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Generally, the inquiry for the issuance of a writ of administrative mandamus is whether the entity whose decision is challenged committed a prejudicial abuse of discretion by failing to proceed in the manner required by law, by making a decision that is not supported by the findings it made, or by making findings that are not supported by the evidence. Code Civ. Proc., § 1094.5, subd. (b). In cases in which the court is authorized by law to exercise independent judgment, an abuse of discretion occurs if the reviewing court determines that the findings are not supported by the weight of the evidence. In all other cases abuse of discretion may only be established if the findings are not supported by any substantial evidence, in light of the whole record. § 1094.5, subd. (c).
The parties' agreement provided for mitigation land to be transferred to the conservation organization and contained a clause requiring that the city not unreasonably withhold approvals. The defendant city determined that the conservation organization was not qualified to receive mitigation land. Plaintiff instituted a mandamus petition challenging the city’s determination. The plaintiff also instituted a suit against the defendant developers, alleging breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and constructive trust. The trial court denied the mandamus petition. It likewise granted summary judgment to defendant developers. The organization appealed the judgments. According to the organization, the mandamus petition was wrongfully denied by the trial court because it employed the wrong standard of review, because the city denied the organization’s due process, and because the city’s criteria for determining what a qualified conservation entity were vague and uncertain. The organization also argued that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the developers because it exceeded its authority by invading the province of the trier of fact, made findings unsupported by fact or law, improperly struck most of their evidence, failed to consider reasonable inferences that supported a triable issue of material fact and failed to give effect to the contract's savings clause.
The court, noting that the approval clause did not alter the standard of review, concluded that the organization had not had demonstrated an entitlement to due process under Cal. Const., art. I, § 7, and U.S. Const., 14th Amend., as to qualification. A vagueness argument lacked authority and, in any event, the qualification criteria were not vague. Substantial evidence showed that the organization had not met the criteria. The court further held that the developers were entitled to rescission based on failure of consideration under Civ. Code, § 1689, subd. (b)(4), mistake under § 1689, subd. (b)(1), impossibility, and frustration of purpose. Approval was an implied condition without which there was no duty to perform under Civ. Code, § 1436. No errors occurred in the trial court's evidentiary rulings. The incorrect assumption that the organization was qualified supported a finding of mistake of fact under Civ. Code, § 1577, subd. (2). Upon rescission, a severability clause had no effect in accordance with Civ. Code, § 1688.