Wednesday, May 15, 2002
Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Subject to Local Land Use Laws—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The state agency established to conserve the Santa Monica Mountains must comply with local land use laws, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
The ruling by Div. Six overturns a Ventura Superior Court judge’s decision and is a victory for the City of Malibu in its years-long battle with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy over the use of the 22-acre gift that the conservancy received from singer/actress/director Barbra Streisand in 1993.
The city sued the conservancy, the Streisand Center for Conservation Studies, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority—which operates the Streisand Center on behalf of the conservancy and two local parks districts—in 1999.
Malibu argued that the center—which houses MRCA’s headquarters and is the site of weddings, banquets, receptions, filmings, conferences, and similar events that enhance the conservancy’s revenues—must comply with local regulations requiring permits for commercial events. The defendants claimed they are exempt from local regulations.
The city obtained a preliminary injunction restraining most commercial events at the site. But Ventura Superior Court Judge Kent Kellegrew later concluded that the conservancy has sovereign immunity and granted its motion for summary adjudication.
But Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the conservancy’s immunity had been waived by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Act, which provides in part that nothing in the act “shall supersede or limit a local government’s exercise of the police power derived from any other provision of existing law or any law hereafter enacted.”
That language, Gilbert reasoned, permits local governments to impose their planning and zoning rules—enacted under the authority of the state Constitution and the state Planning and Zoning Law— on the conservancy.
The presiding justice acknowledged that the language is less specific than that which the Legislature has used to waive sovereign immunity on behalf of some other agencies, such as the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which are clearly subject to local land use rules.
But while it is true that the laws governing those agencies “contain express references to ‘zoning’ and ‘land use’ that are absent from” the Santa Monica Mountains act, Gilbert said, all that shows is “that in creating state agencies over the decades, the Legislature used language it deemed appropriate at the time to convey its intent that local governmental agencies retain their police power authority over certain state agencies.”
The case is City of Malibu v. Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, B151606.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company