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Stephens v. City of Vista

argued submitted pasadena california: February 2, 1993.

L. J. STEPHENS; G. MAXINE STEPHENS, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
CITY OF VISTA; ORBEE MIHALEK; GLORIA E. MCCLELLAN; ROBERT C. K. FOO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. D.C. No. CV-81-0813-N. Leland C. Nielsen, Senior District Judge, Presiding.

Before: J. Clifford Wallace, Chief Judge, Joseph T. Sneed and Cynthia Holcomb Hall, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Sneed.

Author: Sneed

SNEED, Circuit Judge:

The City of Vista, California timely appeals the judgment of the district court in favor of L. J. Stephens and G. Maxine Stephens (the Stephenses) on their claim for breach of settlement agreement. The settlement agreement at issue was the result of the Stephenses' action against the City for inverse condemnation and for deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. We affirm.

I.

FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

The Stephenses purchased the property which is the subject of this litigation in 1973 for the purpose of developing an apartment complex of approximately 140 to 150 units. In 1976, the owner of an adjoining parcel submitted plans to the City which included a proposed lowering of "Street A" which had been contemplated as the primary access to the Stephenses' property. The City approved the lowering of Street A which made it difficult to service the Stephenses' property because of the extreme differences in elevation between the street and the property.

A. Stephenses' Suit For Inverse Condemnation

As a result, the Stephenses filed an action against the City in state court for inverse condemnation. While the state court action was pending, the City rezoned the Stephenses' property which reduced the permissible density from approximately 145 to 150 units to 50 units.

B. Stephenses' Civil Rights Action

In 1981, the Stephenses filed an action against the City and certain city officials in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California for violations of their civil and constitutional rights and for inverse condemnation based on the lowering of Street A and the down-zoning of their property.

In May 1983, the City moved for judgment on the pleadings or in the alternative for summary judgment, arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the controversy and that the Stephenses failed to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Alternatively, the City maintained that the court should abstain from adjudicating the matter pending resolution of the Stephenses' state court action.

C. Settlement Negotiations and Terms of Settlement

The court denied the City's motion, and thereafter, the City entered into settlement negotiations with the Stephenses. The parties discussed the permissible development density for the property and certain design problems, and the Stephenses' support of the City's formation of the "Escondido Avenue Assessment District" (EAAD).*fn1 The Stephenses maintain they initially wanted the City to agree to zoning which would allow for the construction of 210 units but later settled for 140 units.

The Stephenses and the City reached a settlement. The settlement agreement called for the Stephenses to dismiss all their pending litigation against the City and city officials and to support the formation of the EAAD. Regarding the City's performance, the agreement provided:

3.1 The City shall approve a rezoning of Parcel A [the Stephenses' property] to a use not less than zone R-M-30(Q), permitting development at the ratio of one unit per 3000 square feet of land area. This will permit a maximum total development on Parcel A of 140 dwelling units.

3.6 The City shall approve a specific plan for the development of Parcel A ("the specific plan") which shall create and constitute a binding and continuing obligation of the City with respect to the development of parcel A, and which shall include the following provisions:

3.6.1 The specific plan shall permit a land use equivalent to a zoning of R-M-30(Q), permitting construction of a maximum 140 residential units on Parcel A.

The City Council reviewed and approved the settlement agreement, and it was executed by both parties. Subsequently, the agreement was approved by the district court, made part of the ...


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