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An ordinance that is proposed by initiative petition and adopted by the legislative body may not be repealed or amended except by a vote of the people, unless provision is otherwise made in the original ordinance. Elec. Code, § 9217. But that does not resolve the issue of whether a city can correct an inconsistency in an initiative that amended the general plan with other actions that are within its discretion. The city might, for example, amend the land use element of the general plan in a manner consistent with the initiative, or might submit to the voters a measure rescinding or amending the initiative so as to cure the inconsistency. As long as such options remain available, the city's inability to amend the ordinance without a vote of the people is no bar to applying Gov. Code, § 65754. A public entity may be able to amend its general plan in ways that do not conflict with the initiative amendment, or, if necessary to maintain an adequate general plan, the public entity can propose an amendment to the electorate. Should a vote of the people be necessary, a court should not presume that the electorate will fail to do the legally proper thing.
After the City Council of the City of Richmond (the City) adopted an initiative amending its general plan to prohibit residential development on a stretch of hillside land, property owners affected by the initiative brought this action challenging the initiative. The trial court concluded the initiative rendered the City's general plan internally inconsistent and directed the City to vacate its adoption of the initiative.
Did the trial court err in directing the City to vacate its adoption of the initiative?
The court found that the initiative made a general plan internally inconsistent, contrary to Gov. Code, § 65300.5, by amending the open-space element to prohibit residential development that the land use element allowed because the availability of transferable development credits did not cure the inconsistency, the initiative could not be harmonized on the basis of consistency with some policies, and clauses purporting to give precedence to the amendments to the open-space element were invalid. The proper remedy was to direct the city to correct the inconsistency pursuant to Gov. Code, § 65754, because the initiative was not void ab initio, no other deficiencies in the general plan were alleged, and the prohibition in Elec. Code, § 9217, against legislative amendment of ordinances adopted by initiative did not bar the city from taking other action or proposing an amendment to the electorate.