Legal Notes

Overview

Legal Notes

Article Legal Notes Michael EstradaDebbie Cho

Using Design-Build Can Save Money on Public Construction

The Legislature recently granted California cities expanded authority to use the design-build project delivery method.

Article Legal Notes Richard Lam

Clean It or Lien It: Dealing with Foreclosed or Abandoned Properties

What are the viable options to protect the safety of neighborhoods where foreclosed homes are abandoned and become unsightly invitations to unlawful activity and sources of health risks?

Article Legal Notes Nikki Hall

Addressing ADA Accessibility Issues in the Public Sector

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 has been in effect for nearly two decades, many public entities are not yet in compliance with its accessibility requirements.

Article Legal Notes Benjamin D. Winig

Lost In Translation: Local Public Agencies and Translating Official Documents

A look at the federal and state laws related to translation requirements.

Article Legal Notes Timothy H. IronsElizabeth M. Del Cidattorney

SB 97: The “Other” Global Warming Act

Article Legal Notes Christi Hogin

Building Green With Carrots and Sticks

Cities are increasingly using regulations and incentives to develop new greener building practices that reduce development’s short-and long-term environmental impacts.

Article Legal Notes Michael JenkinsHelyne MesharHernan Molina

Domestic Partner Rights in California

Michael Jenkins is a partner with the law firm of Jenkins & Hogin and serves as city attorney for the City of West Hollywood and several other Southern California cities; he can be reached at MJenkins@localgovlaw.com. Helyne Meshar is principal of Helyne Meshar & Associates and legislative advocate for the City of West Hollywood; she can be reached at HMeshar@aol.com. Hernan Molina is deputy to West Hollywood Mayor John Duran and can be reached at HMolina@weho.org.


It has been three years since California’s Domestic Partner Law was enacted. This article traces the law’s history, explains California cities’ role in its development and implementation and includes specific recommendations to ensure that your city is in compliance with the law.

Article Legal Notes Kourtney BurdickJoanne SpeersPatrick Whitnell

The Origins of California City Powers

Kourtney Burdick is deputy general counsel for the League and can be reached at kburdick@cacities.org. JoAnne Speers is executive director of the Institute for Local Government and a former general counsel for the League; she can be reached at jspeers@ca-ilg.org. Patrick Whitnell is general counsel for the League and can be reached at pwhitnell@cacities.org.


This column offers a brief and very general historical look at California cities’ constitutional history and powers. This information sheds light on some of the struggles cities face in protecting local control in the courts and the Legislature.

Article Legal Notes Kourtney Burdick

Living Wage Ordinances

Kourtney Burdick is the League’s deputy general counsel. She can be reached at kburdick@cacities.org.


In response to the rising cost of living in California, 21 cities have enacted living wage ordinances (LWOs). Included in this group are large cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and Oakland; small cities such as Sonoma and Fair-fax; and medium-sized cities like Berkeley.1 These ordinances vary in some respects, but in general, their purpose is the same: They set a wage requirement that is higher — often much higher — than federal and state minimum wages.2

Article Legal Notes Michael ZischkeBradley Brownlow

State Supreme Court Provides Guidance on Water Supplies and CEQA

Michael Zischke and Bradley Brownlow are attorneys specializing in the California Environmental Quality Act and land use law with the San Francisco office of Cox Castle & Nicholson. Zischke is co-author of the treatise Practice Under the California Environmental Quality Act, published and updated annually by California Continuing Education of the Bar. He can be reached at mzischke@coxcastle.com. Brownlow can be reached at bbrownlow@coxcastle.com.


Last February, the California Supreme Court issued its long-anticipated ruling in Vineyard Area Citizens for Responsible Growth v. City of Rancho Cordova,1 a case that has significant implications for water-strapped cities considering the approval of large development projects.

Article Legal Notes Craig Labadie

Frequently Asked Questions About the Public Records Act

Craig Labadie is city attorney for Concord and president of the League’s City Attorneys Department. He can be reached at clabadie@ci.concord.ca.us. Labadie gratefully acknowledges the assistance provided by Kourtney Burdick, the League’s deputy general counsel, in drafting this article.


The purpose of the Public Records Act (PRA) is to give the public access to information that enables them to monitor the functioning of their government.1 Its fundamental precept is that governmental records shall be disclosed to the public, upon request, unless there is a specific reason not to do so.2 Most of the reasons for withholding a record are set forth in the PRA.

Article Legal Notes Liane Randolph

17 Tips for Running Your Campaign Committee

Liane Randolph was chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission from 2003–07. She can be reached at liane.randolph.pra@ gmail.com.


Now that you’ve decided to run for office, you need to know the basics of running a campaign committee. This article provides a short overview of the requirements of the Political Reform Act.

Article Legal Notes Melanie M. PoturicaDavid A. Urban

A City Council Member’s Role With Respect to Individual City Employees

Melanie M. Poturica is managing partner at the law firm of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore in Los Angeles, and can be reached at mpoturica@lcwlegal.com. David A. Urban is an attorney with the firm, and can be reached at durban@lcwlegal.com.


In the public eye, city council members are at the top of the city’s government structure, presiding over large and small bureaucracies that may include police officers, firefighters and many other types of employees charged with serving the public interest. Accordingly, when residents are aggrieved by or interested in the conduct of a particular employee, they may view their council member as that employee’s ultimate “boss” or de facto CEO of the city, who can cause the employee to be disciplined or even terminated, and who could certainly take such lesser actions as communicating with the employee’s direct supervisor or reviewing the employee’s personnel file for information relevant to the issue.

Article Legal Notes Benjamin P. Fay

Are You Receiving All of Your Property Taxes?

Although county and state controllers work hard to ensure that property taxes are allocated correctly, mistakes are made that can cost cities millions of dollars.

Article Legal Notes Terence R. Boga

Controlling Disruptive Public Speakers At Open Meetings

Terence R. Boga is a shareholder of Richards, Watson & Gershon in the firm’s Los Angeles office. He serves as city attorney of the City of Westlake Village, and is the immediate past chair of the Executive Committee of the Public Law Section of the State Bar of California. He can be reached at tboga@rwglaw.com.


The nature of a council meeting means that a speaker can become “disruptive” in ways that would not meet the test of actual breach of the peace or of “fighting words” likely to provoke immediate combat.

Article Legal Notes David DeberryJeff Ballinger

Group Homes in the Neighborhood

David DeBerry is city attorney for the City of Orange and can be reached at ddeberry@cityoforange.org. Jeff Ballinger is city attorney for the City of San Jacinto and an attorney in the Riverside office of the law firm Best Best & Krieger; he can be reached at Jeff.Ballinger@bbklaw.com.


Group homes have long had a presence, albeit a controversial one, in California. Because neighbors are often concerned about noise, traffic, crime, safety and a decline in property values associated with group homes, city council members are frequently besieged with demands from constituents that a group home not be allowed in their neighborhood. This article addresses some of the policy and legal implications of group homes, with a focus on sober living facilities.

Article Legal Notes Michele Beal Bagneris

10 Tips for Creating a More Effective City Council-City Attorney Relationship

Michele Beal Bagneris is city attorney for the City of Pasadena and president of the League’s City Attorneys Department.


City attorneys have a unique role in working with city councils, especially in light of the attorney’s ethical and other obligations. Unlike the city manager, the city attorney often does not have daily interaction with council members, and the council’s primary interaction with the city attorney is in city council meetings. The city council-city attorney relationship works best when there is open communication, mutual respect and trust. This article offers 10 tips to help council members create a more effective relationship with their city attorney.

Article Legal Notes Margaret W. BaumgartnerRebecca L. Katz

“Man’s Best Friend?” Breed-Specific and Other Local Regulation of Dangerous Dogs

Margaret W. Baumgartner and Rebecca L. Katz are deputy city attorneys with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.


Dogs and humans have lived in close proximity for millennia. Although historically humans have thought of dogs as “man’s best friend,” sometimes a dog will unexpectedly kill or severely injure its owner or another person. Most dog owners, however, do not realize their pet is capable of killing someone before it happens.1

Article Legal Notes Patrick Whitnell

Coping With the Paroled Sex Offender Next Door

Patrick Whitnell is assistant general counsel for the League.


Dr. McEchron testified that there is no cure for sex offenders and that “there are never any guarantees that they might not reoffend.”