SLPR, LLC v. State Lands Comm'n

Decision Date29 November 2012
Docket NumberD059913
PartiesSLPR, LLC et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. STATE LANDS COMMISSION et al., Defendants and Respondents.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

(Super. Ct. No. GIC860766)

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Timothy B. Taylor, Judge. Reversed and remanded with directions.

Plaintiffs SLPR, LLC (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 summary judgment entered in favor of defendants the San Diego Unified Port District (Port) and the State of California (the State) (together Defendants) in their action against Defendants arising out of damage to their bayside properties in the City of Coronado (City) allegedlycaused by dredging of San Diego Bay (Bay). In 1998 and 2002, the United States Navy (Navy) dredged an area of Bay within the Naval Air Station North Island Turning Basin (Turning Basin). From 2004 to 2005, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Army) dredged the central navigation channel (Channel) of Bay. On appeal, Plaintiffs contend the trial court erred by granting Defendants' motions for summary judgment because: (1) there are triable issues of material fact that preclude summary adjudication of their causes of action against each of Defendants for quiet title, inverse condemnation, nuisance, and removal of lateral support; and (2) the Navy and Army are not necessary and indispensable parties to their action.


The State owns, in public trust, the submerged land in Bay where the Turning Basin and Channel are located. Port holds, in public trust, all right, title, and interest to those tidelands and submerged lands in Bay located, according to Plaintiffs' allegations, between the mean high tide line (MHTL) along the City shoreline and the pierhead line. Each of Plaintiffs owns real property on First Street in City along the Bay shoreline.

Quiet Title. 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 J.D. and A.B. Spreckels Investment Company (Spreckels), owner of real property along City's Bay shoreline and Plaintiffs' predecessor-in-interest, and other defendants to determine the location of the MHTL boundary between private uplands and City's public tidelands. In 1931, the trialcourt entered a judgment (Spreckels judgment), ostensibly determining the location of that boundary. City subsequently recorded a Miscellaneous Map No. 121 (Map 121), depicting the MHTL boundary location determined by the Spreckels judgment. In 1949, a record of survey of those individual lots now owned by Plaintiffs depicted their bayside boundaries as a black line labeled "Mean High Tide Line of [Bay] according to [Map 121]."

In 1962, the Legislature created the Port as a special district for the purpose of maintaining, operating, and developing the tidelands and submerged lands granted to Port and held in trust for the people of the State. In 1966, City, as required by the Legislature, conveyed to Port all of its right, title, and interest in and to the tidelands and submerged lands in Bay granted to it in trust by the State.

Dredging Projects. In 1998 and 2002, Navy, authorized by the United States Congress, dredged the Turning Basin to allow additional aircraft carriers to be homeported at Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI). Navy proposed, planned, and implemented those two dredging operations.

In or about 1995, Port determined dredging the Channel to permit deeper-draft ships to access its Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal (Terminal) would advance its mission to increase commerce in Bay. At the time, Port was planning a $15 million improvement project for the Terminal. Because the United States government was planning a separate project to dredge the approach and entrance channels to Bay, Port hired an engineering firm to prepare a report on the feasibility of dredging the Channel. In August 1995, Port contacted the federal government and requested that it participate in the Channeldredging project and pay for a majority of the project's costs. Port also lobbied Congress for appropriations for the Channel dredging project. As a result, the federal government conducted a reconnaissance study that determined the dredging project would further the federal interest in reducing shipping costs.

In November 1997, Port and Army entered into a feasibility study agreement. Port and Army authored a 1,000-page feasibility study, analyzing all aspects of the Channel dredging project, including the proposed dredging depth, its footprint, dredging methodology, options for disposal of dredged sediment, and possible environmental and other impacts. Port participated in project planning meetings and public education meetings and paid 50 percent of the feasibility phase costs. Port also paid for and supervised sediment testing and utility relocations.

In September 2004, Port entered into a project cooperation agreement (PCA) with Army for implementation of the Channel dredging project. Pursuant to the PCA, Port appointed members to, and one of the two managers who co-chaired, the project coordination team that supervised the design, engineering, plans, specifications, and other implementation issues. Also pursuant to the PCA, Port paid 35 percent of the implementation phase costs of the Channel dredging project, provided the necessary lands, easements and rights of way, and agreed to hold the federal government harmless from damages caused by the construction, operation, or maintenance of the project. During the period between March 8, 1993, and April 21, 2005, Port hosted and/or attended about 60 meetings with Army and/or other third parties to design and implementthe project. The implementation phase of the Channel dredging project began in September 2004 and ended in February 2005.

The State and Federal Lawsuits. In February 2006, SLPR filed a complaint in the San Diego County Superior Court (Case No. GIC 860766-1), alleging inverse condemnation and removal-of-lateral-support causes of action against Port. Port demurred, arguing Army was an indispensable party. After the trial court sustained Port's demurrer with leave for SLPR to amend, SLPR filed a first amended complaint adding Army as a defendant. In June 2006, Army removed the action to federal court.

In December 2007, a second amended complaint (SAC) was filed in federal court, adding Sewall, Goodfellow and others as plaintiffs. The SAC alleged nuisance, inverse condemnation, and removal-of-lateral-support causes of action against only Port and various Administrative Procedure Act causes of action against Army and/or Navy.

In March 2008, Plaintiffs filed a separate complaint in the San Diego County Superior Court (Case No. 37-2008-00079175-CU-OR-CTL), alleging a quiet title cause of action against Port and the State and alleging nuisance, inverse condemnation, and removal-of-lateral-support causes of action against the State.

In October 2009, the federal court granted Plaintiffs' motion to remand back to the state court their causes of action against Port and the State. Thereafter, the state trial court (i.e., San Diego County Superior Court) apparently consolidated CaseNo. 37-2008-00079175-CU-OR-CTL with Case No. GIC 860766-1,1 then denied Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings.

In September 2010, Port and the State each filed a motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication. They supported their motions with memoranda of points and authorities, separate statements of undisputed material facts, lodgments of exhibits, declarations, and requests for judicial notice. Plaintiffs opposed Defendants' motions, filing memoranda of points and authorities in opposition and supporting separate statements of undisputed and disputed material facts, lodgments of exhibits, declarations, and requests for judicial notice. Port and the State each filed replies to Plaintiffs' opposition papers.

Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary adjudication of their quiet title and removal-of-lateral-support causes of action.2 They supported their motion with a memorandum of points and authorities, a separate statement of undisputed material facts, a lodgment of exhibits, declarations, and a request for judicial notice. Port and the State filed memoranda and other papers opposing Plaintiffs' motion. Plaintiffs replied to those opposition papers.

In April 2011, the trial court issued an amended 31-page written order, granting Defendants' motions for summary judgment and denying Plaintiffs' motion for summary adjudication. On April 7, the court entered judgment for Defendants. Plaintiffs timely filed a notice of appeal.3

ISummary Judgment Standard of Review

"On appeal after a motion for summary judgment has been granted, we review the record de novo, considering all the evidence set forth in the moving and opposition papers except that to which objections have been made and sustained." (Guz v. BechtelNational, Inc. (2000) 24 Cal.4th 317, 334; Saelzler v. Advanced Group 400 (2001) 25 Cal.4th 763, 767.) "The purpose of the law of summary judgment is to provide courts with a mechanism to cut through the parties' pleadings in order to determine whether, despite their...

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