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IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FIFTH APPELLATE DISTRICT
LUSHMEADOWS ASSOCIATION, INC.,
Plaintiff and Respondent,
EUGENE TAGGS et al.,
Defendants and Appellants.
F056967 and F057815
(Super. Ct. Nos. 9018 and 9070)
APPEAL from judgments of the Superior Court of Mariposa County. Terry K. Cole, Judge. (Retired judge of the Stanislaus Sup. Ct. assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to art. VI, Â§ 6 of the Cal. Const.)
Jamison & Chappel, Gregory M. Chappel, and Nanette Beaumont for Defendants and Appellants.
Law Offices of Ann Rankin and Ann Rankin for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Developer Decker Enterprises (Decker) created Lushmeadows Mountain Estates (LME) in four phases between 1962 and 1964. All LME lots were encumbered with recorded covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). Those CC&Rs primarily consisted of use restrictions and architectural covenants and provided that the CC&Rs could be amended by a vote of the majority of the then-owners of the lots. The original CC&Rs did not create a homeowners association or establish assessments for maintenance of common areas.
In 1963, Decker incorporated the nonprofit Lushmeadows Association (LMA) and charged the corporation with acquiring, improving, and maintaining common areas of real property for park, playground, recreational, and club house purposes. In 1966, Decker deeded the common areas of LME, approximately 15 acres, to LMA. LMA membership was voluntary between 1963 and 1990 and the LMA had a right to levy assessments against owner-members but not LME property owners who were non-members.
Appellants purchased their LME lots before 1990 and were not members of LMA. In 1990, the LME owners amended the CC&Rs by a majority vote of lot owners. The amendments made LMA membership mandatory for persons acquiring LME lots after July 1, 1990. In 2003, the LME owners again amended the CC&Rs by majority vote and made LMA membership mandatory for all owners, regardless of the date of acquisition of their lots. The 2003 amendments also required all lot owners to pay annual assessments. Appellants unsuccessfully challenged the amended CC&Rs in superior court. They now appeal on a variety of grounds, essentially maintaining the LMA could not amend and expand the CC&Rs to provide for mandatory membership in LMA and to transform the LME subdivision into a common interest development under California law. We affirm.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE >
On November 29, 2006, respondent Lushmeadows Association, Inc. (LMA), a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation, filed a complaint for declaratory relief (No. 9018) in Mariposa County Superior Court. LMA named appellant Eugene Taggs and 200 Does as defendants, alleged the defendants were obligated to pay assessments as property owners within the Lushmeadows Mountain Estates planned development (LME), and prayed for a judicial determination of the rights and duties of the parties, including a declaration as to the membership responsibilities of the appellants and the right of LMA to levy assessments.
On January 22, 2007, appellant Taggs filed an answer generally denying the material allegations of the complaint (Code Civ. Proc., Â§ 431.30) and a cross-complaint for declaratory relief. The cross-complaint alleged LMA was not a legally valid homeowners' association for the underlying properties and had no right to create, enforce, or collect property assessments. On January 30, 2007, LMA filed an answer generally denying the material allegations of the cross-complaint and setting forth 11 affirmative defenses.
On March 20, 2007, appellants Cecilia Wray, Jeffrey Whalley, and Mary Whalley filed a verified complaint (No. 9070) against LMA for declaratory relief, slander of title, and cancellation of cloud on title. Wray and the Whalleys alleged they were property owners in LME and prayed for a declaration, among other things, that LMA was not a validly-created homeowners' association for their properties and had no authority to impose assessments.
On March 27, 2007, the court filed an order on stipulation to consolidate case Nos. 9018 and 9070, with all subsequent papers, orders, and judgments to be filed under the latter docket number.
On April 23, 2007, LMA filed an answer generally denying the material allegations of the Wray/Whalley complaint and a cross-complaint against Wray and the Whalleys for declaratory relief and monetary damages.
On June 27, 2008, counsel for appellants advised the superior court of the passing of Cecilia Wray and substituted â€