Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court and court of appeal rejecting Plaintiffs' facial challenge to the ordinance adopted by the City and County of San Francisco (the City) requiring wireless telephone service companies to obtain permits to install and maintain lines and equipment in public rights-of-way, holding that the lower courts properly found that ordinance was lawful. Specifically, Plaintiffs argued that the ordinance was preempted by Cal. Pub. Util. Code 7901 and that the ordinance violated Cal. Pub. Util. Code 7901.1. The trial court ruled that section 7901 did not preempt the challenged portions of the ordinance and rejected Plaintiffs' claim that it violated section 7901.1. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 7901 does not preempt the ordinance based on aesthetic considerations; and (2) the ordinance does not violate section 7901.1 by singling out wireless telephone corporations for regulation. View "T-Mobile West LLC v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that voter approval was not required for a transfer from a utility’s enterprise fund to the city’s general fund. Cal. Const. art. XIIIC prohibits local governments from imposing or increasing any tax without voter approval. Any charge imposed for a service or product that does not exceed the reasonable costs of providing it is excepted from the definition of tax. The City of Redding operated an electric utility as a department of its city government. At issue was whether an annual interfund transfer from the utility’s enterprise fund to the city’s general fund required voter approval where the transfer was intended to compensate the general fund for costs of services that other city departments provide to the utility. The Supreme Court held that because neither the budgetary transfer nor the rate the city charged its utility customers constituted a tax, voter approval was not required. View "Citizens for Fair REU Rates v. City of Redding" on Justia Law

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Charges that constitute compensation for the use of government property are not subject to Proposition 218’s voter approval requirements. To constitute compensation for a property interest, however, the amount of the charge must bear a reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest, and to the extent the charge exceeds any reasonable value of the interest, it is a tax and requires voter approval. Plaintiffs contended that a one percent charge that was separately stated on electricity bills issued by Southern California Edison (SCE) was not compensation for the privilege of using property owned by the City of Santa Barbara but was instead a tax imposed without voter approval, in violation of Proposition 218. The City argued that this separate charge was the fee paid by SCE to the City for the privilege of using City property in connection with the delivery of electricity. The Supreme Court held that the complaint and stipulated facts adequately alleged the basis for a claim that the surcharge bore no reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest and was therefore a tax requiring voter approval under Proposition 218. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law

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Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, a public agency, undertook work to mitigate environmental damage caused by California-American Water Co. (Cal-Am), a public utility, and then assessed a fee on the utility’s customers for the work. The fee was charged as a line item on Cal-Am’s bill and was collected by the Cal-Am on behalf of the District. In the underlying proceedings, Cal-Am filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for authorization to collect the District user’s fee. Before the PUC responded, Cal-Am, the District, and the PUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates entered into a settlement agreement under which the parties agreed that the District’s requested user fee was appropriate. The PUC denied Cal-Am’s application and rejected the settlement agreement. The Supreme Court set aside the PUC decisions rejecting Cal-Am’s application for authorization to collect the District’s user fee, holding that the PUC did not have the power to regulate the District’s user fee. View "Monterey Peninsula Water Mgmt. Dist. v. Pub. Utils. Comm’n" on Justia Law