Buying, Selling & Leasing Property: What Special Districts Need to Know About Successful Transactions and the Surplus Land Act

Whether it is leasing land to expand facilities or selling underutilized property to generate revenue, special districts frequently face the need to acquire, sell, or lease property to implement specific public service mandates. Such real estate transactions can be complex and require careful planning, detailed documentation and multi-departmental coordination. When considering a real estate deal, there are important legal and practical considerations to keep in mind.

  • Surplus Land Act: Requires local agencies, including special districts, to comply with certain requirements when disposing of real property.
  • Establishing the Price: A district should generally take steps to ensure that the price reflects the fair market value of the property to ensure that public funds are spent in a prudent manner and that the district receives a fair return when selling its assets.
  • California Environmental Quality Act: Compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is necessary before a district makes a commitment to carry out a new project.

Click here to read the full article.

Social Media, First Amendment, and Government: The New Rules of Engagement

Social media, email, text messaging and similar communication technologies are transforming governments into a more efficient, effective and dynamic process. Whether it is an elected official using Twitter to address constituents or a city using a Facebook page to make public announcements, entities are becoming more accessible and connected to constituents. While the Supreme Court recognizes the need to apply First Amendment legal theory to modern technology, it has not yet taken the opportunity to rule on the contours of whether, and to what extent, public officials may block or delete comments from their social media accounts.

In the September issue of Western City Magazine, Meyers Nave attorneys Deborah Fox and Margaret Rosequist published an article discussing this issue and new territory of law. Click here to view the full article.

Employers’ Top Three Questions About COVID-19

As COVID-19 vaccines gradually begin to roll out, employers are asking myriad COVID-19 vaccination related questions, including how employers can meet EEOC requirements, increase workplace safety, and minimize risk. Our Labor and Employment Law attorneys are helping California employers navigate the complexity of federal and state laws, MOUs, personnel rules, and practical considerations related to creating and implementing a mandatory or voluntary vaccination policy.

In the February issue of North County Lawyer, Meyers Nave attorneys Arlene Yang and Angelica P. Benito published an article answering the three most common questions being asked by employers.

  • Can employers require employees to obtain COVID-19 vaccinations?
  • Should employers mandate COVID-19 vaccinations?
  • What happens if many employees refuse to be vaccinated?

Please click here to read Arlene and Angelica’s article.

What’s New in California’s Density Bonus Law?

California’s Density Bonus Law provides housing developers with tools to encourage the development of affordable and senior housing. The California Legislature recently passed legislation that provides for an 80% density bonus to be granted to 100% affordable housing projects, the largest density bonus ever required under California law. That legislation, Assembly Bill 1763, also requires other benefits to be provided to 100% affordable projects which allows them to be built denser and taller than under prior law. The changes will be particularly helpful to affordable housing projects that qualify for federal and state low income housing tax credits, which are the types of housing projects most often developed as 100% affordable.

Meyers Nave Senior Of Counsel Jon Goetz outlined these legislative changes in his article published in the March 2020 issue of North County Lawyer. Please click here to read his article. These legislative changes are also included in the 2020 update of Jon’s Guide to the California Density Bonus Law. Please click here to read or print out the 2020 Guide. If you have questions about the Density Bonus Law or information in the Guide, please contact Jon Goetz at 800.464.3559 or

Social Media & Government: What Are the Rules of Engagement?

Government entities and elected officials are becoming more accessible and connected to constituents through the ubiquitous use of social media, email, text messaging and other communication technologies. The 21st century question is what may government entities and elected officials do and not do to regulate the public’s participation in their social media accounts? Once social media accounts are used for official business, there may be limited ability to restrict or block users or comments on the accounts.

In the highly anticipated case involving President Trump’s Twitter account, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the President’s blocking of followers on his @realDonaldTrump account was unconstitutional viewpoint-based discrimination. Deborah Fox, Chair of Meyers Nave’s First Amendment Practice, published an article in the Public Law Journal of the California Lawyers Association that explains the court’s unanimous opinion in Knight First Amendment Institute v. Donald J. Trump. Please click here to read her article.

AB 1763 Allows Affordable Housing to be Built Denser and Taller

Assembly Bill 1763 permits 100% affordable housing projects to be built denser and taller through three modifications to current law that are designed to help reduce costs associated with the development of affordable housing. Meyers Nave attorney Jon Goetz published an article in the Daily Journal’s “New California Laws Special Report” that outlines AB 1763’s changes to current law. The content of his article is summarized below. AB 1763 is one of over twenty housing bills approved by the California Legislature in 2019, each one taking a different approach to easing the state’s housing crisis. Please click here for a brief summary of the entire package of new housing laws.

Higher Density Bonus

For housing projects where all units are affordable to low and very low income residents, AB 1763 more than doubles the density bonus to 80%. Before AB 1763, California’s density bonus law (California Government Code Sections 65915 – 65918) focused primarily on projects with a mix of affordable and market rate housing. Existing law provides developers up to a 35% increase in project densities, set on a sliding scale based on the amount of affordable housing provided. The 80% density bonus is the largest ever provided by state law and is the first time the Legislature has specifically tailored a density bonus to completely affordable housing projects. If the project is located within a half mile of a major transit stop, AB 1763 also eliminates all restrictions on density and allows a height increase of up to three stories or 33 feet. For a detailed explanation of the density bonus law, please see the “Guide to the California Density Bonus Law” co-authored by Meyers Nave attorney Jon Goetz.

More Incentives and Concessions

In addition to the density bonus, California’s density bonus law provides developers with “incentives” and “concessions” to help make the development of affordable and senior housing more economically feasible, such as reduced setback and minimum square footage requirements as requested by the developer, and financial benefits at the option of the local government. Projects qualifying for a density bonus are currently entitled to one to three incentives and concessions, depending on the amount of affordable units provided. AB 1763 provides a fourth incentive and concession to 100% affordable projects. The local government is required to grant the applicant’s proposed concession or incentive unless it would not reduce project costs, would cause public health or safety or environmental problems, would harm historical property, or would be otherwise contrary to law. Qualifying developers are entitled to incentives and concessions even without a request for density bonus units.

Better Parking Options

California’s density bonus law also sets special parking ratio requirements for qualifying projects, ranging from one space for one bedroom units to two and one-half spaces for four bedroom units, which can be much lower than local parking standards require. Lower parking standards apply for density bonus projects adjacent to transit. For housing projects that qualify as a special needs or supportive housing development, AB 1763 completely eliminates all local parking requirements. Reductions in required parking can often be controversial for proposed housing projects, but they can lead to large savings in land costs for those projects.

Board Member Compensation: Special Rules for Special Districts

The California Government Code, through principal or special acts, generally provides special districts with the authority to compensate board members. The first step in understanding what can and cannot be done in terms of compensation is to check the special district’s formation or enabling documents to determine whether the district is governed by a principal act or a special act. Identifying which statutes govern a district is important because these different statutes often determine the maximum amount of compensation a board member may receive, how and if board members can increase compensation, and whether board members may be reimbursed for job-related expenses and receive benefits such as medical, dental, vision, and life insurance.

However, as if often the situation with legislation, some of the principal acts and special acts that regulate special districts can raise more questions than they answer and some statutory language could be open to different interpretations. To help special districts and their boards understand board compensation law, make decisions and solve problems, Meyers Nave Principal Richard Pio Roda prepared a special guide that was published by the California Special Districts Association. The topics covered in Rich’s report include:

  1. Which districts are governed by principal or special acts?
  2. Is there a maximum or minimum compensation for board members?
  3. Are there procedures for increasing board member compensation?
  4. What are the considerations for reimbursing job-related expenses?
  5. Can board members receive benefits such as medical and dental insurance?
  6. How do small districts with small budgets handle board compensation?

Please click here to read Rich’s Special District Board Compensation Guide.

Knight v. Trump: Second Circuit Sets Rules on Blocking Followers from Social Media Accounts

In the highly anticipated case involving President Trump’s Twitter account, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the President’s blocking of followers on his @realDonaldTrump account was unconstitutional viewpoint based discrimination. In its unanimous opinion in Knight First Amendment Institute v. Donald J. Trump, the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court in full, finding the account to be a public forum because it was opened as an “instrumentality of communication” for “indiscriminate use by the general public.” In deciding whether the President’s Twitter account constituted a public forum, the Court examined the policy, practice and intent in operating the account.

What does the decision mean?
The Second Circuit’s decision makes clear that where government officials open their social media accounts to the public as a way of communicating about official business, then their accounts will be analyzed under the public forum doctrine, which prohibits selectively blocking “persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”

What doesn’t the decision mean?
The Second Circuit opinion clearly points out that not every social media account operated by an elected official will necessarily be a public forum. The outcome of that inquiry will be informed by how the official describes and uses the account, to whom features of the account are made available, and how others, including government officials and agencies, regard and treat the account.

What should elected officials and government entities do next?
Elected officials and government entities that wish to regulate participation on social media accounts should draft guidelines for posting and removing comments. To pass constitutional muster, factors to consider include making sure that comments will not be hidden or deleted based on viewpoint, users will be blocked only for repeated violations and for a limited period of time, and personnel responsible for managing social media accounts will implement guidelines in a viewpoint-neutral and non-discriminatory manner.

For more information about this case and the state of the law regarding this nuanced area of constitutional concern, please click here to read the article authored by Meyers Nave attorneys Deborah Fox and Meg Rosequist that was published in the August 2019 issue of North County Lawyer magazine.

Update on Workplace Rights of Transgender and Non-Binary Employees

Recent California laws and regulations provide protections for transgender and non-binary employees, ranging from expanding the Fair Employment and Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, gender identity, and gender expression, to specific regulatory codes that address restroom access, the option for a non-binary gender marker on state identification documents, and preferred names and pronouns. Meyers Nave Principal Camille Hamilton Pating, Chair of the Workplace Investigations Practice, published an article in the Daily Journal’s “2019 Top Labor and Employment Lawyers” special report to help employers understand their obligations and incorporate best practices.

As Camille explains in her article, California employers must review gender reporting programs for compliance under new rules, update harassment prevention training to include gender identity and expression, modify human resources policies and programs to be applicable and accessible to transgender and non-binary employees, and allow employees to use restroom facilities that correspond to their gender identity or expression. However, instead of focusing solely on technical check-the-box compliance with legal standards, employers would be well served to also focus on creating overall inclusive workplace cultures and environments that address the unique challenges and concerns experienced by transgender and non-binary employees.

Please click here to read her article.

New California Law Bans Workplace Discrimination Based on Natural Hair and Hairstyles

California is the first state to protect employees and students from discrimination based on natural hair and hairstyles associated with race. California Senate Bill 188, known as the CROWN Act, seeks to “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural hair.” The bill unanimously passed the California State Senate on April 22 and the State Assembly on June 27. Governor Gavin Newsom sign the bill into law on July 3.

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) makes it unlawful for employers to engage in discriminatory practices based on certain protected characteristics, including race. The CROWN Act adds that the definition of “race” for the purposes of FEHA now includes “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” The Act defines “protective hairstyles” to include, but is not limited to, hairstyles frequently worn by African Americans, such as “braids, locks, and twists.” The Act applies to public schools, private employers with five or more employees and public employers.

Overview of SB 188
To help employers implement the law, Meyers Nave Principal Camille Hamilton Pating published an article in the California Newsletter of the Society of Human Resource Management that addresses (1) grooming and appearance policies, (2) state vs. federal law, (3) disparate impact of hairstyle regulation and (4) best practices for employers. Please click here to read the article.

What it means for employers
Camille advises that employers should consider the following when creating a grooming and appearance policy:

  • The policy should be driven by legitimate, objective business needs, not subjective personal preferences.
  • The policy should state the reason for grooming or appearance standards, such as to protect the health and safety of employees.
  • The policy should be equally and fairly implemented and should not disproportionately impact employees in a legally protected category.
  • The policy must accommodate employees’ religious beliefs, where appropriate.
  • The policy should apply to the workplace only and should not attempt to regulate employees’ off-duty appearance.