Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Plaintiff Dennis Ponte demanded defendant County of Calaveras (County) to pay him over $150,000 to reimburse him for work purportedly performed on the County’s behalf pursuant to an oral contract. The contract did not contain any fixed payment, and no bid was submitted nor approved pursuant to relevant county ordinances governing public contracts. Ponte disregarded opportunities to abandon his claims after the County provided him with pertinent legal authority demonstrating that his claims lacked merit. After multiple sustained demurrers, the trial court granted summary judgment to the County on Ponte’s third amended complaint. The court later awarded substantial attorney fees, finding Ponte’s claims, including those based on promissory estoppel, were not brought or maintained in both subjective and objective good faith. Ponte appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Ponte v. County of Calaveras" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Dennis Ponte demanded defendant County of Calaveras (County) to pay him over $150,000 to reimburse him for work purportedly performed on the County’s behalf pursuant to an oral contract. The contract did not contain any fixed payment, and no bid was submitted nor approved pursuant to relevant county ordinances governing public contracts. Ponte disregarded opportunities to abandon his claims after the County provided him with pertinent legal authority demonstrating that his claims lacked merit. After multiple sustained demurrers, the trial court granted summary judgment to the County on Ponte’s third amended complaint. The court later awarded substantial attorney fees, finding Ponte’s claims, including those based on promissory estoppel, were not brought or maintained in both subjective and objective good faith. Ponte appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Ponte v. County of Calaveras" on Justia Law

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In a 2005 Cooperation and Option Agreement to facilitate Russell's construction and operation of the Energy Center, a natural gas-fired, combined cycle electric generating facility in Hayward, the city granted Russell an option to purchase 12.5 acres of city-owned land as the Energy Center's site and promised to help Russell obtain permits, approvals, and water treatment services. Russell conveyed a 3.5-acre parcel to the city. The Agreement's “Payments Clause” prohibited the city from imposing any taxes on the “development, construction, ownership and operation” of the Energy Center except taxes tethered to real estate ownership. In 2009, Hayward voters approved an ordinance that imposes “a tax upon every person using electricity in the City. … at the rate of five and one-half percent (5.5%) of the charges made for such electricity” with a similar provision regarding gas usage. Russell began building the Energy Center in 2010. In 2011, the city informed Russell it must pay the utility tax. The Energy Center is operational.The court of appeal affirmed a holding that the Payments Clause was unenforceable as violating California Constitution article XIII, section 31, which provides “[t]he power to tax may not be surrendered or suspended by grant or contract.” Russell may amend its complaint to allege a quasi-contractual restitution claim. View "Russell City Energy Co. v. City of Hayward" on Justia Law

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In 2004, Hesperia began acquiring vacant property in its downtown for development of a Civic Plaza, with a city hall, public library, other government buildings and “complimentary retail, restaurant, and entertainment establishments.” Cinema West articulated a plan to develop a cinema immediately west of the Civic Plaza Park: the city would convey 54,000 square feet of real property to Cinema for $102,529, the property‘s fair market value; Cinema would construct a 38,000-square foot, 12-screen digital theatre; the city would construct the necessary parking lot, develop a water retention system for the theater and the parking lot, and install off-site improvements including curb, gutter and sidewalks. Cinema would execute a 10-year operating agreement with the city. The city later made a $250,000 forgivable loan to Cinema to aid with a $700,000 anticipated shortfall. As development of the theater and parking lot was nearing completion, the Electrical Workers Union requested a public works coverage determination under California‘s prevailing wage law (Lab. Code, 1720–18611 ) The State Department of Industrial Relations concluded that the project was subject to the prevailing wage requirement. The court of appeal affirmed, noting that Cinema received the benefit of a new, publicly-funded parking lot adjacent to the theater, which, though owned by the city, is Cinema‘s to use for as long as it operates the theater. View "Cinema West v. Baker" on Justia Law

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SJJC Aviation is a fixed base operator (FBO) that operates a full-service facility at the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, which is owned by the city. In 2012 the city addressed a plan to add a second FBO on the west side of the airport and issued a request for proposals “for the development and operation of aeronautical services facilities to serve general aviation activities at the [airport].” The city awarded the lease and operating agreement to Signature and its prospective subtenant, BCH, rejecting SJJC's bid as nonresponsive. SJJC filed suit, contending that the “flawed” process of soliciting bids for the lease should be set aside. The court of appeal affirmed dismissal of the suit. SJJC lost its own opportunity to compete for the new airport FBO by submitting a manifestly nonresponsive bid. SJJC is in reality complaining of past acts by the city and is seeking a remedy that will allow it another opportunity to submit a responsive proposal. View "SJJC Aviation Services v. City of San Jose" on Justia Law

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Education Code section 17406 authorizes school districts to use lease-leaseback agreements for construction or improvement of school facilities: the school district leases its own real property to a contractor for a nominal amount, and the contractor agrees to construct or improve school facilities on the property and lease the property and improvements back to the district. At the end of the lease-leaseback agreement, title to the project vests in the school district. California Taxpayers Network brought a reverse validation action (Code Civ. Proc. 863), challenging a lease-leaseback agreement between Mount Diablo School District and Taber Construction, alleging that the Education Code requires “genuine lease-leaseback agreements,” which “provide for financing of the school facility project over time,” but defendants’ lease-leaseback contracts were “sham leases”; that the contracts were illegal because a public bidding process is required for school construction projects; and that Taber provided professional preconstruction services to the District regarding the project before entering the lease-leaseback contracts. The court of appeals affirmed dismissal of claims "that attempt to engraft requirements on the transaction" that are not part of the Education Code. The court reversed in part, holding that the plaintiff did state a conflict of interest claim against Taber sufficient to withstand a demurrer. View "California Taxpayers Action Network v. Taber Construction, Inc." on Justia Law