The California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District held that a city’s approval of a vesting tentative map is binding on the city even if the property covered by the map is located in a coastal zone subject to the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission. Other parts of the opinion addressing ripeness and who is the prevailing party for purposes of attorneys’ fees are not addressed in this summary.
In 2010 the voters of the City of Redondo Beach passed an initiative to establish a public-private partnership with a developer to redevelop the City’s waterfront. The City entered into an agreement with Redondo Beach Waterfront, LLC, the developer, to develop a plan pursuant to the initiative. In addition to the land use controls of the City, the proposed project is subject to the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission because the development is in a coastal zone.
Since 2010, the developer spent approximately $14 million on planning a new development. In June 2016 the developer applied for approval of a vesting tentative tract map for the development. The City later notified the developer that the tract map was complete and in October 2016 the City passed a resolution stating that the City’s approval of the map conferred a vested right to proceed in substantial compliance with the laws in effect, pursuant to the Subdivision Map Act. In March of 2017, the voters of the City passed another initiative (Measure C), which substantially restricts the amount of development along the waterfront.
After the passage of Measure C, the City and the initiative’s sponsors argued that the development as originally planned could no longer take place due to the passage of the Measure. The developer argued that the rights it earned through the City’s approval of its vesting tentative tract map grant the developer the right to develop as originally planned, regardless of Measure C.
California Government Code Section 66498.1 — part of the Subdivision Map Act — provides that a local agency’s approval of a vesting tentative map guarantees the developer the right to proceed with its development in substantial compliance with the ordinances, policies, and standards in effect at the time the tentative map is approved. This gives developers assurance that the local government cannot change ordinances, policies, and fees applicable to any development covered by the approved map. The developer argued that because their map was approved prior to the passage of Measure C, Measure C does not apply to the development.
The developer sued the City to enforce the developer’s rights under the vesting tentative map. The trial court found that the developer did have a right to rely upon the map and, therefore, Measure C would not affect the development.
On appeal, the City and the initiative’s sponsors argued that the rights conferred by Section 66498.1 are not applicable to any land located within a coastal zone because such land is subject to the authority of the California Coastal Commission and the California Coastal Act.
The California Coastal Act governs land-use planning for the coastal zones of California. Under the Act, any party seeking to develop in the coastal zone must obtain a coastal development permit in addition to any other applicable local government permits. Regardless of a local government’s approval of a development, the development must comply with the California Coastal Act. The California Coastal Commission also has jurisdiction to review any actions by a local government that could affect development within the coastal zone.
The appeals court rejected the City’s argument. The intent of the Legislature in enacting Section 66498.1 was not to interfere with the California Coastal Act, but instead to give developers some assurance of what rules and fees will be applied by local governments. The court held that although Section 66498.1 does not tie the hands of the California Coastal Commission, that does not mean that a vesting tentative map is not applicable to new local government regulations and fees.
Therefore, while the developer will have to comply with all requirements of the California Coastal Act, whatever those may be in the future, the requirements imposed by Redondo Beach will not change significantly from those that were in effect when the vesting tentative map was approved in 2016.