SLPR, L. L.C. v. San Diego Unified Port Dist.

Decision Date22 May 2020
Docket NumberD074958
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
Parties SLPR, L.L.C., et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. SAN DIEGO UNIFIED PORT DISTRICT et al, Defendants and Respondents.

Thornes Bartolotta McGuirre; Vincent J. Bartolotta, Jr. and Karen R. Frostrom, San Diego; Beus Gilbert; Thomas A. Gilson and Megan Beus, for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Thomas A. Russell, General Counsel, Ellen F. Gross, Assistant General Counsel, John Carter, Deputy General Counsel; and Scott Noya for Defendant and Respondent San Diego Unified Port District.

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Daniel A. Olivas, Assistant Attorney General, Jamee Jordan Patterson and Hayley Peterson, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendant and Respondent State of California.


Plaintiffs SLPR, L.L.C. (SLPR), Ann Goodfellow, trustee of the survivor's trust of the Goodfellow Family Trust (Goodfellow), and Jerry M. Cannon and Michael S. Morris, trustees of the Sewall Family Trust (Sewall) (together Plaintiffs) appeal a judgment entered in favor of defendant State of California (State) in their action against State and the San Diego Unified Port District (Port) (together Defendants) arising out of damage to their bayside properties in the City of Coronado (City) allegedly caused by dredging of the San Diego Bay (Bay). As discussed in our initial opinion in this case, SLPR, LLC et al. v. State Lands Com. et al., 2012 WL 5984480 (Nov. 29, 2012, D059913) [nonpub. opn.] ( SLPR I ), the United States Navy (Navy) dredged an area of the Bay within the Naval Air Station North Island Turning Basin (Turning Basin) in 1998 and 2002 and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Army) dredged the central navigation channel (Channel) of the Bay from 2004 to 2005. ( SLPR I , at pp. 3-5.) In SLPR I , we concluded, inter alia, that the trial court erred by granting summary adjudication on Plaintiffs' cause of action for quiet title because there were triable issues of material fact on the meaning of a facially ambiguous 1931 judgment (Spreckels judgment) in favor of City and against J.D. and A.B. Spreckels Investment Company (Spreckels), owner of real property along the Bay's shoreline and Plaintiffs' predecessor-in-interest, and other defendants regarding whether that judgment fixed the bayside boundaries of Plaintiffs' properties or whether it located only the current position of the mean high tide line (MHTL) at that time and retained the ambulatory MHTL as the legal boundaries of their properties. ( SLPR I , at pp. 11, 22-23, 30-31.)

On remand after SLPR I , Plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint (TAC), alleging causes of action for quiet title, inverse condemnation related to the quiet title cause of action (by SLPR and Arendsee), inverse condemnation (by Plaintiffs), nuisance, and removal of lateral support. The trial court sustained State's demurrer to the third, fourth, and fifth causes of action. The court subsequently conducted a bench trial on the first and second causes of action and, after admitting and considering extrinsic evidence regarding the meaning of the Spreckels judgment, found that the judgment had fixed the boundaries between Plaintiffs' properties and the public tidelands. The court then entered judgment in favor of State and against Plaintiffs.

On appeal, Plaintiffs contend the trial court erred by: (1) concluding State's affirmative defense of res judicata based on the Spreckels judgment applied to bar the first and second causes of action; and (2) sustaining State's demurrer to the third, fourth, and fifth causes of action. Based on our reasoning post , we affirm the judgment.


In 1923, the Legislature granted to City, in public trust, the tidelands and submerged lands, whether filled or unfilled, between the MHTL and pierhead line from Glorietta Bay to the Spanish Bight, which includes the area adjacent to Plaintiffs' properties. In 1930, City filed an action to quiet title against Spreckels and other defendants to determine the location of the MHTL boundary between private uplands and City's public tidelands. ( SLPR I, supra , at p. 2.) In 1931, as discussed post , City and Spreckels approved a settlement agreement and changed their pleadings to reflect their stipulated courses and distances boundary description. The following day, the trial court entered the Spreckels judgment, ostensibly determining the location of that boundary. The Spreckels judgment, titled "JUDGMENT QUIETING TITLE," states in pertinent part:

"The above entitled cause came on regularly for trial ... upon the amended complaint of [City] and the respective answers thereto of the defendants [Spreckels and other named defendants].... And the Court having heard the testimony and the statements of counsel for the parties and being of opinion and finding that at all times prior to the date of this judgment the location of the [MHTL] of [Bay] on the [City] side of [Bay], was uncertain and unknown to the parties to this action, and being now sufficiently advised and informed in the premises for the purposes hereof, it is now hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED by the Court as follows:
"First: At the time of the commencement of the above entitled action the [City] was, it ever since has been, and it now is the owner, as Trustee for and on behalf of [City] and the inhabitants thereof, of the following described property situated in [Bay], which is more particularly described as follows: All the tidelands and submerged lands, whether filled or unfilled, within the boundaries of [City] as the said boundaries exist at the date of this judgment, and situated upon the [City] side of [Bay], and lying between the line of mean high tide and the pierhead line in [Bay], as the said pierhead line has been or may hereafter be established by the Federal Government, and between the prolongation of the easterly boundary of [City] into Glorietta Bay (a portion of [Bay] ) and the prolongation of the westerly boundary line of [City] into Spanish Bight (a portion of [Bay] ).
"Second: The said [MHTL] above mentioned, and which constitutes the boundary line between the upland and the aforesaid tidelands and submerged lands constituting a part of [Bay] adjoining and bordering upon the said uplands, is located and situated at, along and upon a line described as follows, to-wit:
"Beginning at Station 0, said Station being a point on the [MHTL] of [Bay] at its intersection with the Easterly city limits line of [City], said point being marked by an 8" x 8" concrete monument marked CCXII [and then setting forth a lengthy surveyor's description of angles and distances representing about 110 lines that run from numbered "station" to numbered "station" beginning with "Station 0" and terminating at "Station 110"], ... [¶] ... Station No. 110 being a point on the [MHTL] of Spanish Bight a portion of [Bay], at the intersection of said [MHTL] with the Westerly Boundary of [City].
"Third: At the time of the commencement of the above entitled action [Spreckels] was, continuously since February 5, 1921, had been, and it now is the owner of and in the possession and enjoyment of an estate and interest in real property, to-wit: an estate for years in and to all and singular the lands and premises, whether tidelands or submerged lands and whether filled or unfilled, situate in Glorietta Bay in [Bay] and lying below the [MHTL] of [Bay] in the said Glorietta Bay and between [two points identified by marked concrete monuments] and containing not more than forty (40) acres of the said tidelands and/or submerged lands; that the aforesaid estate of [Spreckels] in and to the lands and premises aforesaid is based upon and exists by virtue of and is for the term and terms, period and periods, and pursuant to the covenants, conditions, and agreement of lease thereof, from the Board of Harbor Commissioners for [Bay] to [Spreckels], dated February 5, 1921; that the said lease is in words and figures as follows, to-wit: [¶] [quoting the 1921 lease between Spreckels and the Board of State Harbor Commissioners for Bay]...."

City subsequently recorded a Miscellaneous Map No. 121 (Map 121), depicting the boundary location determined by the Spreckels judgment.

In 1995, Navy submitted a consistency determination to the California Coastal Commission (CCC) regarding its plan to dredge the Turning Basin to allow additional aircraft carriers to be homeported at Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI). CCC concurred with Navy's determination that the proposed dredging project was consistent with the California Coastal Management Program. ( California Coastal Com. v. U. S. (S.D. Cal. 1998) 5 F.Supp.2d 1106, 1108 ( California Coastal Com. ).) In 1997, Navy began dredging the Turning Basin, but then discovered live ordnance and submitted a new consistency determination that would allow it to dispose of dredged material offshore instead of on public beaches for sand replenishment as originally proposed. ( Ibid. ) CCC objected to the new consistency determination, arguing that the modified dredging project did not conform to the California Coastal Management Program to the maximum extent possible and that alternatives were available which would allow Navy to complete the project as originally proposed. ( Id. at p. 1109.) After Navy informed CCC that it intended to proceed without CCC's concurrence with the new consistency determination, CCC filed a federal district court action seeking a preliminary injunction enjoining Navy from proceeding with its modified dredging plan. ( Id. at pp. 1107, 1109.) The district court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining Navy from disposing all dredged material offshore. ( Id. at p. 1110.) Navy ultimately completed its dredging project in 1998. In 2002, Navy completed additional dredging of the Turning Basin, presumably after issuing a consistency determination with which CCC concurred.

In 2005, Army...

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