The City of Palos Verdes Estates (the City) has taken the position in our initial legal proceedings that they can be selective about enforcement and that the deed restrictions do not apply to them. From the 7/16/13 demurrer brief by the City in response to our litigation:

It is well established that … a municipality’s exercise of the police power may not be limited by private contracts or restrictive covenants…. Private agreements restricting the use of property are simply immaterial to the validity of a particular zoning ordinance…. Consequently, the City’s exercise of its police power in considering amendments to its zoning ordinance and processing a permit application cannot constitute illegal conduct and form the basis of a CCP § 526a claim…. Because the City’s police power may not be limited by private covenants regarding the use of land, its consideration of a zoning code amendment and an after-the-fact permit application is perfectly legal and Plaintiff cannot plead facts sufficient to state a cause of action against the City under CCP.
— For the full document in context, click here.

However, the City also argues a very different position when it suits them. For instance, here are excerpts from the “Private Deed Restrictions” section of “Palos Verdes Estates 2013-2021 Housing Element” prepared by the City and presented to the PVE City Council on November 12, 2013.

All land in the City of Palos Verdes Estates is subject to private deed restrictions developed at the time the master planned Palos Verdes project was established. These restrictions include allowable land uses and architectural style… Deed restrictions also apply to dedicated City open space. Thus, such areas would not be available for other uses, even if constraints posed by topography, infrastructure and other factors discussed below did not exist. These legally binding private restrictions were established prior to City incorporation… Any changes to a site that do not specifically conform to the restrictions must gain not only the approval of the Association, but must be approved in writing by two-thirds of the owners of property within three hundred feet of the site in question. The City has no authority to modify or remove these restrictions.
— For relevant excerpt click here. For the full document in context, click here.

Further, while the City’s demurrer brief (7/16/13) indicated it would not be held by deed restrictions, Resolution #12 in City Council minutes for June 12, 1940 fully accepts those restrictions:

Each and every provision, condition, restriction, lien, charge, easement, and covenant contained in the Declaration of Establishment of Basic Protective Restrictions executed by… is subject to which said property and/or all parcels thereof should be sold and conveyed and all of said provisions, conditions, restrictions, reservations, liens, charges, easements, and covenants are hereby made a part of this conveyance and expressly imposed upon said realty as fully and completely as if herein set forth in full….By the acceptance of this conveyance the Grantee agrees with the Grantor that the reservations, provisions, conditions, restrictions, liens, charges and covenants herein set forth or mentioned are a part of the general plan for the improvement and development of the property describe and/or referred to in said Declarations of Restrictions, and are for the benefit of all of said property as described and/or referred to and each owner of any land therein, and shall apply to and bind the respective successors in interest of the parties hereto, and are, and each thereof is, imposed upon said realty as a servitude in favor of said property and each and every parcel of land therein as the dominant tenement or tenements.
— For the excerpt in context, click here.

In addition, there are many instances in other official documents where the City of Palos Verdes Estates has made statements that the deed restrictions are legally binding. For instance, in 2005 the City passed a Resolution to tackle encroachments, and the staff memo dated October 25, 2005 states:

Soon after its incorporation in 1939, 849 acres of open space were dedicated to the City by the Palos Verdes Homes Association, subject to the deed restriction that these areas must be perpetually maintained for the public to enjoy. The deed restrictions further stipulated that should any open space be privately occupied, ownership would revert to the original owner: the Homes Association. The city wholeheartedly accepted this condition, recognizing the value to the community in preserving its open space.
— For the full document in context, click here.

One of the arguments made by both the City and the Homes Association in the current litigation is that they have a “right but not a duty” to enforce the deed restrictions on open space:

[CEPC’s Petition] states that the Association has the right to exercise a reversionary interest, but nowhere does the document impose a duty upon the
 Association, or anyone else, to exercise a reversionary interest. It grants the Association a right to enforce deed restrictions, but not the duty to do so.
— For the full document in context, click here.

However, the 1923 "Protective Restrictions" book states: 

To carry on the common interest and look after the maintenance of all lots and the welfare of all lot owners right from the beginning, a community association, with the name of Palos Verdes Homes Association, has been incorporated as a non-stock, non-profit body under the laws of California, in which every building site has one vote. It will be the duty of this body to maintain the parks, street planting and other community affairs, and to perpetuate the restrictions.
— For the full document in context, click here

Further, the Municipal Code of Palos Verdes Estates declares under its "definitions" section that:

‘Must’ and ‘shall’ are each mandatory,,,
’May’ is permissive.
— For the full document in context, click here

The Homes Association asserts in documents filed in response to our petition that it has no obligation to enforce the protective restrictions and also that the Homes Association can sell parkland if it so chooses. This directly contradicts the 1923 Protective Restrictions document; section 4 states:

The Park and Recreation Powers and Board shall have power and it shall be its duty: … b) nor any property once subject to the jurisdiction of the Park and Recreation Commission be at any time sold, conveyed, mortgaged, leased, encumbered, or in any way disposed of except with the approval of the Park and Recreation Board. No building or structure for any purpose other than a park purpose shall be erected, constructed, altered or maintained upon any land subject to the jurisdiction of the Homes Association, when such land has been accepted for park purposes only.
— For the full document in context, click here.

More directly, the deed transferring the Tract containing the Via Panorama property in 1940 from PVHA to the City of PVE puts a series of very specific and more onerous conditions that make it crystal clear that the property needs to remain "parkland forever" and can never be sold to anyone for use other than for public use.  

That, except as hereinafter provided, said realty is to be used and administered forever for park and/or recreation purposes only … for the benefit of the (1) residents and (2) non-resident property owners within the boundaries of the property heretofore commonly known as “Palos Verdes Estates”…¶ 3 (pp 6-7)

“That, except as provided in paragraph 3 hereof, said realty shall not be sold or conveyed, in whole or in part, by the Grantee herein except subject to the conditions, restrictions and reservations set forth and/or referred to herein and except to a body suitably constituted by law to take, hold, maintain and regulate public parks; provided, that portions of said realty may be dedicated to the public for parkway and/or street purposes. ¶ 3 (p 7)

“That, except as provided above, [exceptions are for utility easements] no buildings, structures or concessions shall be erected, maintained or permitted upon said realty, except such as are properly incidental to the convenient and/or proper use of said realty for park and/or recreation purposes.” ¶4 (p 9)
— For the full document in context, click here


These restrictions placed in the deed in 1940 but the PVHA cannot be undone, and "run with the land" to any future owners, including the PVHA under their Reversionary Rights.

PROVIDED, AISO, that by the acceptance of this conveyance the Grantee agrees with the Grantor that the reservations, provisions,
conditions, restrictions, liens, charges and covenants herein set forth or mentioned are a part of the general plan for the improvement and development of the property described and/or referred to in said Declarations of Restrictions, and are for the benefit of all of said property as described and/or referred to and each owner of any land therein, and shall inure to and pass with said property and each and every parcel of land therein, and shall apply to and bind the respec tive successors in interest of the parties hereto, and are, and each thereof is, imposed upon said realty as a servitude in favor of said property and each and every parcel of land therein as tee dominant tenement or tenements.
— For the full document in context, click here

The City of PVE also asserts that enforcement is optional. Yet a 2005 staff memo states:

In 1993 the City Council confronted the growing problem of illegal encroachments and determined to take some steps to reverse the situation. Faced with the reality that many encroachments had existed for decades and could be costly to remove, the Council enacted a policy for the gradual removal of illegal encroachments…. Since 1993, these policies have been consistently implemented.
— For the full document in context, click here.

There have been other reversals by the City. For instance, the City Council minutes from 7/24/12 stated:

MPT [Mayor Pro-Tem] Goodhart confirmed with City Attorney Hogin that Areas 1 and 3 of this property are currently, and would remain, zoned as open space.
— For the full document in context, click here.

Yet at the 3/12/13 City Council, the recommendation of rezoning as R1 Single Family Residential stated:

Staff recommends that the City Council open the public hearing, receive public input, close the public hearing, and approve the application [for R1 zoning] if it determines in light of the whole record that it can make the findings required for approval.
— For the full document in context, click here

The website of the Palos Verdes Homes Association clearly acknowledges its responsibilities.  Anyone reading the following excerpt from their website would find their decision to sell parkland and then support rezoning for private residential use with structures built on the land quite perplexing:

...the 3200 acres were transferred to a trustee, subject to the terms and provisions of a trust indenture commonly known as ‘Palos Verdes Trust Indenture’... By the terms of the deeds transferring these properties to Palos Verdes Homes Association, the property must be perpetually devoted to public uses; otherwise, title reverts to the trustee….
The Homes Association has independent functions to perform, which no city can legally perform. These functions must be performed by the Homes Association to protect one of the most valuable assets that the community has. Palos Verdes Estates is one of the few communities in Southern California, and indeed in the State of California, which has a comprehensive plan of both use and building restrictions. With the growth of the population and industry in Southern California, it is becoming increasingly important that use and building restrictions be perpetuated.
The Homes Association under the Restrictions themselves, under the Trust Indenture, and under its Articles of Incorporation and By-laws, is given the power and the right to enforce these restrictions…The deeds from the trustee to each original purchaser refer specifically to the restrictions, the organization of the Homes Association and the Art Jury bind the purchaser to comply with the restrictions. The restrictions and the original deeds are recorded, and being matters of record, each subsequent purchaser is also bound by the restrictions.
— For the link to the PVHA website, click here

When one considers the foregoing notations as referenced, how could the PVHA sell the 1.7 acres to a private buyer? There is no legal justification of any kind for such a sale.

This transaction also violates what the City of PVE says on its website:

eed restrictions were imposed on the land in 1923, when the Bank of America, as trustee for Vanderlip’s Palos Verdes Project, drafted a trust indenture and outlined provisions for development…. Over the years, the City’s governance has been guided by the vision of the original founders with an emphasis on preserving, protecting and enhancing the quality of life and natural assets that make Palos Verdes Estates unique.
— For the link to the PVE City website, click here