Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 15, 2016

CA Appeals Court Holds Resort’s Intermittent Violation of Resort Services Regulation of Zoning Ordinance Did Not Constitute Per Se Private Nuisance Entitling Owners to Injunction

This case was an appeal brought by Plaintiffs Angel and Linda Mendez, who appealed a judgment in favor of defendant Rancho Valencia Resort Partners, LLC. The trial court entered judgment in favor of defendant on plaintiffs’ action for private nuisance, based on a dispute over the reasonableness of the level of noise generated during outdoor festivities held at the Rancho Valencia Resort. Plaintiffs, who shared a property line with the Resort, became frustrated with the noise emanating from the Resort when it hosted outdoor events on a lawn created for that purpose. Plaintiffs filed suit, alleging that the Resort’s outdoor events constituted a private nuisance, and sought to enjoin the Resort from continuing to create noise that would travel onto plaintiffs’ property and disturb them there. Despite a finding that “the public address system used by the Resort on the Croquet Law operates at a volume that allows words to be understood outside the boundaries of the Rancho Valencia property”, the trial court concluded that the Resort’s outdoor events did not amount to a private nuisance.

The court first noted that the elements of substantial damage and unreasonableness necessary to making out a claim of private nuisance are questions of fact that are determined by considering all of the circumstances of the case. Thus, plaintiffs were required to demonstrate that the use of this public address system in this way constituted an interference with plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their land that was substantial and unreasonable. However, even assuming that a violation of Resort Services section 6403 constituted a public nuisance pursuant to Zoning Ordinance section 7703, plaintiffs’ suggestion that the court had a responsibility to enjoin any violation of a zoning ordinance raised in a private nuisance action because there was no other method to “enforce the County’s legislative policy,” was baseless. The court found that the relevant ordinances did not leave a vacuum of remedies for the violation of the Zoning Ordinance, such that the only available remedy was for a trial court to enjoin such a violation of the Zoning Ordinance through a private nuisance action filed by private individuals.

Additionally, the court found that it was clear from a review of the trial court’s decision that the trial court considered and mentioned several factors in reaching its determination that the noises generated from the Croquet Lawn, noises that “otherwise comply with the General Sound Level Limits of the County Noise Ordinance,” were not “disturbing, excessive or offensive within the meaning of section 36.414.” The trial court considered the nature of the noise, noting that the sounds were comprised of “music, voices, applause, and laughter,” none of which is unusual or unexpected. The court also noted the evening events concluded at 10:00 p.m., so that “it cannot be said that these sounds extend beyond a reasonable hour.” The court also took into consideration the facts that the noise from the Croquet Lawn events took place intermittently, and the effects of ambient noise on the level of noise in general in the area, including bird noise, sprinklers, and aircraft. The court considered all of these factors, in addition to its finding regarding the level of noise, that “at no time did Croquet Lawn events hosted by Rancho Valencia generate noise exceeding the statutory limit.” Based on the aforementioned factors, the trial court reasonably determined that it “cannot conclude that noise levels from the Resort that otherwise comply with the General Sound Level Limits of the County Noise Ordinance are nonetheless disturbing, excessive or offensive within the meaning of section 36.414.”

Mendez v. Rancho Valencia Resort Partners, LLC, D067899, 2016 WL 4771043 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. 8/26/2016)



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