Supreme Court of California Justia
Citation 46 Cal. 4th 282, 206 P.3d 739, 93 Cal. Rptr. 3d 369

Ste. Marie v. Riverside Co. Regional Park etc.

Filed 5/14/09

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA

GERARD STE. MARIE,
Plaintiff and Respondent,
S159319
v.
Ct.App. 4/2 E041312
RIVERSIDE COUNTY REGIONAL
PARK AND OPEN-SPACE DISTRICT,
Riverside County
Defendant and Appellant;
Super. Ct. No. RIC416770
MT. SAN JACINTO COMMUNITY
COLLEGE DISTRICT,
Real Party in Interest and
Respondent.

We address today a question of statutory interpretation, the answer to which
will have a profound effect on how regional park and open space districts can
manage their real property holdings. The dispute in this case centers on a
purported conflict between Public Resources Code1 section 5565, which suggests
real property is deemed “dedicated” for park or open space purposes at the
moment of acquisition by a district, and section 5540, which suggests land is
“actually dedicated” only after a district’s board of directors adopts a formal

1
All further statutory references are to this code unless otherwise stated.
1


resolution for such purposes. The difference is important because a district’s
ability to sell or otherwise convey land “actually dedicated” under section 5540 is
limited by substantial statutory restrictions. The Court of Appeal below held that
certain real property owned by defendant Riverside County Regional Park and
Open-Space District (hereafter the Riverside District or the District) was —
immediately upon acquisition — deemed by section 5565 “actually dedicated” for
park or open space purposes within the meaning of section 5540, despite the
absence of any affirmative action by the District’s board of directors so
designating the property. Accordingly, the appellate court agreed with the trial
court that the District’s proposed transfer of the land was subject to the restrictions
set forth in section 5540. Because the Court of Appeal misconstrued the interplay
between sections 5540 and 5565, we reverse.
FACTS
The Legislature first authorized the creation of regional park districts in
1933 “for the purpose of acquiring, improving, and maintaining parks,
playgrounds, beaches, parkways, scenic drives, boulevards and other facilities for
public recreation.” (Stats. 1933, ch. 1043, p. 2664.) This act was later codified in
1939 as section 5500 et seq. (Stats. 1939, ch. 94, p. 1217 et seq.) and then
expanded in 1975 to include regional open space districts as well as combination
use districts, called regional park and open space districts (§ 5500, as amended
Stats. 1975, ch. 813, § 2, p. 1846). Such districts now number eight in all and
stretch from Los Angeles County in the south to Napa and Sonoma Counties in the
north.2 The oldest and most developed district, and the one envisioned by the

2
In support of defendant Riverside District, we have received a joint amicus
curiae brief from the East Bay Regional Park District, the Midpeninsula Regional
Open Space District, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open

(footnote continued on next page)
2


authors of the original legislation in 1933, is the East Bay Regional Park District.
Created in 1934, it spans Alameda and Contra Costa Counties and now
encompasses 65 regional parks, over 97,000 acres of land, and over 1,000 miles of
trails. Five additional districts have been legislatively authorized but have yet to
be created. Today, existing regional park and/or open space districts in the state
comprise several dozen regional parks and tens of thousands of acres of open
space areas.
The Legislature authorized the creation of the Riverside District in 1993.
(§ 5541.2.) The enabling act provided the District “may plan, acquire, preserve,
protect, and otherwise improve, extend, control, operate, and maintain open space
areas, greenbelt areas, wildlife habitat areas, and regional parks for the use and
enjoyment of all the inhabitants of the district.” The same statute further provides
the District “may select, designate, and acquire land, or rights in land, within or
without the district, to be used and appropriated for those purposes.” The District
exercised these statutory powers in 1995, acquiring approximately 161 acres of
land in the Wildomar area3 of Riverside County from the Potter Family Trust.
Although the land’s appraised value was $1.37 million, the District paid only
$950,000 for it and accepted the remaining $420,000 as a gift from the trust. At
issue in the present proceeding is an approximately 80-acre portion of this

(footnote continued from previous page)
Space District, the Marin County Open Space District, the Monterey Peninsula
Regional Park District, and the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space
District. Of the eight existing park or open space districts in California, only the
district in Los Angeles County (§ 5506.9) is unrepresented before this court, no
doubt because, as amici curiae assert, the Los Angeles County Open Space and
Recreation District does not hold title to any real property but acts merely as a
funding source for parks administered by other entities.
3
Wildomar is located north of Temecula and just south of Lake Elsinore.
3


acquisition (hereafter referred to as the Wildomar property). Although the District
acquired and holds legal title to the Wildomar property, the Riverside County
Board of Supervisors, which sits as the District’s board of directors (§ 5538.7),
never adopted a resolution formally dedicating the property as a regional park, a
regional open space, or a combination of a regional park and open space area. All
parties concede the Wildomar property consists of land “in an essentially
unimproved state.”
In 2003, the District’s board of directors entered into an option agreement
with the Mt. San Jacinto Community College District, agreeing to convey the
Wildomar property to the college district for construction of a new community
college campus. The proposed sale of the Wildomar property was neither
approved by the District’s voters nor by the state Legislature following a
supermajority vote by the District’s board of directors. Plaintiff Gerard Ste.
Marie, a Wildomar and Riverside County resident, thereafter filed the petition for
a peremptory writ of mandate that forms the basis of the present proceeding,
contending the proposed conveyance of the Wildomar property would violate
section 5540 and thus “there exists a real and immediate danger that [the District]
will commit irreparable harm by conveying and disposing of the Wildomar
property in direct contravention [of] the prohibitions of state law.”
During the pendency of the trial court proceedings, the District
unsuccessfully sought a joint resolution in the state Legislature that would have
authorized the sale of the Wildomar property to the Mt. San Jacinto Community
College District. The trial court thereafter directed issuance of a peremptory writ
of mandate, prohibiting sale of the Wildomar property until such time as the
District complies with the requirements of section 5540; that is, until it obtains
voter approval or legislative authorization for the sale. The Court of Appeal
affirmed, and we granted review.
4
DISCUSSION
The dispute in this case arises from the potential confusion generated by the
use of the word “dedicated” in two different sections of the Public Resources
Code, in light of the substantial restrictions the code imposes on the sale of park
district property that has been “actually dedicated” for park or open space
purposes. Thus, section 5540 provides in pertinent part: “A district may not
validly convey any interest in any real property actually dedicated and used for
park or open-space, or both, purposes without the consent of a majority of the
voters of the district voting at a special election called by the board and held for
that purpose. [But] . . . consent need not first be obtained for a conveyance of any
real property if the Legislature, by concurrent resolution, authorizes a conveyance
after a resolution of intention has been adopted by at least a two-thirds vote of the
board of directors of the district, specifically describing the property to be
conveyed.” (Italics added.)
Invoking these restrictions on conveyance, plaintiff relies on section 5565,
which provides in pertinent part that “[t]he legal title to all property acquired by
the district under the provisions of this article shall immediately and by operation
of law vest in the district, and shall be held by the district in trust for, and is
dedicated and set apart for, the uses and purposes set forth in this article.” (Italics
added.) The Court of Appeal agreed with plaintiff that this sentence from section
5565 means that real property is deemed “dedicated” for park or open space
purposes at the moment a district legally acquires title to the property. Thus,
according to plaintiff and the appellate court, the Wildomar property was “actually
dedicated” for park purposes when the District took title to the land in 1995, and
consequently the District cannot sell the property to the Mt. San Jacinto
Community College District without voter or legislative approval.
5
By contrast, the District contends the “actual[] dedicat[ion]” referred to in
section 5540 differs from the “dedication” referred to in section 5565, and that
because the District’s board of directors has not adopted a resolution actually
dedicating the Wildomar property for park or open space purposes, the land is not
subject to the restrictions on conveyance set forth in section 5540. Thus, the
District, supported by amici curiae, argues an interest in real property is not
“actually dedicated” under section 5540 until the District’s board of directors
formally adopts a resolution of dedication.
As with all questions of statutory interpretation, we attempt to discern the
Legislature’s intent, “being careful to give the statute’s words their plain,
commonsense meaning. [Citation.] If the language of the statute is not
ambiguous, the plain meaning controls and resort to extrinsic sources to determine
the Legislature’s intent is unnecessary.” (Kavanaugh v. West Sonoma County
Union High School Dist. (2003) 29 Cal.4th 911, 919 (Kavanaugh).) Here, section
5565’s language, stating that land for which a park district holds legal title “is
dedicated and set apart for, the uses and purposes set forth in this article” (italics
added), arguably could mean that such land was “actually dedicated and used for
park or open-space” purposes under the meaning in section 5540 (italics added).
The same word (“dedicated”) is used in both statutes, and one rule of statutory
construction specifies that a word given a particular meaning in one part of a law
should be given the same meaning in other parts of the same law. (California
Teachers Assn. v. Governing Bd. of Rialto Unified School Dist. (1997) 14 Cal.4th
627, 643.)
On closer inspection, however, it becomes clear this axiom of construction
does not control here because, although the same word is used in both statutes, the
Legislature did not use it in the same way. Section 5565 states that land is
“dedicated,” whereas section 5540 imposes conveyance restrictions on land that is
6
“actually dedicated.” Although plaintiff argues these two usages of “dedicated”
amount to the same thing, to so conclude would render surplusage the important
qualifying word “actually,” violating the rule of statutory construction that courts
should, if possible, accord meaning to every word and phrase in a statute so as to
better effectuate the Legislature’s intent. (Murillo v. Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc.
(1998) 17 Cal.4th 985, 991-992; see also People v. Thompson (2006) 38 Cal.4th
811, 833 (dis. opn. of Werdegar, J.) [“[t]he qualifiers are important”].) To find use
of the word “dedicated” in both statutes dispositive would thus be an overly
superficial interpretation.
We must of course read statutes as a whole so that all parts are harmonized
and given effect. (Kavanaugh, supra, 29 Cal.4th at p. 919.) Doing so reveals that
the two instances discussed above are not the only times the word “dedicated” is
employed in the relevant statutes. Thus, although the limitations on the sale of
property in section 5540’s third paragraph were included in the original version of
the statute in 1939, that section’s second paragraph was added in 1985. (Stats.
1985, ch. 371, § 1, p. 1529.) That second paragraph provides: “Lands subject to
the grant of an open-space easement executed and accepted by the district in
accordance with this article are enforceably restricted within the meaning of
Section 8 of Article XIII of the California Constitution. An easement or other
interest in real property may be dedicated for park or open-space purposes, or
both, by the adoption of a resolution by the board of directors, and any interest so
dedicated may be conveyed only as provided in this section.” (§ 5540, italics
added.)
7
A park district like the Riverside District acts through its board of directors
(§§ 5527, 5593),4 which by statute “shall act only by ordinance, resolution, or a
motion duly recorded in the minutes of the meeting” (§ 5547). Because land held
in fee simple is an “other interest in real property,” section 5540 directs that land
held in fee simple “may be dedicated . . . by the adoption of a resolution by the
board of directors . . . .” But if plaintiff is correct that under section 5565 real
property is deemed dedicated for park or open space purposes at the moment of
acquisition, the alternative dedication procedure set forth in section 5540’s second
paragraph (i.e., dedication by adopting a resolution) would be unnecessary and
superfluous. This anomaly strongly suggests plaintiff’s proposed interpretation of
section 5565 is incorrect and that the Legislature could not have intended that real
property should be deemed actually dedicated at the moment a district acquires it.
Attempting to avoid this inconsistency, plaintiff urges us to adopt a
different interpretation of section 5540’s second paragraph, contending a
reasonable reading of this paragraph, including a consideration of its “grammatical
structure,” reveals the amendment “primarily concerned easements.” We agree
the 1985 amendment, describing dedication by resolution, primarily concerned
easements, but disagree with plaintiff’s further, implicit argument that the
amendment solely concerned easements.5 Although both sentences of the

4
Section 5527 provides in part: “The government of each district shall be
vested in a board of five or seven directors . . . .” Section 5593 provides: “All
matters and things necessary for the proper administration of the affairs of districts
which are not provided for in this article shall be provided for by the board of
directors of the district.”
5
Had the Legislature been concerned solely with how a district acquires and
dedicates easements, it would have been simpler to amend section 5565 to say:
“The legal title to all property including easements acquired by the district under
the provisions of this article shall immediately and by operation of law vest in the

(footnote continued on next page)
8


paragraph added to section 5540 in 1985 indeed mention easements, the passage in
question refers to more than easements; it refers to “[a]n easement or other
interest in real property . . . .” (Italics added.) Thus, the statutory amendment, on
its face, embraces more than just easements.
Despite this plain language, plaintiff contends it is “obvious” from the
provision’s legislative history that section 5540’s second paragraph is limited to
easements. “In order to ascertain a statute’s most reasonable meaning, we often
examine its legislative history.” (Kavanaugh, supra, 29 Cal.4th at p. 920.) But
resort to a statute’s legislative history is appropriate only if the statute is
reasonably subject to more than one interpretation or is otherwise ambiguous.
Here, section 5540’s reference to “[a]n easement or other interest in real
property” (italics added) is clear on its face. But even were we to assume the
provision is ambiguous (see Alford v. Superior Court (2003) 29 Cal.4th 1033,
1059), the legislative history would not support plaintiff’s proposed
interpretation.6
As plaintiff observes, the available legislative documents indicate the 1985
amendment to section 5540 was intended to address a problem concerning how

(footnote continued from previous page)
district, and shall be held by the district in trust for, and is dedicated and set apart
for, the uses and purposes set forth in this article.” (Underscored text added.)
That the Legislature instead chose to amend section 5540 and specify that
easements should be dedicated by having a district’s board of directors adopt a
resolution of dedication strongly suggests the meaning of the phrase “actually
dedicated” in section 5540’s third paragraph refers to this procedure.
6
The Court of Appeal granted the District’s first request for judicial notice,
which contained the legislative history of this provision. Plaintiff recently filed a
request for judicial notice of this same material in order to ensure this court
considers it. We grant this request.
9


park districts could hold and dispose of easements. According to the Office of
Local Government Affairs, the legislation then known as “AB 2253” was
“sponsored by the Midpeninsula Regional Open-Space District.” (Off. of Local
Gov. Affairs, Enrolled Bill Rep. on Assem. Bill No. 2253 (1985-1986 Reg. Sess.)
July 23, 1985, p. 2.) Although districts were authorized to purchase and dispose of
real property, “these districts may also acquire easements; such as a trail easement
across private property, or an easement on private property on which the land is
declared an open-space area, and the public has no right[] to use. The sponsor
states that current law is not clear whether the above easements can be dedicated,
as park-owned lands are currently dedicated. [¶] AB 2253 would clarify that
easements may be dedicated by park and open-space districts.” (Ibid.) That the
1985 amendment to section 5540 was intended to address a perceived problem
concerning the acquisition and management of easements is further confirmed by
the bill analysis provided by the Department of Parks and Recreation, dated
April 18, 1985, which states that “[e]xisting law (PRC 5540) authorizes regional
park and open-space districts to ‘dedicate’ real or personal property for district
purposes. [¶] According to the sponsor, there is no specific authority for local
park districts to dedicate ‘easements’ for park and open-space purposes. The
proponents contend this bill would clearly establish this authority, eliminate the
law’s existing ambiguity and, thus, avoid ‘future’ problems with legal
interpretations.” (Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Bill Analysis of Assem. Bill No.
2253 (1985-1986 Reg. Sess.) Apr. 18, 1985, p. 1.) This view is essentially
repeated in the analyses of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and
Wildlife, July 7, 1985, page 2, and the Senate Rules Committee, Office of Senate
Floor Analyses, July 11, 1985, pages 1-2.
But that is not the end of the story. The aforementioned Department of
Parks and Recreation bill analysis, page 2, also includes this comment: “This bill
10
would ‘clarify’ local park district authority to dedicate easements without
substantially changing the district’s current dedication authority for other
property.” (Italics added.) This suggests the Legislature understood that under the
then extant state of the law, a park district’s “current dedication authority” for real
property involved some affirmative act (such as adoption of a resolution by the
board of directors) and did not happen automatically merely upon passage of legal
title from a seller to a district.
That this must have been the Legislature’s understanding is further
underscored by other comments in the available legislative documents. For
example, the enrolled bill report of the Office of Local Government Affairs states
that “[a]ccording to the sponsor, current law allows park[] and open-space districts
to purchase land and dedicate such land for park or open-space purposes. Once
the land has been so dedicated, the district may convey or dispose of this land”
only by majority vote or legislative resolution. (Off. of Local Gov. Affairs,
Enrolled Bill Rep. on Assem. Bill No. 2253 (1985-1986 Reg. Sess.) July 23, 1985,
p. 2, italics added.) Use of the word “once” suggests that mere acquisition of land
does not suffice for dedication, but that some later affirmative act is required. The
same document notes that “current law is not clear whether . . . easements can be
dedicated, as park-owned lands are currently dedicated.” (Ibid., italics added.)
Thus, nothing in the history of the 1985 amendment to section 5540
suggests the Legislature understood it was creating a different, alternative means
of dedicating real property, applicable solely to easements. By adding language
specifying that easements could be dedicated by the adoption of a resolution by a
district’s board of directors, it instead appears the Legislature understood it was
clarifying that easements should be dedicated “as park-owned lands [were]
currently dedicated,” that is, by a park district’s board of directors adopting a
formal resolution dedicating the easement for park or open space purposes.
11
Although plaintiff suggests the statutory scheme can embrace two methods of
dedicating interests in real property, nothing in the history of section 5540 or the
1985 amendment thereto suggests either a legislative intent to create such a dual
system or a possible purpose for maintaining one.
The District’s interpretation of sections 5540 and 5565 is thus supported by
the plain language and the legislative history of those statutes, as well as that of
the 1985 amendment to section 5540. The District’s interpretation is further
supported by the interpretation of those statutes by the various districts themselves
(see ante, at pp. 2-3, fn. 2), as evidenced by their long-standing internal practices.
“[C]ourts must give great weight and respect to an administrative agency’s
interpretation of a statute governing its powers and responsibilities. [Citation.]
Consistent administrative construction of a statute, especially when it originates
with an agency that is charged with putting the statutory machinery into effect, is
accorded great weight.” (Mason v. Retirement Board (2003) 111 Cal.App.4th
1221, 1228.) Significant factors to consider include whether the administrative
interpretation has been formally adopted by the agency or is instead in the form of
an advice letter from a single staff member, and whether the interpretation is long-
standing and has been consistently maintained. (Sara M. v. Superior Court (2005)
36 Cal.4th 998, 1013; see also Yamaha Corp. of America v. State Bd. of
Equalization (1998) 19 Cal.4th 1, 12-15.) Such deference is also appropriate for
practical reasons: “When an administrative interpretation is of long standing and
has remained uniform, it is likely that numerous transactions have been entered
into in reliance thereon, and it could be invalidated only at the cost of major
readjustments and extensive litigation.” (Whitcomb Hotel, Inc. v. Cal. Emp. Com.
(1944) 24 Cal.2d 753, 757.)
Amici curiae state: “Since their inception, the amici districts have
interpreted the ‘actually dedicated’ language in section 5540 as requiring an
12
affirmative act of dedication by their respective boards separate and apart from the
board’s decision to acquire the real property interest. This ensures that the
district’s board has had a meaningful opportunity to assess the wisdom of such a
dedication. All of the amici districts make conscious choices about dedicating
interests in real property acquired with taxpayer dollars; some do so pursuant to
carefully written policies that explain the considerations and process involved in
an act of dedication. [Citation.] [¶] Consistent with their interpretation of
‘actually dedicated’ in section 5540, the amici districts have operated with the
understanding that they were free to convey any real property or interest in real
property that had not yet been ‘actually dedicated’ by board resolution, so long as
the proceeds of the sale were used for the [1933] Act’s purposes.” (See also
§ 5563 [authorizing district to sell surplus property “subject to the provisions of
Section 5540” so long as the sale proceeds are used for district purposes].)7

7
We grant amici curiae’s second request for judicial notice, filed in this court
on November 19, 2008, of eight items comprising various master plans, board
resolutions (including resolutions to dedicate park property), and declarations of
policy. (See Evans v. City of Berkeley (2006) 38 Cal.4th 1, 7, fn. 2 [notice proper
for city council resolution]; County of San Diego v. Grossmont-Cuyamaca
Community College Dist.
(2006) 141 Cal.App.4th 86, 97, fn. 4 [same, for
community college “Master Plan of expansion final EIR”]; Souza v. Westlands
Water Dist.
(2006) 135 Cal.App.4th 879, 886-887, fn. 1 [same, for water district’s
agenda]; see Evid. Code, § 452, subd. (b) [judicial notice permissible for
“[r]egulations and legislative enactments issued by or under the authority of . . .
any public entity in the United States”].) Although plaintiff concedes the
materials are noticeable under the Evidence Code, he urges us to decline the
request for judicial notice, arguing the materials are irrelevant to the Riverside
District’s practices. (People ex rel. Lockyer v. Shamrock Foods Co. (2000) 24
Cal.4th 415, 422, fn. 2.) They are, however, relevant to the interpretation of
sections 5540 and 5565. We thus reject the argument, as well as his further one
that judicial notice is improper because the material was not submitted to the
lower courts.
13


This view is supported by East Bay Regional Park District Resolution
No. 4500, adopted January 22, 1974, in which that district recognized the
difference between dedicated and undedicated district land, and explained that
“[n]ormally undedicated lands within the [d]istrict’s boundaries will be held for
future dedication to park or open space purposes, but only after the necessary
planning, boundary adjustments, provision for permanent access and other
changes in configuration which may involve the disposition or exchange of
portions of such lands have been completed. Nevertheless, undedicated land may
be used on a limited basis for park purposes, but any such use shall not in any way
constitute an express or implied dedication of such lands for park purposes within
the meaning of Section 5540 of the Public Resources Code.” (Italics added.)
Thus, according to amici curiae’s brief and the materials we have judicially
noticed, regional park and open space districts in California have operated for
decades under the statutory scheme at issue in this case and have interpreted
section 5540 as giving them (1) the option of acquiring land without formally
dedicating it for park or open space purposes, (2) the ability to hold land in a “land
bank” until it is deemed appropriate for formal dedication, and (3) the
authorization to later dedicate such property in perpetuity for park purposes. This
ability to delay a board vote to “actually dedicate” acquired property allows
districts to engage in long-range strategic planning, and permits such districts to
acquire property when it becomes available and to hold it in a “land bank” for
possible future use as park or open space, even if such use, for a variety of
reasons, is not yet feasible. Nothing in these materials from the various districts
supports the notion that all real property is deemed automatically dedicated for
park purposes immediately upon acquisition by operation of section 5565. Such a
long-standing interpretation of a statutory scheme by the government entities
involved, established not by a single staff member but memorialized in their
14
master plans or by a resolution adopted by their boards of directors, is entitled to
great weight and we defer to it. (Sara M. v. Superior Court, supra, 36 Cal.4th at
p. 1013.)
Our conclusion, moreover, is also consistent with section 5595, which
provides: “This article[8] shall be liberally construed to promote its objects and to
carry out its intents and purposes.” As noted, ante, the intent of the legislative
scheme was to create park districts “for the purpose of acquiring, improving, and
maintaining parks, playgrounds, beaches, parkways, scenic drives, boulevards and
other facilities for public recreation.” (Stats. 1933, ch. 1043, p. 2664.) Amici
curiae park districts explain in their brief why recognizing a difference between a
dedication of land within the meaning of section 5565 and an actual dedication
within the meaning of section 5540 promotes this legislative purpose, and why
plaintiff’s proposed scheme of automatic and immediate dedication by operation
of section 5565 would severely undermine the functioning of park districts.
According to amici curiae: “Many of the [park] districts lack the authority of
eminent domain, and therefore participate in the real estate market as any private
buyer would — in competition with other potential purchasers. Even where a
district has the power of eminent domain, it may have a policy to use this power
sparingly for obvious practical and political reasons. Fee title acquisitions in
particular require that a district act quickly and with the same flexibility as a
private buyer. Often, a district must act to protect a parcel by purchasing it from a
seller who has listed a parcel for sale before the district has had an opportunity to
fully assess the potential park uses or boundaries of the parcel or the open space

8
The term “article” in section 5595 refers to article 3 (“Regional Park, Park
and Open-Space, and Open-Space Districts”) of chapter 3 (“Districts”) of division
5 (“Parks and Monuments”) of the Public Resources Code.
15


value of the parcel. On some occasions, the post-acquisition study might find that
it is not in the public’s best interest for the district to hold onto the property, or the
entirety of the property. The district may then determine that it is in the best
interest of the public to declare the property surplus, sell it, and use the funds to
purchase other open space. Similarly, a seller might list several parcels for sale as
an all or nothing proposition. The district may know in advance of the purchase
that only some of the parcels are valuable park or open space properties, but may
decide to go ahead with the acquisition with the intent of conveying that portion
not appropriate for park or open space.”
In sum, interpreting section 5540 so as to permit park districts to hold land
they have acquired in a “land bank” until such time as it is appropriate to formally
create a regional park or open space area and actually dedicate land as such is
consistent with a liberal interpretation of sections 5540 and 5565 and is thus
consistent with section 5595.
Plaintiff argues to the contrary that our conclusion that real property is not
“actually dedicated” under section 5540 until a district’s board of directors adopts
a formal resolution of dedication actually violates section 5595. He claims our
“interpretation would only serve to elevate form over substance and is antithetical
to a liberal construction of the article” because it would create two classes of
property — that dedicated for park use upon acquisition and that “actually
dedicated” by formal resolution — identical in substance, but only the latter
garnering the protections against conveyance set forth in section 5540. But aside
from whether his proposed interpretation is more “liberal” or not, his premise is
faulty, for land acquired but not formally dedicated for park or open space
purposes is not identical to land that has been formally dedicated. The latter has
been subjected to greater scrutiny by the district, culminating in a considered
decision that it is appropriate for a park or open space area. Property that has not
16
been subjected to these rigors is simply held in a “land bank” for possible future
use as a park or open space area. We thus reject plaintiff’s claim that our
interpretation violates section 5595.
Plaintiff raises two additional subsidiary arguments, but neither is
persuasive. He first contends that requiring some affirmative act in order to
“actually dedicate[]” property within the meaning of section 5540 effects a repeal
of section 5565 by implication. Of course, such repeals are disfavored
(Professional Engineers in California Government v. Kempton (2007) 40 Cal.4th
1016, 1030; In re M. S. (1995) 10 Cal.4th 698, 726), but we disagree our
interpretation of section 5540 renders section 5565 meaningless. Because section
5565 directs that “[t]he legal title to all property acquired by the district . . . shall
immediately and by operation of law vest in the district, and shall be held by the
district in trust for, and is dedicated and set apart for, the uses and purposes set
forth in this article,” land acquired by a park or open space district must be set
aside and may not be used for nonpark purposes. Amici curiae park districts
explain that they achieve this end by holding land in a “land bank” until
appropriate planning, mapping, and surveying can by accomplished, a process that
may or may not lead to formal dedication as a regional park or open space area.
Although districts must set aside such land and hold it in trust, nothing in section
5565 obligates a district to immediately proceed and establish a park on the land.
Instead, it may hold the land in trust for creation of a park in the future. (Cf. Pub.
Util. Code, § 16432 [public utility can acquire land and hold it in trust, and such
land “is dedicated and set apart to the uses and purposes set forth in this
division”]; Stats. 1903, ch. 238, § 26, p. 298, West’s Ann. Wat.—Appen. (1968
ed.) ch. 8, p. 67 [water drainage district can acquire land, and such land “shall be
17
held by such district in trust for and is hereby dedicated and set apart to the uses
and purposes set forth in this act”].)9
Plaintiff contends, finally, that his interpretation of sections 5540 and 5565
is more consistent with state constitutional policy, as set forth in section 8 of
article XIII of the California Constitution. That section provides in pertinent part
that “[t]o promote the conservation, preservation and continued existence of open
space lands, the Legislature may define open space land and shall provide that
when this land is enforceably restricted, in a manner specified by the Legislature,
to recreation, enjoyment of scenic beauty, use or conservation of natural resources,
or production of food or fiber, it shall be valued for property tax purposes only on
a basis that is consistent with its restrictions and uses.” Although no tax question
is raised in the instant case, plaintiff apparently assumes this constitutional
provision evidences a positive constitutional value for the promotion of open
space. But even assuming his assumption is correct and that the provision could
provide the basis for some enforceable right, it has no bearing here. As we have
explained, the Legislature has in fact defined “when this land is enforceably
restricted” by enacting section 5540, limiting when such land can be sold or
otherwise conveyed following actual dedication for park or open space purposes.
And, as amici curiae have explained, interpreting sections 5540 and 5565 to mean
that land is actually dedicated immediately upon acquisition would eliminate a
district’s flexibility in dealing with its land holdings and actually diminish a park
district’s willingness to acquire land for park and open space purposes.

9
We express no opinion on whether actions by the board other than adopting
a formal resolution of dedication could establish under section 5540 that property
has been “actually dedicated” for park or open space purposes.
18


CONCLUSION
For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
WERDEGAR, J.
WE CONCUR:
GEORGE, C. J.
KENNARD, J.
BAXTER, J.
CHIN, J.
MORENO, J.
CORRIGAN, J.


19

See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion Ste. Marie v. Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion


Original Appeal
Original Proceeding
Review Granted
XXX 156 Cal.App.4th 1148
Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No.

S159319
Date Filed: May 14, 2009
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court:

Superior
County: Riverside
Judge: Gloria Trask

__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Appellant:

Joe S. Rank, County Counsel, Pamela J. Walls, Assistant County Counsel, Patti F. Smith, Deputy Counsel;
Reed Smith, Paul D. Fogel, Dennis Peter Maio; and Anita C. Willis for Defendant and Appellant.

Steven M. Woodside, County Counsel (Sonoma), Phyllis C. Gallagher, Deputy County Counsel; Ted C.
Radosevich and Carol R. Victor for East Bay Regional Park District, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space
District, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Marin County Open Space
District, Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District and Napa County Regional Park and Open Space
District as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Respondent:

Gerard Ste. Marie, in pro.per., for Plaintiff and Respondent.

No appearance for Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Dennis Peter Maio
Reed Smith
Two Embarcadero Center, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94111-3922
(415) 543-8700

Gerard Ste. Marie
35622 Crest Meadow Drive
Wildomar, CA 92595
(951) 346-3694


Document Outline

  • Facts
  • Conclusion

Petition for review after the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in an action for writ of administrative mandate. This case presents the following issue: Did the lower courts err in this case by concluding that property acquired by the District for recreational purposes was "actually dedicated" by operation of law, pursuant to Public Resources Code section 5565, and that Public Resources Code section 5540 required the District to obtain the consent of a majority of voters in the District in order to validly convey the property to a local community college district?

Opinion Information
Date:Citation:Docket Number:Category:Status:
Thu, 05/14/200946 Cal. 4th 282, 206 P.3d 739, 93 Cal. Rptr. 3d 369S159319Review - Civil Appealclosed; remittitur issued

Parties
1Riverside County Regional Park And Open Space District (Appellant)
Represented by Dennis Peter Maio
Reed, Smith, LLP
2 Embarcadero Center, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA

2Riverside County Regional Park And Open Space District (Appellant)
Represented by Paul D. Fogel
Reed, Smith, LLP
Two Embarcadero Center, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA

3Riverside County Regional Park And Open Space District (Appellant)
Represented by Patti F Smith
Office of the Riverside County Counsel
3535 Tenth Street, Suite 300
Riverside, CA

4Riverside County Regional Park And Open Space District (Appellant)
Represented by Anita C. Willis
Attorney at Law
8939 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 110-790
Los Angeles, CA

5Mt. San Jacinto Community College District (Real Party in Interest)
Represented by John William Dietrich
Atkinson Andelson et al.
3612 Mission Inn Avenue
Riverside, CA

6Ste. Marie, Gerard (Respondent)
35622 Crest Meadow Drive
Wildomar, CA 92595

7East Bay Regional Park District (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Phyllis C. Gallagher
Office of the Sonoma County Counsel
575 Administration Drive
Santa Rosa, CA

8East Bay Regional Park District (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Ted C. Radosevich
East Bay Regional Park District
P.O. Box 5381
Oakland, CA

9Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Phyllis C. Gallagher
Office of the Sonoma County Counsel
575 Administration Drive
Santa Rosa, CA

10Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Phyllis C. Gallagher
Office of the Sonoma County Counsel
575 Administration Drive
Santa Rosa, CA

11Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Ted C. Radosevich
East Bay Regional Park District
P.O. Box 5381
Oakland, CA

12Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Susan M. Schectman
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
330 Distel Circle
Los Altos, CA

13Marin County Open Space District (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Phyllis C. Gallagher
Office of the Sonoma County Counsel
575 Administration Drive
Santa Rosa, CA

14Marin County Open Space District (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Ted C. Radosevich
East Bay Regional Park District
P.O. Box 5381
Oakland, CA

15Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Phyllis C. Gallagher
Office of the Sonoma County Counsel
575 Administration Drive
Santa Rosa, CA

16Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Ted C. Radosevich
East Bay Regional Park District
P.O. Box 5381
Oakland, CA

17Napa County Regional Park And Open Space District (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Phyllis C. Gallagher
Office of the Sonoma County Counsel
575 Administration Drive
Santa Rosa, CA

18Napa County Regional Park And Open Space District (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Ted C. Radosevich
East Bay Regional Park District
P.O. Box 5381
Oakland, CA


Opinion Authors
OpinionJustice Kathryn M. Werdegar
ConcurChief Justice Ronald M. George, Justice Carlos R. Moreno, Justice Carol A. Corrigan, Justice Joyce L. Kennard, Justice Marvin R. Baxter, Justice Ming W. Chin

Disposition
May 14 2009Opinion: Reversed

Dockets
Dec 21 2007Petition for review filed
Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District, appellant by Paul D. Fogel, Reed Smith LLP, retained
Dec 24 2007Record requested
Dec 28 2007Received Court of Appeal record
one doghouse
Jan 7 2008Request for depublication filed (another request pending)
Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District, appelant by Anita C. Willis, counsel See depub letter filed 1-9-2008, submitted with request to withdraw this document entitled "Petition for Depublication"
Jan 8 2008Request for depublication (petition for review pending)
East Bay Regional Park District, depublication requestor by Ted C. Radosevich, counsel
Jan 9 2008Request for depublication filed (another request pending)
by Anita C. Willis on behalf of Appellant Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District.
Jan 11 2008Request for depublication filed (another request pending)
Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation, depublication requestor by Phllis C. Gallagher, deputy county counsel
Jan 11 2008Request for depublication filed (another request pending)
Rigional Open Space, depublication requestor by Susan Schectman, counsel
Feb 13 2008Time extended to grant or deny review
The time for granting or denying review in the above-entitled matter is hereby extended to and including March 20, 2008, or the date upon which review is either granted or denied.
Feb 27 2008Petition for review granted (civil case)
George, C.J., and Corrigan, J., were absent and did not participate. Votes: Baxter, A.C.J., Kennard, Werdegar, Chin, and Moreno, JJ.
Mar 4 2008Certification of interested entities or persons filed
Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District, respondent by Paul D. Fogel, counsel
Mar 14 2008Certification of interested entities or persons filed
Gerard Ste. Marie, respondent by Gerard Ste. Marie
Mar 17 2008Certification of interested entities or persons filed
Real Party Mt. San Jacinto Community College Attorney John William Dietrich
Mar 20 2008Request for extension of time filed
Appellant, Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District asking to May 27, 2008 to file the opening brief on the merits. by counsel, Paul D. Fogel.
Mar 25 2008Extension of time granted
On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the itme to serve and file the opening brief in the merits is extended to and including May 27, 2008. No further extensions are contemplated.
May 23 2008Opening brief on the merits filed
Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District, appellant by Paul D. Fogel, counsel
Jun 12 2008Request for extension of time filed
Respondent, Gerard Ste. Marie, in pro se, is asking to August 21, 2008, to file the answer brief on the merits.
Jun 16 2008Extension of time granted
On application of respondent and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file respondent's answer brief on the merits is hereby extended to and including August 21, 2008.
Aug 21 2008Answer brief on the merits filed
Respondent, Gerard Ste. Marie, in pro se.
Aug 27 2008Request for extension of time filed
Appellant, Riverside County Regional Park, etc., is asking to Oct. 10, 2008 , to file the reply brief. by counsel, Paul D. Fogel.
Aug 28 2008Extension of time granted
On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the reply brief on the merits is extended to and including October 10, 2008.
Oct 9 2008Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space district, appellant by Paul D. Fogel, counsel
Nov 12 2008Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
East Bay Regional Park District, etc. in support of ( appellant ) Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space. by District Counsel, Ted C. Radosevich. and Deputy County Counsel, Phyllis C. Gallagher.
Nov 12 2008Received:
Amicus Curiae, East Bay Regional Park District, etc., request for judicial notice. by District Counsel, Ted C. Radosevich, and Deputy County Counsel, Phyllis C. Gallagher.
Nov 19 2008Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
The application of EAST BAY REGIONAL PARK DISTRICT, MIDPENINSULA REGIONAL OPEN SPACE DISTRICT, SONOMA COUNTY AGRICULTURAL PRESEVATION AND OPEN SPACE DISTRICT, MARIN COUNTY OPEN SPACE DISTRICT, MONTEREY PENINSULA REGIONAL PARK DISTRICT, AND NAPA COUNTY REGIONAL PARK AND OPEN SPACE DISTRICT, for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of appellant is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the brief.
Nov 19 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
East Bay Regional Park District, etc., in support of appellant. by Deputy County Counsel, Phyllis C. Gallagher.
Nov 19 2008Request for judicial notice filed (granted case)
Amicus Curiae, East Bay Regional Park District, etc. by Deputy County Counsel, Phyllis C. Gallagher.
Dec 9 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
Gerard Ste. Marie, respondent
Dec 9 2008Opposition filed
To request for judicial notice Gerard Ste. Marie, respondent
Dec 19 2008Application filed
Amicus Curiae - East Bay Regional Park District, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Marin County Open Space District, Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, and Napa Regional Park and Open Space District reqeust permission to file reply to opposition to request for judicial notice and reply to respondent Gerard Ste. Marie's opposition to request for judicial notice. by Phyllis C. Gallagher, Deputy County Counsel
Dec 23 2008Opposition filed
Amicus Curiae - East Bay Regional Park District, et al., reply to opposition to request for judicial notice and reply to respondent Gerard Ste. Marie's opposition to request for judicial notice. by Phyllis C. Gallegher, counsel
Dec 24 2008Request for judicial notice filed (granted case)
Gerard Ste. Marie, respondent pro se
Feb 3 2009Case ordered on calendar
to be argued on Wednesday, March 4, 2009, at 1:30 p.m., in San Francisco
Mar 4 2009Cause argued and submitted
May 13 2009Notice of forthcoming opinion posted
May 14 2009Opinion filed: Judgment reversed
For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal. Opinion by Werdegar, J. ----joined by George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Chin, Moreno & Corrigan, JJ.
Jun 17 2009Remittitur issued
Jun 17 2009Returned record
records returned to CA 4/2 (1 doghouse)
Jun 22 2009Received:
receipt for remittitur from CA 4/2

Briefs
May 23 2008Opening brief on the merits filed
Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District, appellant by Paul D. Fogel, counsel
Aug 21 2008Answer brief on the merits filed
Respondent, Gerard Ste. Marie, in pro se.
Oct 9 2008Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space district, appellant by Paul D. Fogel, counsel
Nov 19 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
East Bay Regional Park District, etc., in support of appellant.
Dec 9 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
Gerard Ste. Marie, respondent
If you'd like to submit a brief document to be included for this opinion, please submit an e-mail to the SCOCAL website
Nov 11, 2009
Annotated by Anyu Fang

The Riverside District, created in 1993, acquired a piece of land in the Wildomar area of Riverside County in 1995. At issue in this case is an approximately 80-acre piece of this acquisition that the Riverside District wishes to convey to the Mt. San Jacinto Community College District.

Section 5540 of the Public Resources Code provides that "[a] district may not validly convey any interest in any real property actually dedicated and used for park or open-space, or both, without the consent of a majority of the voters of the district . . . ." At the same time, Section 5565 uses the word "dedicated" in a different context: "The legal title to all property acquired by the district under the provisions of this article shall immediately and by operation of law vest in the district, and shall be held by the district in trust for, and is dedicated and set apart for, the uses and purposes set forth in this article."

The plaintiff argues that if Section 5565 is put into conversation with Section 5540, the Wildomar property was "actually dedicated" when it was acquired. Consequently, the District cannot sell the property without voter approval. The Court of Appeals agreed. The Supreme Court of California reasoned that the Legislature did not use the word "dedication" in the same way in these two sections. Otherwise, the qualifying word "actually" would be superfluous.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal is reversed.