would be placed behind a hill, so that they would not be visible to members of the adjacent El Dorado Country Club. These buildings would, however, directly

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[492 P.2d 1139] block the view of Scott and his neighbors. The architect refused to answer Scott's question as to why the development could not be made 'indigenous' to his residential area as well. Scott was allowed to speak, but the planning commission members did not respond to Scott's objections to the development and apparently ignored him.

On December 4, 1969, Scott appeared at the city council meeting at which the planning commission's recommendation to grant the permit was approved. Scott asked to have a petition opposing the development, bearing 45 signatures (all apparently nonresidents of Indian Wells but owners of property within 300 feet of the development), read into the record. This request was refused, and '(s) aid petition was totally ignored . . .' 2

Throughout these proceedings, plaintiffs allege, the city 'pursued a deliberate course of not giving notice (to plaintiffs and their class) to conceal their plans from interested northern area adjacent property owners, . . .' Plaintiffs cite municipal code sections which require that notice of hearing relating to a conditional use permit application be mailed to all landowners within 300 feet of the parcel under consideration. 3

Finally, plaintiffs alleged that the project plans 'deliberately discriminate against plaintiffs and similarly situated property owners . . . (and) in favor of the property of owners of Eldorado Country Club' by proposing to build a seven-story apartment building, liquor store, rental office, and heliport in a location quite close to plaintiffs' property but out of sight of the country club. Plaintiffs contended that the project could be built in such a way so as not to impinge on the view or tranquility of either group of landowners.

Defendant city demurred generally and specially, alleging that (1) the [6 Cal.3d 546] complaint did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action; (2) plaintiffs had not alleged exhaustion of their administrative remedies; and (3) the complaint was uncertain. In support of the first ground the city argued in its points and authorities that (a) the complaint argued conclusions of law rather than fact, and (b) plaintiffs, as nonresidents, had no standing to sue. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend on the first ground specified, finding it unnecessary to rule upon defendant's other contentions. The court did not state whether it sustained the demurrer on defendant's theory (a) or (b) set forth above, or on some other basis.

Preliminarily, it must be noted that plaintiffs sued only for declaratory relief. An action for declaratory relief may not be used to attack an administrative order. (Hostetter v. Alderson, 38 Cal.2d 499, 500, 241 P.2d 230; Triangle Ranch, Inc. v. Union Oil Co., 135 Cal.App.2d 428, 434, 287 P.2d 537.) Review of planning commission proceedings regarding a conditional use permit is appropriate under Code of Civil Procedure, section 1094.5. (Triangle Ranch, Inc. v. Union Oil Co., Supra, 135 Cal.App.2d 428, 434, 287 P.2d 537; Mid-Way Cabinet, etc., Mfg. v. County of San Joaquin, 257 Cal.App.2d 181, 191, 65 Cal.Rptr. 37; Cal. Zoning Practice (Cont.Ed.Bar. 1969) § 12.11, p. 508.) 4

Page 748

[492 P.2d 1140] 'As against a general demurrer, however, it is unimportant that plaintiff's pleading was not in form a petition for mandamus or certiorari. All that is required is that plaintiff state facts entitling him to some type of relief, and if a cause of action for mandamus or certiorari has been stated, the general demurrer should have been overruled. (Citations.)' (Boren v. State Personnel Board (1951) 37 Cal.2d 634, 638, 234 P.2d 981, 983.) Accordingly, an action for declaratory relief to review an administrative order should be regarded as a petition for a writ of mandate for purposes of ruling upon a general demurrer. (Id.; Hostetter v. Alderson, Supra, 38 Cal.2d 499, 500, 241 P.2d 230.)

Defendant city contends, as it did before the trial court, that '(p)laintiff has no standing as a nonresident nontaxpayer to challenge the zoning and use decisions of the defendant.' In accord with this position the city further contends that '(i)t is not possible or constitutionally required that the ordinances of the City apply to areas outside of the City. The zoning ordinances are not designed to provide protection to nonresidents' property located outside the City, but rather for the...

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