Simi Valley Recreation & Park Dist. v. Local Agency Formation Com.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtPOTTER; The evaluation process contemplated by CEQA relates to the effect of proposed changes in the physical world which a public agency is about to either make; COBEY, Acting P.J., and ALLPORT
Citation51 Cal.App.3d 648,124 Cal.Rptr. 635
PartiesSIMI VALLEY RECREATION AND PARK DISTRICT, a Political Subdivision, et al., Appellants, v. LOCAL AGENCY FORMATION COMMISSION OF VENTURA COUNTY et al., Respondents. Civ. 44715.
Decision Date25 September 1975

Files, McMurchie, Foley & Brandenburger, Donald W. McMurchie, Sacramento, and Gordon R. Lindeen, Simi Valley, for appellants.

Dorothy L. Schechter, County Counsel of Ventura County, and James L. McBride, Chief Asst. County Counsel, Ventura, for respondents.

POTTER, Associate Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment of dismissal after demurrers were sustained (without leave to amend) to all 14 causes of action of a petition for writ of mandate. Petitioners Simi Valley Recreation and Park District (hereinafter 'District'), and Marietta R. Spotts and John K. Hubbell, residents and property owners within the District, sought by their petition to nullify the determinations of respondents Local Agency Formation Commission of Ventura County (hereinafter 'LAFCO') and Board of Supervisors of Ventura County (hereinafter 'Board') approving and carrying out the detachment of some 10,000 acres of undeveloped land from the territory encompassed within the District.

Each of the 14 causes of action included in the petition as amended asserted a different theory for the claimed invalidity of the action taken. The demurrer was made 'generally to the Petition on file herein and to each separate cause of action therein on the grounds that neither the Petition nor any of the individual causes of action therein allege facts sufficient to state a cause of action against respondents.' The Seventh Cause of Action was demurred to on the ground that it was on its face barred by the statute of limitations embodied in section 21167 of the Public Resources Code. In addition to filing the demurrer murrer respondents answered the petition, denying the allegations upon which the claims of invalidity were based.

An order to show cause setting the matter for hearing on June 14, 1974 was issued; the demurrers were set for hearing the same date, but such combined hearing was postponed until June 28, 1974. At that time, pursuant to an agreement between counsel, the legal issues posed by the demurrers were submitted first, with the understanding that '(i)f the court rulings on the Demurrer are such that factual issues become material, then the matter will be set for hearing at a later time for the submission of factual evidence.' 1 It appears, however, that the allegations of the petition were treated by both parties as including matters not directly alleged therein but brought to the court's attention in appendices to the memoranda of points and authorities filed in support of and in opposition to the demurrers. The briefs of the parties on appeal likewise treat these matters 2 as though they are incorporated in the petition. Though no formal order was made deeming these materials to be incorporated in the petition, no meaningful consideration of the issues argued by the parties can occur without reference to them, in view of the highly conclusional nature of many of the allegations of the petition. 3 Little purpose would be served by affirming the order sustaining the demurrers on the basis of the inadequacy of these conclusional allegations of the petition. If such were the basis for sustaining the demurrers, leave to amend would clearly have been required. Accordingly, we will deem the petition augmented by facts stated in, but not contentions and conclusions advanced in, the appendices referred to in footnote 2.

In its memorandum of ruling the court noted 'the respective positions of the parties having to do with the extent and scope of the review.' Those positions bore upon the demurrer to the Eleventh Cause of Action, challenging the determinations of respondent LAFCO and respondent Board for abuse of discretion in that they 'are not supported by the weight of the evidence.' The court referred to petitioners' position as urging 'the independent judgment test' made applicable in Strumsky v. San Diego County Employees Retirement Assn., 11 Cal.3d 28, 112 Cal.Rptr. 805, 520 P.2d 29, and respondents' position as advancing the 'substantial evidence rule.' The court did not, however, resolve this issue, saying in this connection:

'The transcript of the hearings involved herein has not been attached to the petition or incorporated therein. Manifestly, on demurrer, I am not, therefore, concerned with matters of evidence nor whether the decisions of LAFCO or actions taken by the BOARD are supported by the weight of evidence. (See Faulkner v. Cal. Toll Bridge Authority (1953) 40 Cal.2d 317, 328, 253 P.2d 659.) The resolution of the question whether the independent judgment test or substantial evidence rule would here apply is not required at this stage of the proceedings.'

The trial court apparently sustained the demurrer to the Eleventh Cause of Action on the basis of the statement in Faulkner v. Cal. Toll Bridge Authority, 40 Cal.2d 317, 330--331, 253 P.2d 659, 667, 'that to plead a cause of action . . . the plaintiff must either attach to the complaint a complete transcript of all the evidence upon which the authority acted . . . or, at the minimum, must allege the substance of all of the evidence which the authority did receive . . ..'

Petitioners attempted to deal with this ruling by making a motion to permit filing transcripts of the proceedings. In that motion it was urged that the stipulation avoided the effect of Faulkner and called for resolution of the legal issue as to the scope of review on the basis of the conclusional allegations in the petition. The memorandum in support of the motion stated: 'If the court had ruled on Demurrer that the Strumsky test was not applicable, then the transcripts would not be relevant.' Petitioners further discussed what they might plead if given leave to amend. They said in this connection:

'It also seems clear that Petitioners should be permitted to amend their pleadings to incorporate the transcripts and thereby properly raise the Strumsky issue. The sustaining of a Demurrer without leave to amend under these circumstances is improper.'

Petitioners did not at any time in the trial court claim or allege, or seek leave to amend so as to allege, that the determinations of respondent LAFCO and of respondent Board were not supported by substantial evidence. The motion was denied, leaving in effect the order sustaining all the demurrers without leave to amend, upon which judgment was entered.

Final action completing the detachment has been stayed by successive orders of the trial court, and of this court, pending disposition of this appeal.


The facts pleaded are for the most part undisputed. Petitioner District is a Recreation and Park District existing under the terms and provisions of chapter 4, Division 5 of the Public Resources Code. (Pub. Resources Code, § 5780 et seq.) It has authority to organize, promote, conduct and advertise programs of community recreation, to establish systems of recreation and recreation centers including parks and parkways, and to acquire, construct, improve, maintain and operate recreation centers within or without its territorial limits. The area encompassed by District is located in southeastern Ventura County. It includes the City of Simi Valley, the balance of the Simi Valley, and surrounding territory. The 10,000-acre parcel involved in the proposed detachment is a portion (comprising a small fraction of its total area) of the District lying westerly of Simi Valley, and geographically separated from it by a mountain ridge. For the most part, the detachment is mountainous. All of it is undeveloped, there being only one dwelling unit with five persons living there. A large section of it, some 4,200 acres, is now included in a state park, and the remainder is in open space or argiculture. No park or other facilities of petitioner District are located in the detachment.

The detachment was initiated by joint action of respondent Board and of Moreland Investment Company, a large owner of property in the area involved. The Board, by resolution of application of April 6, 1973, requested LAFCO approval of the proposed detachment. Moreland Investment Company previously requested such action by letter of March 21, 1973. The Moreland Investment Company letter cited the action of LAFCO taken on March 14, 1973, 'to create a new sphere of influence line between Simi Valley and Moorpark' as the basis for its request. It was followed by a formal application for detachment on April 4, 1973, attaching a LAFCO detachment questionnaire. In response to the question, 'What is the present use of the land?' the Company stated, 'Cattle grazing--with proposal residential development.'

The detachment proposal was an aspect and outgrowth of an extensive planning effort undertaken by respondent Board, the Ventura County Planning Department, and the Ventura County Executive Office relating to the future development of the community of Moorpark. Moorpark is an unincorporated area of Ventura County lying to the west of Simi Valley. This effort, which started in 1971 and which involved broad participation by local citizens groups recognized that urbanization of the Moorpark area was imminent, that uncontrolled growth could result in sprawling urbanization, and sought to develop a future plan in advance of the expected population influx. These efforts culminated in the production of 'The Moorpark Community Plan' which, with an addendum of April 1972, was adopted by respondent Board as the Moorpark General Plan. This comprehensive plan included a land use map indicating the areas in which commercial, industrial and various densities of residential use would be permitted. It also included a 'Green Belt Park and Recreation System' which provided for several...

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