A proposed lot line adjustment constitutes a development under the Coastal Act of 1976, even though the proposal would not result in more parcels, the Second District Court of Appeals has ruled. The decision means the Coastal Commission has jurisdiction over the proposed lot line adjustment. The unanimous three-judge appellate panel upheld the decision of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Yaffe, who compared a lot line adjustment to a lot split. "In either case, the reconfiguration of the land can facilitate a development in ways that impact upon the interest of the Coastal Commission," wrote Yaffe, who was quoted in the appellate court opinion. The case centers on 16 parcels on 92 acres in the rugged, fire-prone Topanga Canyon. La Fe, Inc. and six individuals — including Robert S. Rein, who served as the proponents' attorney — sought the county's permission to adjust lot lines for the 16 parcels. The county approved the proposal in concept but said the landowners needed a coastal development permit from the Coastal Commission. Prior to the Coastal Commission making a decision, the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission rejected a proposal to subdivide one of the 16 parcels into three lots because the lone fire access route — provided by Hillside Drive — was inadequate. The Coastal Commission focused on the same when it denied the proposed lot line adjustment in April of 1997. According to Fire Marshal Jesus Burciaga, the lot line adjustments would move building sites away from street frontage "‘further into an extremely dangerous area without any form of mitigation.'" The commission found the proposal would increase the number of lots in a mesa from five to 15, thus increasing by 10 the number of parcels taking access from Hillside Drive. The commission, therefore, could not make the necessary finding that the proposal would not minimize risks to life and property in a high fire hazard area. Improving Hillside Drive or creating a secondary access would require "excessive landform alteration" contrary to the Coastal Act. The commission also determined the proposal would increase building density in the mesa. The proponents then sued, seeking preemptory writs of mandate ordering the county to record a certificate of compliance for the lot line adjustment and ordering the Coastal Commission to grant a permit waiver. Judge Yaffe refused to issue the former writ of mandate because, he ruled, the Coastal Commission has jurisdiction, not the county. He then ruled that the Coastal Commission could consider the lot line adjustment as a "development." On appeal, the proponents argued only that the lot line adjustment that created no additional lots was not a development within the meaning of the Coastal Act, and, therefore, the Coastal Commission had no jurisdiction. The Second District Court of Appeal, Division Five, rejected that argument. Citing extensively from California Coastal Commission v. Quanta Investment Corp., (1980) 113 Cal.App.3d 579, Presiding Justice Paul Turner wrote that the Coastal Act "by its terms recognizes that a subdivision of land or a lot split can result in changes in the density or intensity of use of property. A lot line adjustment can, as here, have the same effect. More to the point, though, § 30106 explicitly applies to a ‘subdivision … and any other division of land.' A lot line change constitutes a ‘division of land.'" In Quanta, Turner noted, the court ruled that conversion of existing apartment units into a stock cooperative form of ownership qualified as a division of land and, thus, was a development. In Stanson v. San Diego Coast Regional Commission, (1980) 101 Cal.App.3d 38, the court ruled that remodeling a supermarket into 16 small retail shops and a restaurant constituted a development within meaning of the Coastal Act. In an unpublished portion of the opinion, the court rejected the proponents' argument that the Subdivision Map Act exempted lot line adjustments from the discretionary approval process. "The legislative concerns addressed by the Subdivision Map Act and those underlying the (Coastal) Act are not the same," Judge Turner wrote in the unpublished part of the opinion. The Case: La Fe, Inc., v. Los Angeles County, No. B119186, 99 C.D.O.S. 5299, 1999 Daily Journal D.A.R. 6715, Filed June 30, 1999. The Lawyers: For La Fe: Robert S. Rein, Saphier, Rein & Walden, (310) 556-0100. For the Coastal Commission: Jamee Jordan Patterson, deputy attorney general, (619) 645-2001. For Los Angeles County: Thomas Faughnan, deputy county counsel, (213) 974-1811.