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An administrative grant of a variance must be accompanied by administrative findings. A court reviewing that grant must determine whether substantial evidence supports the findings and whether the findings support the conclusion that all applicable legislative requirements for a variance have been satisfied.
Upon recommendation of its zoning board and despite the opposition of appellant-petitioner -- an incorporated nonprofit organization composed of taxpayers and owners of real property in the canyon -- the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission granted to the Topanga Canyon Investment Company a variance to establish a 93-space mobile home park on this acreage. Petitioner appealed without success to the county board of supervisors, thereby exhausting its administrative remedies. Petitioner then sought relief by means of administrative mandamus. The trial court refused to disturb the variance granted by a county agency. Petitioner sought review of the decision.
Under the circumstances, was it proper to grant the respondent property developer a zoning variance to establish a mobile home park?
The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the cause to the trial court with directions to issue a writ of mandamus requiring the county board of supervisors to vacate the order awarding a variance. The trial court was also directed to grant any further, appropriate relief. It was expressly held that regardless of the terms of a local zoning ordinance, the governing administrative agency, in adjudicating an application for a variance, must make findings such as will enable the parties to determine whether and on what basis they should seek review and, in the event of review, to appraise the court of the basis of the agency's findings and that they support the agency's decision. It was pointed out that Gov. Code, § 65906, outlining the circumstances under which a variance may be properly granted, emphasizes disparities between properties, rather than the treatment of the subject property's characteristics in the abstract. The court noted that the agency's report focused almost exclusively on the qualities of the subject property and failed to provide comparative information on the surrounding properties, with the result that the agency's summary of "factual data," on which its decision apparently rested, did not include facts sufficient to satisfy the Government Code provision.