San Rafael, CA asked in Land Use & Zoning, Municipal Law and Real Estate Law for California

Q: Needing to understand the effect of part of a Municipal Zoning Ordinance, California.

"but excluding the last sentence of subsection 10.40.070.D.E, subsections 10.40.120.A.3.e and f, subsection 10.40.130.H and subsection 10.40.140.E.1.b which are not applicable" My question concerns the first part "10.40.070.D.E" There is NO subsection E of D. It is 99% probability a typo and intended to say last sentence of subsection D & E - this makes total sense in the context also (these both would remove a discretionary entitlement which was what this ordinance was about). Is this part of the Ordinance (in the first part of the first sentence) effectively void, and/or unenforceable?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Municipal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, when interpreting a municipal zoning ordinance, the clarity and precision of the language used is key. If a part of the ordinance, such as "10.40.070.D.E", appears to contain a typographical error, it can create uncertainty in its application and enforcement.

In cases where there's a reasonable interpretation that aligns with the overall context and purpose of the ordinance, that interpretation may be favored. So, if it seems likely that the intended reference was to the last sentences of subsections D and E, rather than a non-existent subsection E of D, this interpretation can be argued.

However, the enforceability of this seemingly erroneous part of the ordinance depends on how the courts interpret it. If challenged, a court may consider the intent of the ordinance, the context in which the disputed language appears, and the implications of any potential error.

In situations like this, it might be necessary to seek a formal clarification or amendment from the municipal body that issued the ordinance. Until such clarification is obtained, the ambiguous portion of the ordinance might still be considered in force, albeit subject to challenge.

Given these complexities, it would be prudent to consult directly with legal counsel familiar with municipal law and zoning regulations. They can provide more specific guidance based on the full context of the ordinance and any relevant legal precedents.

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