California Health and Safety Code Section 33500 - Interpretation

In Plunkett v. City of Lakewood (1975) 44 Cal.App.3d 344, the City of Lakewood and its city council enacted a redevelopment plan pursuant to a specific ordinance. More than four months later, plaintiff Plunkett, on behalf of himself and all Lakewood taxpayers, sued the City of Lakewood, its city council members and others, "seeking to declare the ordinance void, to enjoin further expenditure of city funds under the ordinance, and to obtain reimbursement for city funds already spent." (At p. 345.) Plunkett's complaint "alleged that Ordinance 72-18, though valid on its face, was a fraud perpetrated on Lakewood taxpayers by members of the city council in collusion with Lakewood Center with the intent to aid private interests with public funds; that members of the city council knowingly made a false finding that the redevelopment area was 'blighted' within the meaning of Health and Safety Code sections 33031- 33034 in order to invoke the Redevelopment Law." ( Id. at p. 346.) The trial court sustained a demurrer without leave to amend on the ground that plaintiff had failed to comply with the 60-day filing requirement of Health and Safety Code section 33500. On appeal, Plunkett argued "that his complaint challenges an illegal expenditure of public funds, not the redevelopment plan itself, and therefore Code of Civil Procedure section 526a controls the timeliness of its filing rather than Health and Safety Code section 33500." ( Plunkett v. City of Lakewood, supra, 44 Cal.App.3d at p. 346.) Concluding that Plunkett misread the statutory provisions, the court noted that "section 526a creates a right of action for taxpayers to challenge illegal expenditure of public funds; it does not act as a statute of limitation. Health and Safety Code section 33500 is a statute of limitation; it does not create a right of action. If Plunkett's action falls within the purview of section 33500, then the 60-day filing limitation applies." ( Plunkett v. City of Lakewood, supra, 44 Cal.App.3d at pp. 346-347.) The court rejected Plunkett's argument that section 33500 was inapplicable because he was challenging the motives of the council members rather than the plan itself. The court observed that "the terms of section 33500 do not authorize such an exception to its operation. Whether Plunkett claims the city council was wrong by mistake or wrong by intent, in either case he is contesting the validity of the plan, the adoption of the plan, and the findings supporting adoption of the plan. The purpose of section 33500 is not to prohibit meritorious challenges to redevelopment plans, but rather to promote prompt adjudication of such challenges before substantial public funds have been expended and before relocation of business and people have rendered remedial action ineffective. The Redevelopment Law is replete with preliminary requirements for notice and public hearings, and these provisions give concerned taxpayers ample time to prepare legal challenges to the actions of redevelopment agencies. (See Health & Saf. Code, 33360 et seq.) Plunkett's complaint does not allege that the asserted acts of fraud prevented him from challenging the plan in the manner authorized by law." ( Plunkett v. City of Lakewood, supra, 44 Cal.App.3d at p. 347.)