Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 17, 2015

CA Court of Appeal Finds Commission’s Negative “Benefit And Burden” Findings Regarding an Elder Care Facility were Adequate by Themselves, Independent of any Supporting Discussion, to Support Decision

On June 18, 2010, appellant applied for a permit to build an eldercare facility on the property pursuant to section 14.3.1, which encompasses the approval of such facilities in an RA–1–K zone. Appellant’s project involved the demolition of five existing single family homes and eight related buildings, and the construction of up to 128 units to accommodate 156 elder residents. After the South Valley Area Planning Commission declined to approve an eldercare facility proposed by appellant Levi Family Partnership, appellant sought an administrative mandamus against respondent City of Los Angeles. In denying the mandamus request, the trial court concluded that the Commission’s findings were adequate to support its decision.

Appellant alleged that the Commission could not merely make negative findings regarding the facts required for the project’s approval specified in section 14.3.1, but was obliged to support those negative findings with additional sub-findings. Section 14.3.1(E) predicates approval of an eldercare facility on “benefit and burden” findings resembling those typically required for a conditional use. Furthermore, under section 14.3.1(E), a single negative “benefit and burden” finding mandates disapproval of an eldercare facility. Thus, the court found the Commission’s negative “benefit and burden” findings “bridge the analytic gap between the raw evidence and ultimate decision or order.”

Appellant next argued that the Commission’s remarks relating to two of its negative findings: that no “unnecessary hardship” had been shown and that the project would be injurious to the neighborhood, mistakenly invoked the standards applicable to variances, as the Commission stated that appellant’s property “could be put to ‘effective use’ without the variance,” and that appellant had not demonstrated the grounds for “a bonafide variance.” Here, the administrative record contained evidence establishing that the project would generate 415 new daily car trips, including 56 daily trips during peak hours. However, because the Commission’s remarks targeted an issue collateral to, and independent of, the project’s incompatibility with the neighborhood, they established no defect in the Commission’s “incompatibility” finding. Accordingly, the court held that there was no reversible error in the Commission’s decision.

Levi Family Partnership, LP v City of Los Angeles, 2015 WL 5918036 (CA App. 9/16/2015)

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