Our practice focuses on a wide variety of real estate disputes: battles over commercial leases, disputes with Bay Area cities over land use and building permits, and even neighbor to neighbor controversies. We have defended and prosecuted real estate agents and architects for malpractice; we have tried lawsuits and prosecuted arbitrations involving acrimonious neighbors; we have gone toe-to-toe with some of the most aggressive city agencies in the country, the San Francisco Planning and Building Departments over building and demolition permits. And won.
Litigating land use matters is extraordinarily complicated.
Depending on the ordinances of your city, the process usually begins at the planning or building departments with the issuance or denial of a conditional use permit, a building permit, demolition permit, or variance. If the developer is unhappy with the city’s decision, an appeal can be taken to the next level administrative body. Sometimes that administrative appeal is heard by the board of supervisors; sometimes it is heard by a specialized board of appeal. From there, if the terms of the permit, or the denial, is still unsatisfactory, the land developer can take a section 1094.5 administrative writ of mandamus to the Superior Court of California.
This is where we come in, litigating the matter before a judge.
But be very careful. The evidentiary record available to the Superior Court judge is limited to the record as considered by the city in issuing its original decisions. As a general matter, no new evidence may be submitted to the judge. You are locked into the body of evidence as was submitted to the city down below. This means that the record must be carefully crafted years before the writ is ever taken to the Superior Court. In this way, litigants should be thinking about their end-game, even at the very beginning of their land permitting process.
Neighbor-to-neighbor disputes can be some of the most acrimonious litigation in the courts. These matters are often driven by non-economic imperatives; the parties tend to seek injunctive remedies instead of simply money damages. Resolving these matters requires more than mere business rationale or cold legal analysis. Because these actions involve people where they live, successful litigation requires a special approach.
California law requires sellers in the vast majority of residential real estate transactions, to disclose known defects in writing. Cal. Civ. Code § 1102. One of the most common errors made by real estate brokers and agents is to fail to make proper disclosures. Mandatory disclosures include the presence of lead paint, a death on the premises less than three years prior, id. § 1710.2, pest infestations, drainage issues, encroachments, easements, neighborhood noise, boundary disputes, bad neighbors, and lawsuits affecting the property. Id. § 1102.6.
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