Architectural Case Law
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ARCHITECTURAL CASE LAW

EASEMENTS & SETBACKS

Setbacks. Associations cannot require setbacks that conflict with the CC&Rs. (Ticor Title v. Rancho Santa Fe; the assn required 50-foot setback when CC&Rs established 20-foot setbacks). Structures built into the setbacks can be ordered removed by the courts. (Morgan v. Veach.)

Wood Deck & Hot Tub. An owner built a deck and hot tub in an easement area. He did so with the permission of the architectural committee but in violation of a CC&R prohibition. The board ordered their removal. The owner refused, even though the association offered to pay for the removal. The court concluded that the owner violated the express prohibition in the CC&Rs and the architectural committee did not have the authority to approve a violation of the CC&Rs. ( Woodridge v. Nielsen.)

GUIDELINES & PLAN REVIEW


Adopting Standards. If empowering language is provided in the CC&Rs, architectural committees may adopt standards beyond those set forth in the CC&Rs. (Bear Creek v. Ferwerda.)

Consistent with CC&Rs. Associations cannot adopt architectural standards that contradict the CC&Rs. (Ekstrom v. Marquesa.)

Subjective Criteria. Architectural committees can use both objective and subjective criteria when reviewing submittals. (Dolan-King v. Rancho Santa Fe.)

Clarifications. Associations can clarify in their architectural guidelines any ambiguous provisions contained in their CC&Rs. (Rancho Santa Fe v. Dolan-King.)

CC&R Prohibitions. Architectural committees cannot approve submittals that clearly violate the CC&Rs. (Woodridge v. Nielsen; wooden deck in an easement).

SOLAR PANELS


Aesthetics. Aesthetics are a proper part of the architectural review process, provided it does not significantly increase the cost of the installation. (Tesoro del Valle v. Griffen.)

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS


Five Years. The statute of limitations for violation of a CC&R provision or a rule is 5 years from the time the board discovers the violation or, through the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have discovered the violation. (Code Civ. Proc. §336(b); Pacific Hills HOA v. Prun.)

Circumstantial Evidence. If a rule or guideline is challenged and no direct evidence of its approval or adoption can be found, associations can present circumstantial evidence that the amendment, rule or guideline had been duly adopted. ( Clear Lake v. Cramer.)

VIEW PROTECTION & HEIGHT RESTRICTIONS


No Statutory Right to View. Absent a specific provision in an association's CC&Rs, Californians have no right to air, light or an unobstructed view. (Pacifica HOA v. Wesley Palms; Posey v. Leavitt.)

Unreasonable Interference. Trial courts do not consider deprivation of a view, per se, as an injury. They consider the total effect of the encroachment and specifically whether it constitutes an unreasonable interference with plaintiff's rights under the CC&Rs. (Posey v. Leavitt.)

In Zabrucky v. McAdams , owners sued their neighbor over a one-story addition to their home claiming a violation of the association's view restriction. The court ruled against the plaintiffs holding that the CC&Rs did not prohibit all view obstructions--only unreasonable obstructions.

Tree Trimming. In Ekstrom v Marquesa, the CC&Rs had a provision that protected views by requiring all trees be trimmed so they not exceed the height of the house on the lot. The board exempted palm trees because trimming them would kill them. An owner sued and the court found that the restriction was clear and unambiguous, and the board's actions were inconsistent with that provision. The trees had to be trimmed.

Second Story. In Clear Lake Riviera v. Cramer, a homeowner who knowingly built a home in violation of the association’s height restrictions was ordered to comply with the HOA guidelines, even though reducing the height of the house would be expensive. (See also Seligman v. Tucker, "unreasonably obstruct" is not too vague to be enforceable.)

SLAPP Motion. In Colyear v. Rolling Hills, Colyear sued a neighbor who asked the association to protect his views from Colyear's trees. The court dismissed Colyear's lawsuit concluding his neighbor's conduct was protected because view protections were of general concern to homeowners in the community.

ZONING


CC&Rs v. Zoning. Although zoning regulations may permit certain activities, more restrictive CC&Rs will control. (Mullaly v. Ojai Hotel Co.)

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