BLAKE v. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF COUNTY OF SHASTA

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Court of Appeal, Third District, California.

Chester R. BLAKE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF the COUNTY OF SHASTA, Defendant and Respondent.

Civ. 20585.

Decided: January 29, 1982

Robert A. Rehberg, Redding, for plaintiff and appellant. John Sullivan Kenny, County Counsel, Shasta, and David R. Frank and Karen Keating Jahr, Deputies County Counsel, Redding, for defendant and respondent.

Plaintiff landowner appeals from a declaratory judgment upholding a resolution of defendant Board of Supervisors (Board) fixing the boundary line between general plan districts.   The trial court found the Board's resolution was merely an interpretation of the plan.   We disagree with the trial court's characterization of the resolution which we hold effected an amendment of the plan.   Since the record does not affirmatively show compliance with the statutory requisites for an amendment, we shall reverse and remand for further hearing.

The facts are not in dispute.   Plaintiff owns land in Cottonwood on which he desires to operate an automotive garage.   For that purpose he applied for a use permit;  his application was denied by the planning commission and the Board.   Plaintiff then applied for an interpretation of the general plan in respect to the location on the ground of the boundary line as shown on the map between the districts designated in the general plan “Urban-Intensive” (U–I) and “Industrial” (M).

The boundary line on the general plan map between the U–I and M districts runs through plaintiff's property.   On the map the line is one-eighth inch wide;  scaled out on the ground, the line would be at least 200 feet wide.   As shown on the map, the line runs parallel to the north side of Balls Ferry Road;  plaintiff's property fronts on the north line of Balls Ferry Road.   On the map the general plan boundary divides plaintiff's property between the “U–I” and the “M” districts.   Depending on the precise location on the ground of the boundary as drawn on the map, the portion of plaintiff's property fronting on Balls Ferry Road on which he wishes to operate an automotive repair shop could fall within the industrial “M” district.

A railroad right-of-way parallels the Balls Ferry Road across from plaintiff's property and about 10 feet to the south of the road.

The Board's authority to clarify the location of boundaries was established by a 1978 resolution promulgating general plan guidelines.   Exhibit “A” of Shasta County Resolution No. 78–236 reads:  “The Board of Supervisors may, upon application to the Planning Department by any property owner affected or on its own motion, clarify the location of General Plan district boundaries, as shown on the General Plan Maps, by finding after public hearing that such lines conform to property ownership lines, roads, topographical or other physical features, or political entity boundaries.   The Board of Supervisors may direct the Planning Commission to review and comment upon any request or proposal for clarification of General Plan district boundaries pursuant to this guideline.”

Plaintiff's request for an interpretation of the general plan was referred to the planning commission.   The manager of the commission had earlier advised defendant that in his opinion the line was intended to follow the centerline of Balls Ferry Road (south of plaintiff's southerly property line) but had been mislocated on the map either because of the rapidity with which it was drawn or faulty reproduction processes.   In a hearing before the commission plaintiff's attorney argued the line intersected his property as shown on the current map, including the southernmost portion of his property lying immediately north of Balls Ferry Road in the “M” district.   The planning commission concluded the line was intended to follow the railroad track south of Balls Ferry Road (and south of plaintiff's southerly property line) and so recommended to the Board.

The Board held a public hearing on the planning commission's recommendation, heard arguments from plaintiff's counsel, and by resolution adopted the railroad track as the boundary intended when the general plan map was drawn.   The railroad track lies opposite plaintiff's property, well to the south of the southern edge of the district boundary line as drawn on the general plan map.   A new map attached to the ordinance adopting the railroad track as the boundary shows the shift of the entire border between the U–I and M areas to the south, placing all of plaintiff's property in the U–I district.

After the Board adopted its “clarifying” resolution, plaintiff filed suit for declaratory relief.   The complaint alleges an actual controversy has arisen and now exists between plaintiff and the Board in that plaintiff contends that the plain and obvious meaning of the general plan is that the southerly portion of plaintiff's land which was the subject of his rejected application for a use permit is within the general plan district M–Industrial, and that the resolution adopted by the Board constitutes an amendment to the general plan which can only be accomplished pursuant to statutory procedures which the Board has not followed.   The Board claims the resolution embodies an interpretation within its authority and does not constitute an amendment to the general plan.   As noted above, the trial court concluded the Board's interpretation was not an amendment and was therefore valid.   On appeal, plaintiff renews his attack on the resolution and also claims error in the trial court's denial of his request for attorney fees.

 The character of the Board's decision, whether an interpretation or an amendment, constitutes a question of law which may be resolved without deciding whether the standard of review should be that appropriate to review of legislative or adjudicatory determinations.1

The essence of plaintiff's claim is that the determination made by the Board resulted in a movement on the ground of the boundary line of such magnitude that it necessarily constituted an amendment rather than an interpretation.   We agree.

The Board concedes that the general plan map, a copy of which is in evidence, was included in and adopted as part of the county general plan.  (See Gov.Code, § 65302.) 2  The district boundary lines as depicted on the map therefore are just as much a part of the enactment as the words of the text and just as binding on the Board.

 Resolution 78–236 (see text, ante, p. 174) allows the Board to “clarify the location of general plan district boundaries, ․”  “Clarification” is a process necessarily addressed to a subject which is opaque or ambiguous—here a line on the map of such width that it scales out to 200 feet on the ground.  “Clarification” of the location of the line could involve a determination only of where, within the 200-foot wide corridor, the actual boundary lies.   Selecting an entirely new boundary outside the 200-foot wide corridor, however logical, is not a clarification of the location;  it is a change or amendment of the existing plan.   We conclude the trial court erred in finding the Board's decision within its authority to clarify or interpret the plan.

Amendments to general plans are authorized by the Government Code (Gov.Code, § 65350) under specified procedures of notice, hearing and approval (Gov.Code, §§ 65351–65357).   With an exception not here relevant, no mandatory element of a general plan such as land use designations (see Gov.Code, § 65302, subd. (a)), may be amended more frequently than three times during any calendar year (Gov.Code, § 65361).

 The record in this case does not disclose whether statutory notice requirements were followed;  furthermore, the record fails to show whether or how often the general plan had been amended in 1980 when the disputed action of the Board was taken.   On remand the court should hear and determine these questions and others properly tendered relating to the validity or not of the Board's amendment of the general plan.   Since general plan amendments are legislative acts (see fn. 2, ante, p. 175), judicial review is limited to an examination of the proceedings before the agency to determine whether its action has been arbitrary, capricious, entirely lacking in evidentiary support or the product of defective notice and procedure.   (Karlson v. City of Camarillo (1980) 100 Cal.App.3d 789, 798–800, 161 Cal.Rptr. 260.)

Reconsideration of plaintiff's request for attorney fees will be appropriate if the trial court finds the Board acted arbitrarily or capriciously.  (See Gov.Code, § 800.)

The judgment is reversed and the cause remanded to the trial court for further proceedings in light of the views expressed herein.

FOOTNOTES

1.   Adoption or amendment of a general plan is a legislative decision.  (Selby Realty Co. v. City of San Buenaventura (1973) 10 Cal.3d 110, 118, 109 Cal.Rptr. 799, 514 P.2d 111;  Dale v. City of Mountain View (1976) 55 Cal.App.3d 101, 108, 127 Cal.Rptr. 520;  see Gov.Code, § 65301.5, effective January 1, 1981 (Stats. 1980, ch. 837, § 2).)   Denial of a use or building permit, on the other hand, is an adjudicatory administrative decision.  (Selby, supra, 10 Cal.3d at p. 123, 109 Cal.Rptr. 799, 514 P.2d 111;  San Diego Bldg. Contractors Assn. v. City Council (1974) 13 Cal.3d 205, 212, 118 Cal.Rptr. 146, 529 P.2d 570.)

2.   Government Code section 65302 provides in part:  “The general plan shall consist of a statement of development policies and shall include a diagram or diagrams and text setting forth objectives, principles, standards and plan proposals.”

PUGLIA, Presiding Justice.

REGAN and BLEASE, JJ., concur.