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Law School Case Brief

Cormier v. Cty. of San Luis Obispo - 161 Cal. App. 3d 850, 207 Cal. Rptr. 880 (1984)

Rule:

An ordinance restricting land use is valid if it has a real or substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare. In deciding whether a challenged ordinance reasonably relates to the public welfare, the courts recognize that such ordinances are presumed to be constitutional and come before the court with every intendment in their favor.

Facts:

A property owner filed a petition for writ of mandate to compel a county to reclassify and rezone a parcel of real property that had been downzoned from commercial use as a result of an adoption of an amendment to the county's general plan. The petition was combined with a complaint for declaratory relief to determine whether the county's general plan amendment was invalid. Petitioner contended the county's action was arbitrary, discriminatory, and capricious and constituted an invalid exercise of local police and zoning powers. The property owner also alleged that the county did not make requisite findings of fact that the downzoning and reclassification bore a substantial and reasonable relationship to the promotion of the public, health, safety, and welfare. The trial court denied any relief, based on its finding that the validity of the enactment was "fairly debatable," and thus, constitutional.

Issue:

Was a property owner  entitled to declaratory relief to determine whether the county's general plan amendment was invalid?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court of Appeal affirmed, rejecting petitioner's principal contention that the decision to change the zoning of his property which substantially reduced its value required specific findings of fact that the action was necessary for the public health, safety, or welfare. The court held, since the county performed a legislative function in enacting rules which would govern the future uses of all property encompassed within its general plan, findings of fact were not necessary. It also held the trial court's finding that the ordinance was constitutionally valid because the board did not act arbitrarily or unreasonably was supported by the record, and the trial court applied the proper test to the county's action, which was whether the validity of the ordinance was fairly debatable, in which case the legislative judgment must be allowed to control.

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