Helping Our Peninsula's Environment


Filing an Appeal

By David Dilworth Sept 2002

An Appeal is needed when a non-final governmental decision making body (such as a Planning Commission, Zoning Administrator, or Architectural Review Board) approves a project. Unless someone formally objects within an extremely short deadline - the project approval is final - protected from most legal challenges.

Sometimes you have the right to file two appeals.

For example, if the Zoning Administrator makes a bad decision you can file an appeal so that the Planning Commission hears the issue and has the opportunity to reverse the bad decision. If the Planning Commission makes a bad decision, then you can appeal their decision to the Supervisors.

Filing an Appeal often requires using a special form and sometimes paying a fee. Monterey County requires the public to bear the cost and effort of notifying the public so you have to address envelopes including stamps. Sometimes this involves hundreds of envelopes.

Some Appeals are free (Appeals to the Coastal Commission) others charge thousands of dollars (Pacific Grove had a project in 2001 (the Lover's Point Towers) with an appeal fee of $15,000). In my opinion, any Appeal fee greater than the fee for filing a suit is an unconstitutional barrier preventing the public's access to courts. Further, in my experience, an agency's main reason for a high Appeal fee is to discourage public participation.

An Appeal is sometimes required to get an explanation of an approval's legal inadequacy.

Sample Appeal Time Line

January 1 Decision is approved by vote of Planning Commission.

January 5 Decision is signed and mailed starting 10 day Appeal time limit.

January 15 Appeal is filed.

February 14 Appeal Hearing is held (within 30 days of filing) and Appeal is denied.

If no further Appeals are possible, lawsuit must be filed within 30 to 90 days.


Filing a Typical Appeal (This example is for Monterey County Planning Commission decision.)

Call Clerk to the Board to get Appeal Form (647-7600).

Call Project Planner (883-7516) to get copy of names and addresses on their Notice List and Appeal Fee Waiver Form. This is typically the names and addresses of all neighbors to the project.

Write the Appeal. Typically you need to explain why the project was contrary to law (e.g. didn't notify all the neighbors), or why the "Findings" were false.

Gather sufficient envelopes (I had to prepare 104 envelopes for the Congress/David Avenue Forest Appeal in 2002).

Apply names to envelopes. If Planning Staff is helpful they will give you the names by email so you can print them on labels - or best of all directly on envelopes. When Planning staff is not helpful, they will merely fax you the list. You can then cut the names and addresses out of the fax paper and tape them to the envelopes.

Apply stamps to envelopes. 100 stamps now cost $37.00

File a Fee Waiver if you can qualify (either over 62 or very low income). The Project Planner should help you fill it out.


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This Page Last Updated August 2, 2003